For Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating local restaurants and food businesses run by moms and their kids. It takes a special kind of family to run any kind of business together, and operating a restaurant or bakery in the competitive Bay Area is an especially challenging feat that requires everyone involved to not only get along, but to have a shared vision and goals for the business.
Here are six food entrepreneurs who keep it in the family, with moms at the helm or helping out. For each business, having the family involved is not only something special but a large reason for their success.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana
Gloria Dominguez is the chef at Old Oakland’s Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. She’s the one responsible for developing the restaurant’s recipes, which come from more than seven regions of Mexico. Dinner dishes like her chilaquiles and ensalada de nopal (cactus salad) and lunchtime offerings like burritos and tacos, have won Tamarindo fans over the restaurant’s 13 years of business.
While Dominguez leads the kitchen, front of house is run by her son, Alfonso. Together, they co-own the restaurant.
But it doesn’t stop there. Tamarindo truly is a family and intergenerational affair. Another integral member is Gloria’s daughter Adriana Porter, who works as the restaurant’s manager. Porter’s young children, Gloria’s grandchildren, can even be found in the kitchen helping. Gloria’s sister, Yolanda Diaz, also assists in the business, as does her mother.
“We always come back to work together at the restaurant as a family,” Porter said. “It’s our point of reunion. Even my grandmother, Obdulia, occasionally helps on weekend brunches to make tortillas.
Chef Dominguez notes that running a restaurant with family makes the service great because there is a shared passion for success.
“I think if you have the same passion and it runs in the family, it can run very smoothly,” she said.
Agrodolce and Trattoria La Siciliana
When the D’Alo family first moved from Sicily, Italy, to the Bay Area, they didn’t speak much English, but they knew food. Matriarch Rosa D’Alo started cooking to make ends meet and her kids have been involved in the business since they were young.
“When we started, my mom used to make pizzas out of our house. Me and my brother worked paper routes. We used to slip our mother’s menu in the papers. We used to throw papers, 200 a day. We had just moved from Italy. My mom made custom Sicilian pizzas for our neighbors and by doing that, we saved up enough to start our own restaurant,” said Angelo D’Alo, who was 10-years-old at the time and is now general operating partner and head chef at Agrodolce in the Gourmet Ghetto and the family’s flagship restaurant, Trattoria La Siciliana in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood.
Back in Italy, Rosa D’Alo was a formally trained chef and is still well-known, having appeared on many reality TV cooking shows there. Rosa, Angelo, Jerry (Rosa’s son, who runs the family’s other restaurants) and father Giuseppe have opened six restaurants together, all focusing on regional Sicilian cuisine. Sister Giulia is also in the food business, operating a gourmet food store near Trattoria La Siciliana called The Sicilian.
Dishes like pasta con le sarde made with sardines, fennel, saffron, and pine nuts sauce or a cuttlefish ink risotto topped with sea urchin and finished with grated bottarga, a salted and dried mullet fish eggs, are specialties you’ll find on the D’Alo’s menus.
Today, Mamma Rosa is 77 and is still working 40-50 hours a week as master chef at both Berkeley restaurants, making all the specials.
A Girl Named Pinky
Tina Stevens, owner of A Girl Named Pinky, the bakery currently part of La Cocina’s Cantina at the ASUC Student Union at UC Berkeley, loves working with her family. Her daughter, Cleopatra, 26, has been working with her for about eight years, and her son Chase, 12, while too young to officially be on the payroll, has been helping his mom for the past two years.
“It’s wonderful to be able to work with my family. They see how important my business is to me and want to make sure that anything that needs to be done gets done to perfection,” Stevens said.
“When Chase was in elementary school, I was building my business. I baked out of commercial kitchens and Chase always would tell me, ‘Mom, when you get your bakery, I’m going to work for you.’”
These days, Chase helps his mom with duties like bringing in signs and taking out the garbage. In a few years, Stevens plans to teach him how to bake, as well as skills he’d need to run his own business. Whether he keeps baking is to be seen; he’d like to one day run a tech or gaming company. Cleopatra has her own dreams, too. Today, she is pursuing a career as an aesthetician. Whatever Stevens’ kids do in the future, both want to become entrepreneurs like their mom.
“They see if you work hard and are consistent with your goals and dreams.”
Lao Thai Kitchen
The family that owns Lao Thai Kitchen in Albany have a long history of cooking in the East Bay. Head chef Phao Phahongchanh, along with her three children — Pheng Phahongchanh (chef and manager), Boua Phahongchanh (co-owner) and Edgard Papio (co-owner) — run the kitchen and business at the Solano Avenue restaurant.
Phao, Pheng and Boua first worked together in 1992, helping open and co-own Dara Thai Lao Cuisine in Berkeley. In 2000, they parted ways with the restaurant. Boua decided to pursue higher education and worked at a brokerage firm. Her brother, Pheng, worked at a construction company while managing a Thai restaurant in Concord. Mother, Phao, helped open Bangkok Thai Cuisine in Berkeley, working as the head chef there for 17 years. In 2017, a distant aunt retired from Lao Thai Kitchen, and Phahongchanh’s family acquired the restaurant.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Boua said about working with her family. “Our mother, Phao Phahongchanh, has been in the restaurant for over 30 years since starting her career in 1986 migrating from Laos. She’s one of the pioneers of Lao cuisine in the Bay Area.”
Oakland small baking business Yahshi Bakes was launched in 2015 by mother-daughter team, Tsadae Neway and Yahshimabet Sellassie. The company offers cakes, cupcakes, granola, cookies and quick breads. Daughter Sellassie, age 15, is the head baker, president and CEO; her mom is the co-founder and director of operations (she is also the owner of Souly Body: Integrated Bodywork & Birth Keeping). Sellassie’s father, Abba Yahudah, a fine artist and art curator at Oakstop co-working space, is also involved as the business’ brand manager and marketing director.
Sellassie has been baking for much of her life, but got serious about the craft around age 8. She interned at Montclair Baking, and in 2016, she was a top contender on the Food Network TV show “Kids Baking Championship.” In addition to being a baker, Sellassie is a chef, aspiring writer and food innovator. When she was in eighth grade Sellassie and her mom took a business class together at Mills College. “We would learn, laugh and make connections with other powerful, local and innovative entrepreneurs,” Neway said.
Working together as mother and daughter can have benefits: “Since we know each other so well, we can get a lot done without having to say much. The work is meditative in that sense. We can also have stimulating conversations about social justice and environmental issues, or simply storytelling. All that is a part of the process, but the goal must be reached: a delicious dessert, beautifully presented,” Neway said.
Along with taking orders by phone and online, Yahshi Bakes sells its baked goods at pop-up events. The next Yahshi Bakes pop-up is on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at As Kneaded Bakery (585 Victoria Ct., San Leandro), where mom and daughter will sell cupcakes — just in time for Mother’s Day!
Cambodian Street Food
The 65-year-old mother of Malinda Bun, owner of Oakland’s Cambodian Street Food, can often be found in the restaurant’s kitchen alongside her daughter. Mother Mach Ham still teaches traditional recipes to her daughter.
“She sometimes comes to my shop to give me lessons on how to make our dishes,” Bun said. “Everything on my menu is my mother’s way of traditional cooking. These dishes were chosen by myself and her.”
Through her mother’s lessons, Bun recognizes how much time and effort it takes to make Cambodian sauces and spices.
“My mother’s drive to teach me her secret techniques keeps me going. Although my mother isn’t always there, it’s always a pleasure to have her guide me through her way of Cambodian traditional cooking when she is,” Bun said. “Without my mother’s secret ingredients, sauces and spices, I don’t think that there would be a Cambodian Street Food… Thank you, Mom.”