Eater Award-winning halal restaurant Saffron De Twah is transitioning into a community kitchen this fall and eliminating its takeout menu, chef Omar Anani confirms to Eater. On Tuesday, September 15, Anani shifted Saffron Community Kitchen’s programming to focus entirely on its collaboration with Brilliant Detroit, an organization that works with children and families in Detroit neighborhoods to promote education, security, and health.
“This is an opportunity for us to actually be a part of our community and provide for our community,” Anani tells Eater.
The small McDougall-Hunt neighborhood restaurant debuted in 2019 and was Eater Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year. However, the pandemic posed challenges for chef Omar Anani. On March 17, shortly after adopting new COVID-19 safety precautions, Anani temporarily closed the restaurant and shifted towards serving frontline workers during the spring surge of hospitalizations in Michigan. By June, as feed-the-frontlines programming wound down and restaurants began reopening of limited capacity, dine-in service, Anani and his team reemerged as a takeout-only operation for the summer.
Several weeks ago, Saffron De Twah established the Saffron Community Kitchen and began providing food relief to people in the city. The kitchen currently provides 500 meals a day for residents at the 7636 Gratiot restaurant and on Detroit’s westside at Ella Fitzgerald Park through sibling food truck the Twisted Mitten. On Tuesday, Anani says they more than doubled that number to 500 on the truck alone and 600 at the restaurant.
Anani says he isn’t alone in the efforts. Several other local restaurants including Pink Flamingo To-Go and Yum Village have also been working with Brilliant Detroit to bring meals strategically to neighborhoods in need. To access a free meal, people text a number provided by Brilliant Detroit and answer several questions.
“In hospitality, we give people the shirts off of our back, right? That’s what we’re innately written to do in our DNA, and this is just such a humbling opportunity. You feed people and they’re just like, ‘Oh my god, you don’t know what this means to me right now,’” Anani says. “It’s completely changed my perception of hospitality altogether to be able to do these things for people.”
Anani says that he ended his carryout service with the intent of providing free meals through the community kitchen through the fall and winter, and potentially longer depending on the need. Eventually he hopes to revive the restaurant again for some sort of carryout or indoor service. He says that international programs like World Central Kitchen have shown him that there’s more opportunities to provide service to communities that need it through cooking. “My reach doesn’t exceed farther than the city, but I know that the city is in need of it, and so we’re gonna we’re going to do everything we can to help out,” he says.