Burlington's Kismayo Kitchen Reopens After Chef-Owner's Untimely Death | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington's Kismayo Kitchen Reopens After Chef-Owner's Untimely Death

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Published November 20, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 22, 2023 at 10:16 a.m.


From left: Amina, Bahja and Qamar Ibrahim with Somali rice and chicken - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • From left: Amina, Bahja and Qamar Ibrahim with Somali rice and chicken
With the help of friends and family, Anisa Mohamed reopened Kismayo Kitchen last Wednesday. It was almost three months to the day after her husband, the Burlington restaurant's chef-owner, Ahmed Omar, died unexpectedly at home in his sleep on August 13.

The chief medical examiner's office determined the 36-year-old's death to be from natural causes. The final death certificate attributes it to "probable cardiac arrhythmia of undetermined etiology."

A plaque in the reopened restaurant at 505 Riverside Avenue honors Omar, who arrived in Vermont with his family as a 17-year-old refugee from war-torn Somalia. At Kismayo Kitchen, the homage reads, "he didn't just serve delicious food, he served kindness, compassion and a sense of unity that touched countless lives."
Although her husband was the face of the business, Mohamed said she was always involved with the restaurant, doing prep and cooking as needed while also caring for the couple's two young daughters, now 8 and 4.
Anisa Mohamed and Ahmed Omar - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Anisa Mohamed and Ahmed Omar




"We can never fill Omar's shoes," she said, referring to him familiarly by his surname as everyone did. "We just want to keep his legacy going."

The menu will stay the same, Mohamed said; her husband described it as multicultural food, ranging from Philly cheesesteaks to Somali rice with a choice of halal meat.

 Family members, including Omar's sister Asha Omar and several nieces — Amina, Bahja, Qamar and Safiya Ibrahim — will help cook and serve. Mohamed said she hopes to hire a grill cook. She is also seeking whoever built the Kismayo Kitchen website, so that the family can access it.
Somali rice and chicken, samosas and potato salad - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Somali rice and chicken, samosas and potato salad
The week before the restaurant reopened, Mohamed said, her girls put on aprons and played together in its dining room, pretending to take orders and arguing over who got to make the samosas.

She said she had talked with her daughters about the decision to reopen Kismayo Kitchen, sharing her concern that it might be too much on top of her family responsibilities.

"They told me, 'Baba used to tell us this was going to be ours,'" Mohamed recalled her daughters saying about their father. "'You just run it for us till we can do it.'"

Kismayo Kitchen will be closed on Thanksgiving. Regular hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.; Friday, 2 to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Go to Kismayo Kitchen on Facebook for updates.

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