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Stateside Podcast: Detroit chef behind Baobab Fare wins 'Chopped'

Chef Hamissi Mamba, as seen on Chopped, Season 53.
Dawn Hoffmann
Courtesy of Food Network
Chef Hamissi Mamba, as seen on Chopped, Season 53.

It wasn’t until 25 minutes into cooking up some ostrich for the finale of the TV show Chopped that chef Mamba Hamissi realized he was cooking, well, ostrich.

“In my mind, I was cooking beef meat,” Hamissi said. “I was so nervous, I didn’t even hear that they were saying ‘ostrich.’ …and then someone said, like, ‘ostrich,’ and I was like, ‘Wait, wait wait. Am I cooking ostrich right now? All this time I’m cooking ostrich?’”

The cook-ostrich-like-it’s-beef technique worked out pretty well. Hamissi, who co-owns the Detroit restaurant Baobab Fare with his wife Nadia, ended up winning Chopped. He donated his $10,000 prize money to Burundian nonprofit Burundi Kids, and to a new kitchen for Freedom House Detroit.

“[F]reedom House is a shelter that we lived in, me and Nadia, here in Detroit. Our kids were born while living there… we couldn’t be here today without Freedom House,” Hamissi said. “I know there is a lot of talent in Freedom House, and they deserve to have at least a kitchen.”

Freedom House, whose kitchen is in need of updates and expansion, supports refugees and asylum seekers in Michigan; Mamba and Nadia first lived there when they immigrated from Burundi. With the help of Freedom House and their community in Detroit, the couple eventually opened up the award-winning restaurant Baobab Fare in New Center. It’s an epicenter for East African cuisine and culture, and now, the home of a Chopped champion.

But Hamissi’s not done with Chopped’s famously weird and wild dishes quite yet.

“[W]e are raising more than $10,000 [for Freedom House], we are raising 120,000 so we can build a kitchen. So I’m going to do…everything I made on Chopped, so we can sell tickets, so people can experience everything I’ve made from the show – from the appetizer, the main dish, and dessert.” Hamissi said. “All the money can go to support the campaign that we started to build a kitchen.”

Hear more about Mamba’s experience on Chopped, plus a few tips about how to make any combination of ingredients taste delicious, on this episode of Stateside.

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April Van Buren is a producer for <i>Stateside</i>. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.
Ellie Katz joined the Stateside team as an intern in September 2022.