Self-taught Mourad Lahlou traveled to the United States from Marrakech in 1985 to study macroeconomics at San Francisco State University. There, Lahlou began cooking to ease the loneliness he felt while studying far away from home. Working from memories of watching his mother prepare traditional Moroccan dishes, Lahlou began to experiment for small groups of friends and professors. After receiving his master’s degree in economics, Lahlou had intended to continue his work towards a PhD but recognizing that his drive in the kitchen was getting serious, Lahlou postponed his academic career to supervise the kitchen as chef/owner of Kasbah which he opened in San Rafael, California in 1997.
Lahlou soon began to feel that consumer attachment to traditional Moroccan food and décor was beginning to inhibit his growth as a chef, and decided to create a modern establishment where he could reach his personal culinary goal of revolutionizing Moroccan cuisine. Lahlou conducted an extensive two-year search for a San Francisco location and closed Kasbah to open Aziza in November 2001.
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