Serial Entrepreneur Behind Trap Kitchen Oakland is Blazing a Trail of Community-Centric Brands
Entrepreneurship Food

Serial Entrepreneur Behind Trap Kitchen Oakland Is Blazing A Trail Of Community-Centric Brands

Oscar Edwards, Founder & CEO of Trap Kitchen Oakland and Complex Oakland inside his upcoming Houston restaurant “Cali”
(Image: Oscar Edwards, Founder & CEO of Trap Kitchen Oakland and Complex Oakland inside his upcoming Houston restaurant “Cali” / Courtesy of Visual Influence)

Oscar Edwards, the serial entrepreneur whose built a legacy in Downtown Oakland, Calif., with dining and entertainment concepts like LA’s famous Trap Kitchen Oakland and the Complex Oakland concert hall, is expanding his unique empire beyond the Bay Area with a new coastal cuisine concept in Houston, Texas.

Edwards’ latest restaurant venture, called “Cali”, is slated to open in Houston in January 2023. The bar/restaurant is a culinary infusion of culture, California flavors and Texas Cajun cuisine that will feature Trap Kitchen signature favorites, like their famous pineapple bowls and lobster pizza, along with specialty dishes from viral Instagram chefs and some of California’s most popular restaurants all under one roof!

Cali will join a line-up of half a dozen successful businesses Edwards has created with passion and community-focused intention. The pioneering entrepreneur, who launched his first hospitality venture right out of college at the age of 22, was the youngest person of color to own a liquor license in Northern California and the first African American to own a concert venue in the state.

“I have been around hospitality and marketing since I was a kid and worked in many aspects of the business from a young age,” said Edwards.

“It’s in my blood. My dad was a football star-turned-marketing economics expert, and my mom was event planner who started the Los Angeles Black Business Expo.”

Growing up in Southern California, Edwards went to school at Crenshaw Christian Center, and spent most of his time between Compton and Long Beach. He started deejaying at age 11, launched his own DJ business at age 13, and became one of Northern California’s top DJs during the Hyphy Movement of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s.

The budding entrepreneur played basketball at San Francisco State University, overseeing the Associated Students Finance and Creative Arts Department, and worked at Warner Bros Records, Capital Records, Clear Channel Media Base, and Deejayed on-air, before opening Complex Oakland; a multi-level arts, concert and entertainment facility on 14th Street, in the heart of a historically Black neighborhood in Oakland’s downtown theater district.

Edward’s new Cali restaurant will feature Trap Kitchen signature dishes like their famous Pineapple Bowl
(Image: Edward’s new Cali restaurant will feature Trap Kitchen signature dishes like their famous Pineapple Bowl / Courtesy of Cali Restaurant/Trap Kitchen)

For the past 15 years, Edwards has been building a small empire on 14th Street with businesses including Complex Oakland, the Trap Kitchen Oakland restaurant, Trap Kitchen Food Truck, fast-casual restaurant Mac Attack, the Culture nightclub, and the 14th Street Market, all of which are helping make inroads for Black entrepreneurs and uplifting the community.

“For me, it’s all about providing what is needed to people in neighborhoods and communities and reinvesting those dollars back into that community,” said Edwards.

“When you build a business with community-focused intention, respect the people and culture, and keep the dollars in that community, it leaves a legacy for everyone else.”

Edwards’ 14th Street businesses were thriving when the pandemic hit. His entertainment and hospitality businesses – the concert venue, the nightclub and the dine-in restaurant- were shut down. Forced to let go of his entire restaurant staff, he worked in the Trap Kitchen by himself and flipped the business during the pandemic to become one of the top delivery services on DoorDash.

His businesses are located in Oakland’s Black Arts Movement Business District – the site of historic civil rights protests. When the George Floyd movement reached a fever pitch, the one convenience store in his neighborhood that sold groceries, a Walgreens, was set on fire.

“I realized then there was nowhere in this area to get groceries, not just convenience goods, but fresh, healthier foods,” said Edwards.

“I started researching food deserts, found a gym that went under due to the pandemic, worked in the Kitchen by day and started building a grocery store by night.”

After six months of licensing, permits and securing vendors, Edwards opened the 14th Street Market, another pioneering Black-owned business, introducing healthy, affordable options like fresh produce and baked goods, along with corner store staples and grab-and-go meals, to his downtown neighborhood.

With all of his businesses now back up and running in California, Edwards is embarking on new venture in a Houston community rich in cultural diversity, with a thriving dining scene. His vision is to share a variety of California cuisine, culture, and costal signature drinks with Houstonians at his new Cali restaurant.

Miami Rapper Trina performs at Edwards’ multi-level arts and entertainment venue, Complex Oakland.
(Image: Miami Rapper Trina performs at Edwards’ multi-level arts and entertainment venue, Complex Oakland / Courtesy of Complex Oakland)

Edwards is transforming a 7,500 square foot restaurant, located at 12910 Northwest Freeway in Houston, into a cool urban eatery with a West Coast vibe. The venue will have a full sports bar, live entertainment, and a menu curated by Edwards, Malachi “Spank” Jenkins and Roberto “News” Smith, the former rival gang members and Compton Chefs who founded LA’s famous Trap Kitchen empire.

For Edwards, and the Trap Kitchen group, “Trap,” is an inspirational acronym to “take risks and prosper” and put that prosperity back into the community; a mantra he lives by with each new business he launches.

His new Cali restaurant concept is expected to open in Houston in January 2023.


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