OAKLAND (KCBS) – Born and raised on a farm in Chagni, Ethiopia, 38-year-old Chef Tiyo Shibabaw discovered her love for cooking at an early age. With a large household, her family was usually cooking for 20 to 30 relatives at a time, in addition to guests from their hotel and restaurant next door.
By the time she was 10, Chef Shibabaw was constantly asking to help in the kitchen and, after a short while, she became quite skilled at cooking for and managing a large number of guests. When she turned 18, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to be with family and attend school. Chef Shibabaw promptly fell in love with Southeast Asian food, taking every opportunity to experience the cuisine and learn about her new home.
After working various office and restaurant jobs, Chef Shibabawtook on a challenge that would change everything.
In 2006, she accepted a position as general manager of Burma Superstar, an award-winning Southeast Asian restaurant based in San Francisco. Immediately, Chef Shibabaw began working as an understudy to a master Chinese-Burmese chef who taught her about the art of cooking in the Burmese tradition. In a few months, she helped expand the restaurant’s brand by opening its first East Bay location in Alameda.
After much success, Shibabaw opened Burma Superstarin Oakland in 2009. In addition to operating the East Bay locations of Burma Superstar for nearly 10 years, Chef Shibabaw also contributed recipes to the restaurant’s critically-acclaimed 2017 cookbook Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia.
In 2014, Chef Shibabaw and some friends in the restaurant industry took a month-long culinary trip to Southeast Asia. Visiting Taiwan, Thailand and Burma. After years of cooking Burmese food, she wanted to experience Burmese culture and food first-hand and see the influence of other Southeast Asian countries on Burma’s food.
Determined to experience Burma in an authentic way, Chef Shibabaw visited dozens of eateries, cultural sites, markets and home kitchens. In fact, she ended up spending an entire day cooking with her tour guide’s wife. This unforgettable journey left an indelible mark on her and greatly informed her authentically creative approach to Burmese cuisine.
Inspired by her experiences in Southeast Asia and at Burma Superstar, Chef Shibabaw stepped out on her own in 2016 and opened Teni East Kitchen, a full-service restaurant serving delicious, Burmese-inspired cuisine with a California twist. Located in the Temescal (Jewel Box) neighborhood of Oakland, the destination restaurant offers healthy, flavorful, and sometimes surprising dishes that strike a balance between tradition and innovation and are made with high-quality, thoughtfully sourced local and global ingredients.
Named after Chef Shibabaw’s mother, Teni East Kitchen offers a small, carefully curated menu that reflects a fresh and honest interpretation and approach to Southeast Asian food. The fresh and bright cuisine at Teni East Kitchen showcases succulent, slow-cooked dishes with distinctive layers of flavors based on coconut, turmeric, lemongrass and garlic-infused oils for a light, healthy balance.
Chef Shibabaw is a longtime resident of Oakland. She enjoys trail walks, cooking with friends and experimenting in the kitchen. We met at the restaurant recently for our Foodie Chap interview. Chef Shibabaw also put together a stunning dish: “Pea Shoot Salad”. The delish recipe is below.
Enjoy my conversation with a global chef making her mark with flavorful, thoughtful cuisine with heart and soul at Teni East Kitchen in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.
Wash and set aside pea shoots and shredded cabbage in a large serving bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. Taste, and adjust as necessary—it should be zippy, but if it’s overwhelmingly tart, add a bit more honey.
If you’ll be serving the salad all at once, drizzle enough dressing to lightly coat the salad once tossed (you might not use all of it), and toss to combine. If you intend to have leftovers, store the salad separately from the dressing, and toss just before serving. Feel free to add any roasted nuts and seeds or dried fruits you may have available.