Mourad Lahlou has two life stories. Born and raised in a large extended family in the ancient Medina of Marrakesh, he came to the United States when he was 20 to study economics at San Francisco State University. Missing his native cuisine, he taught himself how to recreate his favorite Moroccan dishes with local ingredients and his own inventive techniques. Before long, he had embarked on a journey that would lead to a career as a pioneering Moroccan-American chef.
As chef/owner of Aziza in San Francisco, he has been recognized as one the most dynamic and individual chefs in the Bay Area. His strikingly modern reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes are all about showcasing the great flavors of his native cuisine in ways that harmonize with the fresh, local, artisanal ingredients of Northern California.
Driven by a desire to strip away the clichés and misconceptions about Moroccan food and celebrate its true potential for fine dining, moourad's cooking is both cerebral and sensual - a rare blend of stunning presentation and meticulous attention to detail with soulful and often surprising flavor combinations.
Mourad opened his first restaurant, Kasbah, in San Rafael, California in 1996, and was recognized as a Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998. In 2001, looking to take his cooking in a more modern and sophisticated direction, he closed Kasbah and opened Aziza in San Francisco's Richmond district. Within a year, the restaurant was awarded three stars by Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, and has since been included in the newspaper's annual Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list ever since.
In 2008, Mourad was named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs, and in 2009 the Chronicle raised Aziza's rating to three and a half stars. That same year, Zagat named Aziza one of the top 10 Bay Area restaurants of the decade, and Lahlou won Food Network's Iron Chef America by a record-breaking margin. And in 2010, Aziza became the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin Star.
Chef Lahlou's much-anticipated cookbook will be published by Artisan Books in fall, 2011.