Saffron de Twah, one of the most celebrated restaurants in Detroit in recent years, will close for six months beginning on Friday, August 25.
In a newsletter announcement published over the weekend, chef Omar Anani told readers that he needs some personal time to focus on his physical and mental well-being, spending time with family, and his community outreach efforts. During the closure, Anani will continue catering private events, hosting ticketed pop-ups, and preparing meals for the establishment’s Saffron Community Kitchen, which provides meals to residents experiencing food insecurity. To that end, Anani is also raising the funds needed to build a permanent, private space for the restaurant’s community fridge, which his team stocks with prepared meals for folks in need in the surrounding area.
“It may seem odd to consider doing this while all this growth is happening - a second James Beard nomination, cooking at the Tigers Club at Comerica Park, becoming a Chopped champion, etc. — but the reality is that shows like “The Bear” aren’t just dramatic for the sake of viewers,” says the newsletter announcement. “The industry is hard on chefs’ bodies and on their mental and emotional health and we know of other chefs who have suddenly passed away from heart attacks or because of severe depression.”
Anani tells Eater that he’s been thinking of taking some time off for months. He took a personal day off a few weeks ago and he says his team struggled to manage service. Last week, he pulled a hamstring, which he says could require surgery or physical therapy. He took both as signs that it’s time to close for the meantime and refresh. In the meantime, the Saffron crew members have found new gigs for now and are invited to return in March, if they choose.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 11, 12 years old at my parents restaurant, without a break, and I’m tired,” says Anani.
Saffron de Twah opened its doors in August 2019 on the city’s eastside, first as an all-halal carryout and delivery spot, specializing in modern Moroccan cuisine. Within just a few months, the restaurant earned an Eater Award and then in 2022 and 2023, Anani was named a finalist for a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. In addition to impressing diners with the spot’s flavorful tomato or carrots dips, harissa potatoes, wildly popular Moroccan-style hot chicken sandwich, and creative dry cocktail menu, Saffron has also gained a reputation for community outreach. Within the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant closed normal service and launched its community kitchen, cooking meals for frontline essential workers and residents struggling through the crisis.
Since then, the restaurant has continued its community work. Over the summer, for example, the Saffron Community Kitchen made nearly 1,000 meals for school-aged youth who otherwise rely on free lunches during the school year. Earlier this summer, Anani also won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.”
Anani tells Eater he wants to use part of this down time to strengthen these types of philanthropic efforts, including, by raising $18,000, which he says would cover the cost to build out a private space for the Community Fridge and feed 935 students.
The last day of service before the temporary closure takes place is Monday, August 21. Regular service is expected to resume March 15, 2024.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.