Ola Appetit Cafe at Special Donor Thank You Party, Thursday June 21 at 6pm

Ola in her cafe


Spend five minutes in the new Ola Appetit Café at Union Project and it’s obvious that the operator, Olafemi Mandley surrounds herself with memories of her upbringing and ancestry. There is always artwork from local artists on display that is authentic, hand-made, prepared with loving hands, like Olah’s food. Just behind the register hangs a symbolic metal lizard painted turquoise, blue and gold. “The blue and turquoise are universal.” Mandley instructs.  “Sky and water… no matter where you are, you experience water and sky. The gold represents sun and sand. To me the sand is reflective of our leaving Africa.” Olah considers herself African and American. “When we left Africa, the last thing we saw was the sand and when we arrived in the Americas, the first thing we saw was the sand. Again, it is universal. Gold also represents the sun that to me is a symbol of expectation and hope. One of my sayings when things aren’t going as planned is ‘ the sun will rise tomorrow.“


Spend five minutes eating Olah’s food (Note…you may need to wait as she prepares almost everything fresh to order!) and it’s obvious she uses whole and organic ingredients from the places she lived. “I was cooking food that was organic before it was in fashion.” smiles Mandley. In her twenties, Olah spent six and a half years in Trinidad and learned to cook on three stones. She explains. “I would put three stones together like a triangle and set hot coals in the space in the center. Then I would prop my cast iron skillet or clay pot or metal platter on top of that and cook and bake everything.” Her flavors draw from her roots with southern cooking, tastes of the islands, and vegetarian specialties mixed together like the colors of the islands at sunset.


Spend five minutes talking to Olah and it’s obvious she cares about nourishing people. In fact her name, Olafemi, means “God loves me “and she draws on her faith as she lovingly prepares food for others. “Food nourishes the soul. I believe that everyone deserves a hand prepared meal; that people need to slow down and eat. Food is a blessing. Community is built through partaking in well prepared food.” 


Her café sign says “Coffee, culture, community.” Three words that come to life when you spend just 15 minutes at Ola Appetite Café at Union Project. The name of the café is a play on the phrase, bon appetit which means good food. She inserted her name intentionally to mean love good food


“And this is exactly why she is here,” says Jeffrey Dorsey, Executive Director at Union Project. Some may remember that Union Project used to run the café itself (there were three different iterations, and names, from 2005-09 when the café first partnered with Peabody High School Culinary Students to train them in food service. But since 2009, when Dorsey was hired as executive director, UP has been undergoing an amazing organizational turn around which included closing their café for a period while they completed their new strategic plan. (Check it out at http://unionproject.org/strategicplan).“We took time to ask ourselves the really hard questions, including…why a café at UP anyway? We were actually researching turning our café into a cooperative kitchen (based on our successful ceramics cooperative model) when we met Olah.  She came through the Duquesne University Women and Minority Enterprise Program interested to use our space to bake cookies for her catering business,” says Dorsey. But after some time spent learning about UP’s mission she shared her business plan with them hoping to expand her business into their café location. The rest is history.


“Running a small business incubator in the rear of our building, we are accustomed at providing basic business development support to micro-entrepreneurs. But we wanted to make certain we found the right partner to re-open our café. It’s our front door to the community and its important the customers have a good experience there as it may be their first time at UP. With Olah’s two decades of catering experience we also have the opportunity to grow together to provide additional services to our space renters year round.” 


And on Thursday, June 21st, 2012 at 6:00pm, this partnership will be on full display as Union Project welcomes community members to meet Olah, enjoy her food and support Union Project as they begin to implement their new three-year business plan at a special Donor Thank You Dinner to be held in the future courtyard space just outside UP’s building. The Menu, prepared by Cafe Ola Appetit at Union Project, includes:


Cold Avocado Soup with Spicy Plantation Chips 


Gazpacho Soup with Parmesan Peppercorn Crisps



Asian Shrimp Salad 


Stacked Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad



Steak Chimichurri  with Mashed Potatoes with Grilled Onion


Grilled Portobello Mushroom ChimiChurri with Mashed Potatoes with Grilled Onion 



Lemon Broccolini


Roast Corn on the Cob



Frozen Dreamsicle Cake





Entertainment will be provided by student musicians of SOUNDWAVES, a steel drum ensemble that recently received in-kind space to train local teens at Union Project.


Join your community and take a seat at the table with a donation of $50 or more.  You can make arrangements by (Clicking here to make your donation) by 6.14.12. 



Union Project is located at 801 N. Negley Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

For more information about UP, Ola Appetit Café, or this dinner, please call 412-363-4550x21. To receive updates about UP and events taking place there monthly sign up for their e-news blasts at www.unionproject.org

Ola Appetit Café regular business hours are: M, T, Th, F, S – 8a-3p & W: 8a-7p