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New cafe on UC Berkeley campus spotlights Ohlone history and foodways

Cafe Ohlone.jpg
Cafe Ohlone
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www.makamham.com
Louis Trevino and Vincent Medina are set to open Cafe Ohlone at UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology.

Cafe Ohlone had hosted weekly tastings outside of a Berkeley bookstore just before the pandemic, but the operation was forced to find a new home after the store permanently closed. Now, Ohlone chefs and owners Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino are set to launch the latest incarnation of their Indigenous eatery in the courtyard of Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology.

That location is fraught with painful history for many Ohlone. The museum’s former director Alfred Kroeber declared the Ohlone “culturally extinct” in his 1925 Handbook of the Indians of California. Many blame this for the tribe’s loss of federal recognition. The museum then removed remains and artifacts from Ohlone shellmounds that functioned as ceremonial and burial sites. Current museum leadership adopted a new plan in 2021 to prioritize full repatriation of Indigenous materials still in its possession, including thousands of Ohlone ancestral remains and sacred objects.

Medina and Trevino hope the restaurant will strengthen cooperation between the museum and the tribe, and that historic artwork and recordings of the Chochenyo language will amplify Ohlone visibility.

As for the food, Cafe Ohlone will feature traditional dishes using local ingredients such as acorn soup, braised quail, and watercress salad. It will also offer more modern, hybridized dishes that speak to contemporary Ohlone life.

Raphael Cohen was part of KALW's Summer Journalism Training Program in 2022. He produces news spots and work for Crosscurrents.