Cafe Ohlone: Using Indigenous Cuisine to Address Historic Injustice
Cafe Ohlone represents a successful effort to leverage the power of exceptional fresh cuisine, and use it as a tool to educate and inform audiences who might not otherwise be receptive to cultural messages from a traditionally marginalized group. Founded by Ohlone chefs Louis Trevino and Vincent Medina, Berkeley-based Cafe Ohlone is an Ohlone cultural institution empowering their community with tradition—and teaching the public, through taste, of their unbroken roots.
Cafe Ohlone operates in their Indigenous homeland; working to restore and strengthen traditional Ohlone foods for the wellness of their people. Now temporarily closed, they run Cafe Ohlone in xučyun—Berkeley. The chefs work to keep their cuisine and culture strong as an act of love and celebration for their living culture, and to have greater visibility for the Ohlone community that they are a part of.
Medina and Trevino's food is representative of a continuum of Ohlone culinary traditions; dishes loved by their families in all periods of their history—from the days prior to colonization to certain, specific foods embraced by their families on their terms in later periods. Every dish they share at Cafe Ohlone has a reason for its place and represents their living culture.
About the Speakers
Vincent Medina is East Bay Ohlone and is the captain of ‘Itmay Cultural Association, an association of Verona Band culture bearers. Vincent was born and lives in his family’s Indigenous tribal area of Halkin (Southern Oakland/San Leandro/San Lorenzo/Hayward). Louis Trevino is a leader in the Rumsen Ohlone community. He is focused primarily on the revitalization of the Rumsen language and traditional Ohlone foods. He longs for a full and holistic renaissance of the lifeways of his ancestors, including language, story, song, art, food, and every other aspect of traditional Rumsen Ohlone culture, and he is grateful to contribute to the effort. Medina and Trevino co-founded mak-‘amham, an organization and restaurant focused on reviving and strengthening traditional Ohlone foods and sharing them back with their communities.
Soleil Ho is a cultural critic and opinion columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Formerly the Chronicle's food critic, in 2022 Ho won the James Beard Foundation’s Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award.
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Main image and Café Ohlone founder photos courtesy Café Ohlone; Ho image courtesy Soleil Ho.
The Commonwealth Club of California
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Chef; Co-founder, mak-‘amham
Chef; Co-founder, mak-‘amham
Cultural Critic and Opinion Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle—Moderator