Restaurateur Reem Assil of Reem's - Biography

Oakland, CA

May 2019

Reem Assil didn’t plan on becoming a chef, let alone a restaurateur. For the first decade of her professional career, Assil was a community and labor organizer. In 2010, she found herself on soul-searching trek across Lebanon and Syria. It was then she realized how much she yearned to bring her culture back to the States. Inspired by the corner bakeries dotting the streets of Lebanon, Assil decided Arab street food would be the perfect way to bring a little bit of her heritage to Oakland, California.

Assil started a baking and pastry course at Laney College and cut her teeth at Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria and Grace Street Catering before applying to La Cocina, an incubator concept for women of color in hospitality. By the time she graduated from the program in 2017, popular demand for her food allowed Assil to finally open Reem’s, a bakery/fast casual restaurant with warm, pillowy pita fresh out the dome oven at the heart of the operation.  
 
With the belief in the power of food to build community, it didn’t take long for Reem’s to garner serious attention. That same year, Assil was named a 2017 “Rising Star Chef” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Barely a year later, she partnered with Daniel Patterson to open Dyafa, Reem’s larger and slightly less casual sister. By 2018, Assil was named a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for “Best Chef: West” and “Chef of the Year” by San Francisco Magazine, and Reem’s was ranked among Food & Wine’s “Restaurants of the Year.”