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Crosscurrents
Crosscurrents is our award-winning radio news magazine, broadcasting Mondays through Thursdays at 11 a.m. on 91.7 FM. We make joyful, informative stories that engage people across the economic, social, and cultural divides in our community. Listen to full episodes at kalw.org/crosscurrents

Chef Maurice Dissels: Honoring his Guyanese grandma’s cooking

Chef Maurice Dissels in his restaurant
Hana Baba
Chef Maurice Dissels in his restaurant

Moving to the US from another country is a big life change. Whether through immigration, asylum, whether you’re fleeing persecution or you just want a better life, the personal stories of immigrant and diaspora populations are important to hear and understand.

I’m a daughter of immigrants, and I’m always fascinated by the stories of others with similar life stories. That’s why I’m starting a series of interviews called Diaspora Stories. I’ll be sitting down with people who’ve made the Bay Area their home - and are doing the thing they love. We’ll hear why they do what they do, and their personal journeys to get to where they are now.

We start in the East Bay. In downtown Pleasanton, you’ll find lots of restaurants lining Main St and then there’s Oyo.

Oyo is an Afro-South American restaurant- and the founding chef Maurice Dissels came from his home country of Guyana when he was 17. He grew up in his grandma Oyo’s kitchen, and serves dishes he learned from her. Her ancestors were brought over from West Africa to Guyana in the trans Atlantic slave trade.

And grandma Oyo had this cooking philosophy called “muxalace”. It means “let’s lace this pot up 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.

Chef Maurice Dissels and a painting of his Grandma Oyo watching over his restaurant
Hana Baba
Chef Maurice Dissels and a painting of his Grandma Oyo watching over his restaurant

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

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Crosscurrents
Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.