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Nelson German on putting himself forward

How “Top Chef,” helped this chef/owner of alaMar Kitchen & Bar and Sobre Mesa to sharpen his focus on Afro-Latin cuisine and bring his menu to life


Nelson German opened alaMar Kitchen & Bar about eight years ago in Oakland, Calif., a seafood concept that taps his Dominican roots and journey as a chef.

It started out as a full-service concept, but — before the pandemic — he decided to shift to fast-casual/counter service to keep the menu affordable and his overhead low. It turned out to be a great decision that helped the concept thrive with takeout and outdoor dining through the pandemic shutdowns.

This month, alaMar is reopening from pandemic restrictions for full-service dining again, and German is happy to reconnect with guests, who now may know him from season 18 of “Top Chef,” an experience during the pandemic closures that helped the once-shy chef put himself more forward and tell his own story.

In 2020, German also opened the cocktail bar Sobre Mesa, with a tapas menu and a lively vibe that has won local acclaim. Now German is looking at more concepts, as well as writing a book and, perhaps, doing his own TV show.

Listen to German describe how he cooks to represent the Black diaspora, his journey as a chef and business owner, and how “Top Chef” left him (temporarily) in a wheel chair.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

TAGS: Chefs
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