By Kathy Chouteau
A chef who honed his culinary skills in his mother’s kitchen in Senegal has opened an Afro-Brazilian fusion restaurant and marketplace in Point Richmond.
Chef Oumar Diouf launched The Damel Nov. 20 in the spot formerly occupied by the Pikanha’s Brazilian Steak House at 25 W. Richmond Ave. The restaurant, which features West African and South American cuisine that echoes Diouf’s global background, is currently featuring a partial (but ample) menu and outdoor-only seating. The Damel will roll out its complete offerings and indoor seating when it has its Grand Opening Jan. 20.
Popular menu items right now at The Damel, per Diouf, include the Argentinian Empanadas and the Dibi Plates, a street food from Senegal featuring a grilled meat with sautéed onions, garlic and artisanal mustard.
The Damel also features a “mini market” said Diouf, where people can purchase “the same things you would find in Africa, Argentina and Brazil.”
The chef has not only drawn from his background for his menu selections, but also from his Sengalese roots for his restaurant’s name. “Damel” is a Wolof title meaning ruler or king, and Diouf said that his restaurant honors his birthplace and strives to lead when it comes to quality, affordable cuisine.
Diouf’s road to his culinary career was a long and winding one. His father passed away when he was 13, leaving his mother to raise a family of seven on her own. While Diouf’s older brother helped his mother earn the family’s income, he was tasked with cooking for everyone. His mom taught him the ropes and Diouf said that he is “still learning from her today.”
The experience planted the seed for Diouf’s love of the culinary arts, but his burgeoning interest was sidetracked by a pressing need to help provide for his family. He spent some time in law school and pursued a soccer career, which saw him playing in local clubs in Senegal and then professionally for the Lanus soccer team in Argentina.
Even before an injury ended his soccer career, Diouf had entered culinary school to return to pursuing his true passion. He opened his first restaurant and a food truck in Necochea, a beach town south of Buenos Aires, and eventually moved to Brazil, where he ran a catering business that served athletes in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
He moved to the Bay Area in 2016, and prior to launching The Damel in Point Richmond, opened a restaurant and food truck under the same name in Oakland.
When asked if, other than the cultural exposure, playing soccer helped inform his work in the culinary arts, Diouf—who speaks several languages—said that “every chef should have some kind of sports background” because it’s helped him with endurance and competitiveness. “Everything I do, I always want to win” just like when playing a sport.
Diouf said that, ultimately, “food is his native language and that his experiences are “infused in every dish we serve.”
The Damel is located at 25 W. Richmond Ave. in Point Richmond and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Deliveries are available via Doordash and GrubHub; people will also be able to order soon from the restaurant’s website. For more info call (510) 374 6383 or [email protected].