Saffron de Twah Seeks to Create Community with Food and Flavor

By: Karen Dybis | November 20, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Saffron de Twah.

There’s an old adage out there that goes something like this: Once you break bread with someone, you will have a better understanding not only of one another but of people in general. Eating together at a table and enjoying food as a group does something good for the body but it does even more for the soul.

That is the overall food and life philosophy of Chef Omar Anani, the heart and brains behind Saffron de Twah. Anani blends the best of what he sees, shops and enjoys about the Motor City with his Moroccan-inspired recipes, giving people his best dishes and treating them like family, all eating together at the same table. 

“Food has always been a bridge. It can be used for comfort for relationships for just about anything,” Anani said. “It’s funny; if you watch…Italians, they’ll argue, things will get heated, people will be upset. But then they’ll stop and go eat. When you break bread with somebody, it completely changes everything.”

Anani is Palestinian and Egyptian by birth, and he has married into a Bangladesh family, so he knows a thing or two about blending foods and culture together. He also loves introducing people to Middle Eastern flavors, especially those that employ his beloved Moroccan spices and ingredients.

Saffron de Twah is a bistro like no other because of him and because of his hard work to build a place where people and his staff feel welcome and appreciated. Celebrating a meal together is key to who he is, and he wants everyone who tries his food to also understand where it came from and what makes him tick as a person. 

For example, as a restaurant owner in Detroit, Anani believes in person-centered management and creating a positive environment for its staff. He has created a mentorship program for high-school students. He trains people new to the industry. He also worked with his staff to learn personal finance, giving bonuses and tough love side by side.

Right now, we all need more love. In fact, Anani says it somewhat as a joke, but he notes that everyone in 2020 feels a bit “hangry,” or a mix of hungry and angry, all the time now. He thinks back to one of his first food memories – when he shared a cupcake with his sister and told her that he loved her – and how just seeing that sweet treat brings back such good times in his mind. 

“I can’t see a cupcake without thinking of my sister. Those feelings are what we’re always chasing. I’m trying to create a slice of that in Detroit,” Anani said. 

That’s also a reason why he like the communal tables at Saffron. People have to sit, talk and become part of the community. Being a community-based restaurant is why he and his staff are working as a Community Kitchen right now, making sure people of all walks of life from homeless to essential workers are being fed. 

As he prepped the menu for his Top 10 Takeout event, Anani thought about how to introduce people to his restaurant, its flavors and his philosophies. Because he is obsessed with barbecue, he came up with a half rack of smoked lamb ribs with a pomegranate sauce, sausages, sweet potato mash and so much more. These are his favorite American/Moroccan dishes, and he loves the way they blend what he loves about this country with what he loves about his own nationality. 

There are vegetarian and vegan options as well, giving love to the people who love to eat this way, something Anani deeply respects. The dessert also highlights the food and the people he loves – a cheesecake with a touch of lemon on it. Sweet and sour, kind of like life and how we work together to find balance every day. 

“Our goal, ultimately, is to heal through food,” Anani said.