Aziza chef Mourad Lahlou vs. Paula Wolfert
What do Aziza chef-owner Mourad Lahlou and Sonoma-based Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert have in common? Not much, as it turns out. I just spent the weekend at the annual CIA Worlds of Flavor conference, where old guard and new guard rubbed shoulders, swapped recipes and took in demos on everything from Syrian pastry making to live fire grilling. It’s one of the more well-organized and inspirational food conferences out there; you should consider putting it on your calendar for next year, when the theme will be street food of the world.
I stopped in to see Mourad’s cooking demo on Saturday afternoon, and I had to laugh—as the chef was showing his new-fangled tools and techniques (in which sous vide figures prominently) and showcasing his modern take on Moroccan food, Paula (who Mourad counts as one of his mentors) looked over his shoulder with clear delight and amazement. The preserved lemons that Paula labors over for months? Mourad makes them in 8 hours, thanks to his immersion circulator. And what about smen, a type of aged butter used in tagines? Paula’s is fermenting in an earthenware crock in her Sonoma home, while Mourad is experimenting with a way to augment butter with blue cheese to replicate the flavor in a fraction of the time. He grew up in Marrakesh, she’s American—he’s pushing the envelope and she’s turning back time. How cool to see them together, showing two faces of culinary development.