Chef Maurice Dissels: In honor of the cooking skills of his Guyanese grandmother

Moving to the US from another country is a major life change. Whether it’s immigration, asylum, fleeing persecution or simply wanting a better life, the personal stories of immigrants and diaspora populations are important to hear and understand.

As a daughter of immigrants, I have always been fascinated by the stories of others with similar life stories. That’s why I’m starting a series of interviews called Diaspora Stories. I get to work with people who have made the Bay Area their home – and are doing what they love. We’ll hear why they do what they do, and their personal journey to get where they are today.

We’ll start in the East Bay. In downtown Pleasanton you will find many restaurants along Main St and then there is Oyo.

Oyo is an Afro-South American restaurant and its founding chef Maurice Dissels came from his home country of Guyana at the age of 17. He grew up in his grandmother Oyo’s kitchen and serves dishes he learned from her. Her ancestors were brought from West Africa to Guyana via the transatlantic slave trade.

And Grandma Oyo had this cooking philosophy called “muxalace”. It means “let’s fill this jar with a little bit of everything.” That’s what chef Maurice does at Oyo. He mixes his Afro-Guyanese influence with flavors from South America and the Caribbean.

I visited Chef Maurice at the restaurant to hear how it all came together, and how Grandma Oyo is always present in his life.