2 metro Detroit restaurants named James Beard Award finalists

Posted at 11:31 AM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 19:54:52-04

The James Beard Foundation announced finalists for its 2024 awards on Wednesday, and two metro Detroit restaurants were named among the finalists.

Mamba Hamissi and Nadia Nijimbere from Baobab Fare in Detroit were named a finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

The award goes to "A restaurateur who uses their establishment(s) as a vehicle for building community, demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship, integrity in restaurant operations, and is making efforts to create a sustainable work culture, while contributing positively to their broader community."

Also, Hajime Sato, the chef at Sozai in Clawson, was named a finalist for Best Chef: Great Lakes (IN, IL, MI, OH).

That award goes to "Chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions while contributing positively to their broader community."

In 2021, Baobab Fare, along Woodward Ave. in New Center, was named as one of the best new restaurants in the country by Eater.

The husband-and-wife team of Hamissi and Nijimbere are both refugees from Burundi, a country in East Africa.

Mamba told 7 Action News that Nijimbere came to Detroit first in 2013; "Then, after a couple months, she found out she was pregnant with twins and I couldn’t join them until 2015. I tried to apply for a visa two times and got denied."

When Mamba was finally able to join in November of 2015 he said; "That’s how I came and met the girls for the first time, and I was a dad for the first time, me and Nadia, we were family for the first time."

Watch more about their story below

Baobab Fare chef wins 'Chopped,' tells immigration story