Mani Niall was Michael Jackson's personal chef for two years at the peak of his fame, traveling the world with the star after the release of his seminal album Thriller.
Niall is now an accomplished cookbook author and owner of Oakland's Sweet Bar Bakery (2355 Broadway). He remembers Jackson with fondness and will celebrate his birthday on Aug. 29 by cooking up some of the King of Pop's favorite dishes from their time together.
As a Jehovah's Witness, Jackson never celebrated his birthday when Niall was his chef, so this is Niall's way of making up for lost time.
"His effect on my life is immeasurable and probably made me get serious about cooking," Niall said. "It was just a job until I met him. I saw how hard he worked at his craft and it was, well, inspirational. Plus he had fun with the people he met and worked with, sort of like the best part of running a food business."
Stop in at Sweet Bar starting Friday to try Jackson's favorite pizza, which had shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant and roasted peppers ("Very Eighties," Niall joked). For dessert, Niall is serving "'ookies," which he likened to pecan sandies, dusted with maple sugar.
Niall said these specials will be offered for about a week.
On a side note, Niall recently spotted himself (clad in a turban) arriving with Jackson at London's Heathrow Airport in 1985 thanks to a video posted to YouTube.