New vegan restaurant opens during pandemic

Tezeta Alemayehu and Tsega-Ab “Bicko” Fenta, members of the Berean Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California, USA, know all too well the challenges of opening a new restaurant, especially during an ongoing global pandemic. At the recent opening of their vegan Ethiopian restaurant Berbere by T&T Lifestyle in Santa Monica, the couple say they have relied on God’s guidance throughout the process.

“Faith has been key to our business,” said Alemayehu, executive chef and co-owner of Berbere. Before Berbere, the couple’s dining concept was well known to many Los Angeles residents who frequented Smorgasburg, an open-air, weekend-only grocery store downtown that featured the T&T Lifestyle brand in 2019.

The breakfast burrito, a popular item on the Berbere’s breakfast menu, is also available for lunch and dinner. It’s made with scrambled tofu, roasted Berber potatoes, teff injera, fir-fir, bulgur, whole wheat tortilla, and tangfaye sauce. [Photo: Southern California Conference]

For years, Alemayehu hoped to open a restaurant in Santa Monica and live nearby. “We were sure God had a record of it,” Alemayehu said, “so we just let Him do it.” When Smorgasburg closed during the pandemic, the couple’s small business was also affected. They began serving food through Colony, a kitchen retail store that allows restaurants to prepare and serve food, in West Los Angeles, closer to their desired West Side location.

After tirelessly researching possible locations, some of which interested them but ultimately weren’t where they wanted to be, a space opened up in Santa Monica. The couple initially thought they could only rent half of this large venue, but after meeting the owner, an agreement was reached to rent the entire space.

9064Alemayehu Tezeta, co-owner of Berbere, prepares a meal in the open kitchen. [Photo: Southern California Conference]

“If that’s not God, we don’t know what is,” said Fenta, co-owner of Berbere. “Since then we have seen so many miracles and God has blessed us immensely.”

Restaurant Berbere, an “unusual vegan restaurant in Santa Monica” with an Ethiopian twist, opened in September 2021. Since then, Alemayehu and Fenta have received overwhelming support from guests and media alike.

Uncompromising in their beliefs, Alemayehu and Fenta Berbere close early on Friday and are closed throughout Saturday for the Sabbath.

9065The entrance to the Berbere vegan restaurant in Santa Monica, California, USA. [Photo: Southern California Conference]

“Everyone will tell you that you’re crazy not to open your business on Friday nights and Saturdays,” Alemayehu said, “because those are the hottest days for businesses to make money.” Closing on the Sabbath, however, has made it possible for the couple to share the Adventist faith with those with whom they interact. “For us, closing on the Sabbath has had a positive impact on our business because we can tell people we’re keeping the Sabbath,” Alemayehu added.

Throughout this journey, the couple has held fast to the promise of God’s faithfulness as seen in Hebrews 10:23. “We will continue to be faithful,” Alemayehu said, “because we know God’s promises are true.”

The original version of this story was published by the Southern California Conference.

Comments are closed.