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Flavor Profile: Aziza's Chef Mourad Lahlou

Mourad Lahlou

Photo by Laura Flippen

Credentials: Chef-owner, Aziza
News Flash: Named State Chef (aka gastronomical diplomat to the world) in 2012 by Hilary Clinton, Lahlou preps for opening his second Moroccan restaurant in the historic Telephone & Telegraph Building in SoMa.
 

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
When I didn’t like being anything else.

Favorite ingredient?
Anchovies. The little bastards have so much flavor for been so tiny. They are great fresh, but pack a punch when they are dried for when they are not in season.

Best thing you’ve eaten in SF?
Country loaf from Tartine Bakery. Andantino cheese from Andante. Kouign amann from B. Patisserie. Roast chicken taco from Gallo Giro truck. Toasted coconut ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery.

Dream playlist while cooking?
Johnny Cash, Tupac, Notorious BIG, Lil Wayne, Portishead.

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?
Pancakes, roast chicken, kefta burgers, cereal, Asdomar tuna sandwich, peanut butter and green olive sandwich.

Greatest indulgence?
Naps.

What motivates you?
Fear of failing, wasting a day.

What would you request for your last meal?
I’m not planning on going anywhere, but if I were checking out mid-day or at night, I would get tomato-braised meatballs with poached eggs. If I were going in the morning, it would have to be Moroccan pancakes with honey and butter, and a glass of mint tea with lemon verbena.

Who are your heroes?
Kobe Bryant, Daniel Day Lewis, and still to this very moment my grandpa…hands down.

What’s in your refrigerator?
Pickles, harissa, sriracha, milk, preserves, cheese, butter, leftover Thai.

Where do you go for a good drink and what do you order?
Sightglass for a Gibraltar.

Go-to takeout/delivery?
Ton Kiang.

Bay Area restaurants on your list to try?
Saison.

Favorite pairing?
Saffron-braised chicken with green olives and preserved lemons paired with a glass of Moroccan mint tea. The bomb!

Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food?
I’m not ashamed of anything I put in my body.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Bull’s testicles.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….?
Lost.

Any dietary restrictions?
None that I’m aware of.

Restaurant customer pet peeves?
Taking an eternity to take a picture of the food, then complain their dish is not warm enough. Really??

Describe your kitchen persona in one word.
It depends on who you asked, but mostly bipolar.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Why would I want to grow up? That would be disastrous.

How far would you travel for a killer meal? Where to?
Not far. With all the great food around here, I don’t really need to go anywhere to get what I want.

Strangest customer request?
People requesting not to be seated in a booth, but don’t want to be in the middle of the room.

Proudest professional moment?
Getting 3.5 stars from Bauer and landing a Michelin star.

What’s next?
Trying to figure out why I'm opening another restaurant. Why would anyone do it??

This article was published in 7x7's May issue. Click here to subscribe.