5 Questions With Chef Reem Assil
REEM ASSIL is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland. She is the owner of Reem’s California, a nationally acclaimed restaurant, inspired by her passion for Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them with locations in the Fruitvale District of Oakland and Mission District of SF.
BFiO: Whose food in Oakland do you enjoy as much as your own?
CHEF REEM: Hard to name one spot! I love James Syhabout's Hawking Bird cuz it's kid friendly and I'm addicted to the garlic noodles. My other go-to spots in my area: Cholita Linda, Bowl'd, and The Ramen Shop.
BFiO: What food do you think is overrated?
CHEF REEM: Haha caviar :)
BFiO: What’s missing in the Oakland food scene?
CHEF REEM: Late-night eats-- Not enough places where you can chill and enjoy a great meal after 10 pm.
BFiO: At what local Oakland markets do you shop for ingredients/food?
CHEF REEM: Love all the weekend Farmers' Markets (Fri-Sat) in Old Oakland, Grand Lake, and Temescal (shout out to Urban Village, which hosted us at Friday Farmers Markets for crucial years of our business!). Shout out to Oaktown Spice Shop for specialty spices and Red Bay Coffee Roasters for coffee beans. I also love going to local Mexican Markets in Fruitvale and Koreana Plaza Market when I'm doing more home cooking stuff.
BFiO: What does The New Normal look like for Oakland restaurants & food businesses in the age of COVID-19?
CHEF REEM: I think the food scene will be more vibrant, creative, and coordinated on the other side of this thing. I'm already seeing how businesses are coming together to support one another and the community in the wake of Covid. We are lucky enough to be part of the efforts of Eat Learn Play and World Central Kitchen and along with many other Oakland restaurants, feeding thousands of meals/week to the most food insecure parts of our population. The problem of food insecurity existed before Covid and I'm glad we are now getting an opportunity as food businesses to do our part. I think food businesses won't be straight up restaurants. They'll have to diversify in the way they do business, appealing to a wider range of people, whether its wholesale, in-home meal kits, and/or cooking/feeding programs. People will not be dining out comfortably for a while so we need to figure out how to spread the love and hospitality of our food spaces more creatively.