West African Chef   Finds Home At Community House

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It’s early morning at the Community House on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, and the soft vocals of Bob Marley are playing in the kitchen. “When I am cooking and listening to music it puts me in a happy mood,” says Head Chef Omar Sow, 37, also known as “Moose.” In the morning, he starts prepping the kitchen for the day ahead of him. Community House, once known as the Irish Circle, has become a favored restaurant of the Rockaways. “This is our neighborhood spot,” says local resident, Brenda Schilling. “I come every Wednesday. The  lunch menu is my favorite and absolutely delicious.” Since Chef Moose started working there over a year ago, he has enhanced existing dishes and also added new ones. “The quality of the food is incredible and consistent. Orders, no matter how big, come out in less than 15 minutes,” says owner Kelley Brooke. “When we first opened with another chef, we had organizational problems. We couldn’t get food out in a timely manner and had consistency issues. Since Moose has joined us, the kitchen runs like a finely-tuned instrument,” she added.

All the way from Senegal, West Africa, Chef traveled here 18 years ago to pursue a better life for him and his family back home. Coming to New York only knowing his cousin, he wasn’t sure what he would end up doing. Back in Sourou, his village in Senegal, where he built his very own house, Moose owns a farm where he has a variety of animals and crops. Being a farmer, he always had familiarity with different cuts of meat and vegetables, but he never cooked. “Being raised in Senegal, the men do not cook, so it seems strange to them that I am a chef now,” says Moose. Throughout the year he goes back to his village to visit his three sons, Tidjane, Boubacar and Daouda, ages 21,19 and 5, and other family members. “I told my children one night that I was going to cook them dinner and they laughed,” he said with a smile on his face, “but they loved it and raved about it to their grandmother.” Moose did not start out as a chef, but he always had an interest in it. “As a child I would watch my mom cook and think to myself I want to learn,” he said.

When he first arrived in the Bronx, New York, he started as a gas station attendant and also a dishwasher at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Working in the restaurant industry helped open the door to his cooking career. “I would always watch the chefs cook and learned by watching them,” said Chef Moose. He eventually worked his way up to line cook and then moved on to be a chef at The Capital Grille, Morton's The Steakhouse and NYY Steak. Hard work is second nature to him. Throughout that time he was always working a second job, whether it was working at the gas station or being a server at TGI Fridays. Eventually, one of his fellow co-workers told him about a job at Randall's Island, where he met Kelley Brooke. From then on he was a chef at the restaurant at Randall’s Island Golf and Entertainment until he accepted the offer of Head Chef position at Community House. “I live out in the Bronx, so it was a big decision for me to come to Rockaway, but I was happy to do it for Kelley,” says Chef.

In the past year, Community House has blossomed even more with new items that are getting exceptional reviews by customers. Alaina Dochylo, server at Community House, says, “I have guests compliment the Chef and food all the time, such as the lobster bisque and Maureen’s shepherds pie. It’s rare that I get an answer other than ‘Delicious’ when asking the table how their order is.” With reasonable prices and good quality, more and more guests come every day. “The presentation of the food makes me feel like I am at a million-dollar restaurant, and on top of that you are blessed with the food being excellent,” says regular Joseph Stanzalone.

With working hard and improving the kitchen, Chef still makes time for his faith and prays every day. “Religion is very important to me. I was raised Muslim and pray five times a day,” says Moose. “Whenever I can get a quick break from the kitchen, I go and I pray.” Sometimes before work, Chef will go to the Mosque near Beach 54th street to start off his day with prayer. “Praying uplifts me and motivates my day,” he adds. With his impressive cooking skills, making time for his family and faith, Moose also managed to learn eight languages throughout his life. He knows English, French, Spanish and five African languages: Fulani, Wolof, Mandinka, Soninke, and Bambara. He says, “Knowing these languages always comes in handy for when I am back home in Africa, but also here in the restaurant when we have guests that speak Spanish or French for instance.”

Head Chef Moose hopes to show his children his work one day soon. “ My sons have an upcoming interview for citizenship. I can not wait until they are here in New York with me. It can not come soon enough!” he said with excitement. In the near future Chef would like to continue his legacy and hopes to own his own restaurant. “I would like to own a family restaurant one day with my kids and cook African and American dishes,” he says with a grin as he continues prepping the beef patties for the day.

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