How Much-Anticipated Oakland Restaurant Burdell Aims to Redefine Black Food Through a California Lens
, 2022-07-14 13:21:40,
Burdell, chef Geoff Davis’s upcoming Oakland restaurant, is a soul food restaurant — not a Southern restaurant, he points out. Named after Davis’s grandmother, the restaurant draws on Davis’s family history and the Great Migration to create dishes borne out of his experiences with food, as well as the time he’s spent in Michelin star restaurants. “It’s the soul food that I grew up eating, that my parents grew up eating, but it’s through this context of the bounty of produce that we have in California, and really connecting the food back to vegetables and farming, which I think has been lost,” Davis says.
Davis worked in some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants, including Oakland’s Commis, Cyrus in Healdsburg, and San Francisco’s Aqua and True Laurel. He says Black food is largely viewed as “just fried chicken and biscuits,” dishes associated with the convenience food of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Davis wants to change that and challenge the notion that California cuisine is linked to European rules and cooking techniques. “There’s going to be a lot of techniques that I’ve picked up over the years working in a lot of European-focused restaurants, but the food is always going to be based on memory and nostalgia and research of what my family used to cook,” Davis says.
To explain the restaurant Davis shares a deeply personal story: in the early 1920s, he estimates, his great-grandmother trekked from North Carolina to New Jersey with her young infant. The child died along the way and, as Davis says, “she literally had to go into the woods and have a little ceremony by herself, and then keep walking.” She started a new life and raised a family, which included Davis’s grandmother and restaurant namesake Burdell Demby. “Just…
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