‘ottoy, a restaurant launched by Cafe Ohlone, opened Wednesday at UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
The restaurant aims to pay homage to the land’s original Ohlone Indian inhabitants and correct the historical record.
“Our work fosters understanding, respect, and the healing of old wounds,” said Cafe Ohlone founders Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino on their website. “By eating, cherishing and respecting these traditional foods and fully embracing our Ohlone culture, we honor our identities and the powerful people that we come from,” the website added.
The set menu features weekly tawwa-sii tea tasting, lunch, mur dinners and sunwii brunch, highlighting the traditional flavors and styles native to the East Bay and Monterey regions.
Campus anthropology professor Kent Lightfoot, who has previously commented on efforts campus can take to support the Ohlone community following the renaming of Kroeber Hall, commended the founders for their innovative approach to the cuisine experience. He noted he believes it is likely to draw the attention of Indigenous community members and educational programs across the country.
“They are great culinary chefs in terms of Indigenous foods, some of the best I’ve ever had, and warm in terms of their ability to really talk to the students and others about Indigenous lifeways and peoples,” Lightwood said.
The Ohlone people are victims of campus’s historic acts of erasure, according to Austin Price, spokesperson for the Berkeley Food Institute.
Moving forward, ‘ottoy will serve as an educational hub to enhance Indigenous artists.
“This collaboration is about attempting to mend those relationships and guiding the Berkeley academic community to address systemic racism in its own institution,” Price said in an email.
‘ottoy evokes the land’s historical roots through its unique architectural design intended to immerse guests in the environmental landscape of the Ohlone, according to the Cafe Ohlone website.
Live native plant decor connects forest to table. The wildlife featured in ‘ottoy have interacted with local ecosystems and peoples for centuries, according to Kristen Hopper, owner of ‘ottoy’s wildlife supplier, Oaktown Native Plant Nursery.
Hopper added that ‘ottoy bridges cultural history through their contemporary use of fresh ingredients.
“Showing the plant, making the food, and serving it to the people who colonized the area validates the experience,” Hopper said.
‘ottoy also pays respect to the Ohlone ecosystem through its redwood furniture and serving platters, which are locally sourced by Bay Area Redwood, according to the company’s founder and CEO Nicholas Harvey. The redwood is sustainably sourced from felled trees and the urban waste stream, Harvey added.
Harvey noted that the old-growth redwood podium and rare curly redwood slabs in the restaurant were constructed from trees significant to the Ohlone at the time.
Trevino and Medina’s emphasis on preserving and sustaining natural life is a testament to the Ohlone people, according to Harvey.
“It’s very important that we recognize the Ohlone are always living among us,” Harvey said. “This is an amazing step forward.”