How I See San Francisco: Chef Mourad Lahlou
One of San Francisco’s most dynamic and inventive chefs, Mourad Lahlou has pioneered Moroccan-American cuisine. His Michelin-starred restaurants — the classic Aziza in the Outer Richmond and the elegant Mourad in SoMa — feature modern reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes, harmonized with the fresh, local and artisanal ingredients of the Bay Area. Here he shares his culinary inspiration and favorite spots in the city.
What was your inspiration behind the cuisine at Aziza and Mourad?
Aziza was an outlet for me to share my Moroccan roots and make food similar to what I grew up eating as a boy in the middle of an ancient city, Marrakech. My goal was to recreate dishes that honored and preserved tradition. At Mourad, after living in the United States most of my adult life, I cook in a way that reflects that I’ve been part of the Bay Area for a long time. The dishes still have roots in Moroccan cuisine but branch out and expand in a larger way.
What's your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco?
It's really a toss-up between the Mission, the Embarcadero, Dogpatch--every neighborhood has something to offer. That’s what makes San Francisco such a unique place to live and an inimitable city. It's limited in size and can’t just grow. It has to reinvent itself to adapt to the people living in it. But if I had to choose just one, I would say the Sunset District. It represents old San Francisco to me. But I love every corner of this city and appreciate how quirky and distinguished every street, alley and block is!
When you have out-of-town guests, where do you take them?
I try to take visitors to almost every part of San Francisco. Because of its size, one should explore every bit of it. Whether it's a hike through Lands End, an afternoon basking in the sun at Dolores Park, a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, watching the city blanketed in thick fog from the Marin Headlands, spending a Saturday morning walking through the stalls of the glorious produce and artisanal products at the Ferry Building, a drive through the Mission feasting on tacos, eating ice cream from Bi-Rte Creamery or biting into an éclair while waiting to snag a loaf of crusty country bread fresh out of the oven at Tartine Bakery--these are only a few magical things the city has to offer.
You recently went to Capitol Hill to help fight food waste. What are some sustainability practices used at Aziza and Mourad?
It's an ongoing journey and we try to always find ways to better do our part. Staying on top of ordering to make sure we get what we need and nothing more. Donating as much food as possible before it expires so it doesn’t end up down our drains. Managing our waste through composting, recycling and keeping records of where the waste comes from so we can address it. We also offer our guests seconds if they feel they need more as opposed to making every plate we send out huge, especially with our side dishes.