Moroccan Cooking & Hospitality: The Lala Mesouda Experience

We were nearing the end of our 8th day in Morocco, and despite all the incredible experiences we’d been blessed with, there was one thing noticeably missing from our résumé: a Moroccan cooking class. It was 10pm, and we’d JUST arrived to Casa Perleta after making the 3.5-hour drive from Fes. Tomorrow was our last full day in Morocco, so time was running short!

Finding a Cooking Class…at 10pm

reflections from D: we were exhausted from another long day, and all I could do was crawl into bed that night. I was also starving! So, I tasked A with two simple requests: 1) figure out where we can take a cooking class tomorrow and 2) please find me some pasta to eat, ASAP. Seemed quite reasonable! About 45 minutes later, he walked through the door with dinner AND a (verbal) cooking class confirmation. Not to mention, quite the entertaining story of how that all went down… Well done honey!

reflections from A: my marching orders were clear. I went downstairs and asked the very nice girl at the front desk three simple questions: 1) I’ve got a very hangry young lady upstairs: where can I find some pasta at this time of night? 2) where can we take a cooking class tomorrow and 3) do you like gummy worms? She answered question #3 first, and I gave her the few remaining gummy worms I had in my pocket. I really think these gummy worms were the key in getting questions #1 and #2 taken care of. But I don’t think I need to reveal the source of my magic to D…

First Impressions & Incredible Ambience

As luck would have it, Lala Mesouda was right down the street from where we were staying, only a two-minute walk away. We also later found out that Lala Mesouda is the newly-opened sister restaurant of another top-rated restaurant in Chefchaouen: Beldi Bab Ssour. We didn’t know it at the time, but this wasn’t going to be your standard cooking class. We were about to take part in a full-day cooking EXPERIENCE with one of the best and most highly-respected chefs and restaurant owners in The Blue Pearl of Morocco.

The owner of the restaurant – Bob Delaan – had simply told us to show up sometime between 10:00–10:30am. We entered the restaurant and took a minute just to look around and soak in the incredible décor.

reflections from DnA: Lala Mesouda has an incredibly familial feel to it. Every table is deliberately positioned in its own sort of “nook” area. No two chairs are alike. The floors are covered with beautiful carpets and the walls are adorned with paintings, statues and other trinketry. You don’t feel like you’re in a restaurant; you feel like you’ve just walked into the home of a family member or close friend.

Inside Lala Mesouda – one of many seating areas.

Next, Bob emerged from the kitchen and introduced us to Moneime, a staff member & new friend of ours. Bob then handed us chef coats, asked us to put them on, and announced, “OK, let’s go!”

First order of business: dress the part. D is excited; A is taking an early nap.

Shopping at the Local Farmer’s Market

Bob explained that local farmers & artisans (some close, and some many hours away) come to Chefchaouen twice a week (Tuesdays & Fridays) to sell their crops and wares at a farmer’s market in the middle of the medina. We did our best to keep pace with Bob and Moneime as they navigated the narrow & busy streets of the medina.

Moroccan Cooking Class
Second order of business: acquire fresh produce from the farmer’s market (held twice a week in the Medina).
Seeking the perfect spinach.
Mulberries used to create an antioxidant juice!

The Kitchen as a Classroom

After a whirlwind 30 minutes, we returned to the restaurant and brought the fresh groceries into the kitchen. Bob introduced us to his head chef and the rest of the kitchen staff. Then, we were put to work: peeling; chopping; dicing; measuring; stirring; mixing… we quickly realized that this was going to be a “LEARN BY DOING” type of experience, and we could not have been more excited!

First dish of the day: sautéed mushrooms. Not a menu item, just a personal experiment that we got to partake in!

The people behind the magic of Lala Mesouda’s delicious cuisine!

Let’s Eat!

We didn’t realize how much time had passed, but it was now 1:30pm, and we were starving! Bob must have read our minds, because he entered the kitchen and said to us: “You must be hungry; why don’t we have some lunch.”

YES PLEASE!

Just a few of the delicious dishes we cooked and enjoyed.

As we sat and enjoyed the fruits of our labor with Bob, he continued to educate us & explain his approach to cooking:

“To be successful in this kitchen the chef must have a very long eye. I look at this (tomato or something) and I can see something I’m going to create out of it.”

He also explained his approach to hospitality & restaurant management:

“It’s pretty simple; always cook like you’re cooking for your own family. And treat everyone like your own family. They will come back, and they will tell their friends.”

Even while we sat with him, eating and learning, he got up from the table two or three times to greet people who walked through the door, and to sit down with others who were already seated and chat with them for a minute. It appeared that he knew everyone, and not only locals: a group of British tourists came in and announced, “WE’RE BACK!” They had eaten lunch here yesterday, and returned for another meal. It was impressive to observe.

Around 3:00pm, we realized that we were running out of daylight and still needed to explore the city. We didn’t want to leave, and as we began to say our goodbyes, it was as if Bob read our minds again: “So, we’ll see you for dinner tonight?”

YES, OF COURSE YOU WILL!

We then ventured back into the streets, to burn off some calories with a nice afternoon hike to the Spanish Mosque. Bob actually walked the first 10 minutes with us, to make sure we followed the right path through the medina.

Round 2: Dinner with Friends

Fast forward to 8:30pm, and it was back to Lala Mesouda for dinner. The moment we walked in the door, we were treated like royalty – or better yet: like family.

To say that the meal was phenomenal, would be an understatement. We wanted to try everything on the menu that we didn’t have at lunch, so we simply told them to “start bringing us things!” As was the case with lunch, Bob bounced back and forth from the kitchen to various tables around the restaurant. He joined us three or four times, and even brought us a VERY special delicacy, not even being served at the restaurant.

Japanese seaweed soup; a gift that a chef friend of his had just brought from Japan; and a gift that was quickly payed forward to us. INCREDIBLE!

Almost 3 hours later, we again found ourselves completely stuffed, and the restaurant was getting ready to close. We exchanged information with our new friends and said some heartfelt goodbyes.

Finding each others Facebook profiles…

We will absolutely be back to Chefchaouen one day, and we look forward to many delicious meals with our new friends at Lala Mesouda.

Cheers!

-DnA

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