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CHEF CHOUMICHA CHAFAY

CHEF CHOUMICHA CHAFAY

//Words: José Berrocoso//

“When someone visits Bab Al Mansour, they will truly feel at home as if in Morocco”

With a motto that speaks volumes of the authenticity of its cuisine, Bab Al Mansour is the epitome of a true fine-dining restaurant. Bab Al Mansour Restaurant’s heritage and magnificence are created in reflection of its namesake, it’s one of the most famous and historical landmarks built in the city of Meknes by order of Sultan Moulay Ismail in 1973 as an elaborate homage to himself.

Located at prime location of Downtown Dubai, the restaurant is beautifully set to instill a feeling of real Moroccan vibe. Evoking the beauty of the Arabic arts in both design and decoration, its large doors and decor are crafted by specifically by Moroccan artists.

A promise of a scrumptious meal, hearty, welcoming and warm, made by artisans and food curators with a modern twist yet, the restaurant prides itself by serving authentic Moroccan styled dished using traditional recipes and over 70 organically sourced Moroccan ingredients and spices.

Since his opening in November 2018, foodies are immediately reminiscent of the mosaic-clad courtyards with marble fountains tinkling gently. To add to the experience, food at Bab Al Mansour is presented by the celebrity chef Choumicha, author of over 30 cookbooks in various language and a TV presenter on many international television shows.

This month CityPages Magazine dives into the delicious Moroccan food with Chef Choumicha Chafay!

City Pages Magazine: Moroccan Culture is stunning, truly fascinating walking the rich streets in Morocco. Can you share with us some of your favourite things about Morocco?
Choumicha Chafay: I love the Morocan culture. It’s my identity, part of who I am as a person. I am mesmerized by our rich history, the brotherhood in the people of my country. Anything related to Morocco is dear to me, because we are such a vibrant country.
Throughout my career and at the start, I have been lucky to participate in programs where the focus was on the Moroccan elements and influence: It could be cuisine, clothing, and architecture. For someone like me, who’s got a lot to thank my country for, I can’t really say there is one thing that pleases me more than the next one. I guess, Morocco is love and everything about this gem of a country brings a smile to my face.

CPM: How has the Moroccan influence shaped you as a chef?
CC: There is famous proverb that says ‘A man is the result of his environment.’ All what I’m today and that I have achieved is the result of my entire Moroccan heritage.
The Moroccan cultural is a part of me and I was lucky to grow up in an environment where the culture was very present. Moroccan culture is one that is very rich but also very open, it is detailed but has place to accommodate diversity.

CPM: What are some of your favourite Moroccan dishes/spices?
CC: At Bab Al Mansour, we use the best organic spices in the world but zafran or (saffron) is purely Moroccan. There are many more spices and a rich mix, but at Bab Al Mansour our food is mainly influenced by zafran.
My favorite dish has to be the simplistic but very flavorful couscous. I think everyone who knows of Moroccan cuisine will have tasted this dish. It has a wonderful flavor of all types of vegetables used in the dish.

CPM: Bab Al Mansour is a fine-dining Moroccan brand. What was your main focus for the menu?
CC: I focus on every minute detail – right from appetizers platters like olives till the end of the meal where we offer freshly made bread with Moroccan tea, main course, salads and how we incorporate organic ingredients to prepare and season our salads. Everyone that walks into Bab Al Mansour feels the luxury vibe, they understand that it is a fine-dining restaurant. We must ensure we establish the specialty throughout the whole food experience. This includes the plates, the style, the setup, obviously the food and how we serve it.

CPM: The interiors of Bab Al Mansour evoke a feeling of being in Morocco, while maintaining the luxe element. Did you have a vision in mind for this?
CC: Bab Al Mansour is an integrated Moroccan experience, which means when someone visits Bab Al Mansour, they will truly feel at home as if in Morocco. You will feel like you’ve travelled to Morocco. Everything speaks Morocco – starting from our decoration to the marbles used, the style of the curtains, the music and our lovely staff – everything is authentically Moroccan. High-end sophisticated vibes inspires us and this reflects in our furniture and our set up; I’d say mainly inspired by the city of Fes (or Fez) in Morocco. The city is characterized by its palaces, palatial houses and the regal vibe. We wanted to depict the same luxury in Bab Al Mansour. This is why I say when someone visits Bab Al Mansour; they’ll feel like a stroll down this magnificent city of Morocco.

CPM: What is your mission with your cooking? How do you want people to translate Bab Al Mansour’s cuisine?
CC: My mission is to keep practicing, maintain and respect the quality of the Moroccan taste. I always work with the idea to reflect the authentic Moroccan taste in my cuisine, every dish that we serve at Bab Al Mansour. I want people to visit Bab Al Mansour and feel like they are eating in Morocco. I believe some chefs like to add a new twist to the dish like new herbs, spices just to bring some innovation and new layer to the taste but I prefer to stick to my authenticity and to keep the original taste. Saying so, I am eager to explore and combine and create fusions of flavor, but for the most Moroccan cuisine is so varied and rich that in it provides a plethora of flavor for the food enthusiast.
For sure, we are presenting our culture and our Moroccan luxury dishes at Bab Al Mansour, all I want them to know is that they are visiting a place, which keeps in mind the originality, and history of ancient Moroccan cuisine.

CPM: What plans do you have for Bab Al Mansour? Do you curate recipes regularly and is there more on the charts?
CC: We would love to have another branch of Bab Al Mansour, in Dubai or in United Arab Emirates. For the recipes, we will keep our original menu with all Moroccan dishes. But we will be going diverse and adding dishes according to occasions like Eid, New Year and special seasons, all while keeping the simplistic authentic Moroccan taste in all dishes.

CPM: What’s one tip you’d give to someone travelling to Morocco on a cuisine experience?
CC: Someone travelling to Morocco for a true Moroccan experience has to definitely visit many places to encompass the true diverse nature of the culture, especially food culture. There are many places like Tangier, Fez, Rabat and more and every place in Morocco has their own specialty, their own dishes, their culture and this is shown in the food and way of presenting food. I definitely suggest having someone around who knows the place and can take around for a truly iconic food journey, one that you will never forget.

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