Moroccan Cooking & Hospitality: The Lala Mesouda Experience


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine

It’s just after 10pm. We’ve just arrived in Chefchaouen after making the 3.5-hour drive from Fes.

Over the course of the last 8 days in Morocco, we had been blessed with many incredible experiences. But there was one thing noticeably missing from our résumé: a Moroccan cooking class.

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Finding a Moroccan cooking class…at 10pm

Tomorrow would be our last full day in Morocco, so time is running short.

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 remaining gummy worms in my pocket. I truly believe these gummy worms were the key in getting questions #1 and #2 taken care of.

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Location confirmed: Lala Mesouda

As luck would have it, Lala Mesouda is a 2-minute walk from where we’re staying. We 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 a standard cooking class; it was going to be a full-day cooking EXPERIENCE with one of the most highly-respected chefs and restaurant owners in the Blue Pearl of Morocco.

First impression: incredible ambience

Bob Delaan–Lala Mesouda’s owner–had simply told us to show up sometime between 10:00–10:30am. We enter the restaurant and take a minute just to look around and soak in the incredible décor.

Lala Mesouda has an incredibly familial feel to it. Every table is deliberately positioned in its own “nook.” No 2 chairs are alike. The floors are covered with beautiful carpets and the walls are adorned with paintings, statues and other trinketry.

Lala Mesouda doesn’t feel like a restaurant; it feels like the home of a family member or close friend.


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
Inside Lala Mesouda – one of many seating areas.

Next, Bob emerges from the kitchen and introduces us to Moneime, a staff member & new friend of ours. Bob hands us chef coats, asks us to put them on, and gives the next command:

“OK, let’s go!”


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
First order of business: dress the part. D is excited; A is taking an early nap.

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Shopping at the local farmer’s market of Chefchaouen

Local farmers & artisans come to Chefchaouen twice a week (on Tuesdays & Fridays) to sell their crops and wares at a farmer’s market. We do our best to keep pace with Bob and Moneime as they navigate the narrow, busy streets of Chefchaouen’s medina.


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
Second order of business: acquire fresh produce from the farmer’s market, held twice a week in Chefchaouen’s medina.

 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
Seeking the perfect spinach.

 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
Local mulberries used to create an antioxidant juice.

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The kitchen as a classroom

After a whirlwind 30 minutes, we return to the restaurant and bring the fresh groceries into the kitchen. Bob introduces us to his head chef and the rest of the kitchen staff.

Then, we’re put to work: peeling; chopping; dicing; measuring; stirring; mixing…we quickly realize that this is going to be a “learn by doing” type of experience, and we could not have been more excited!


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
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!

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Let’s eat!

We didn’t realize how much time had passed, but it’s now 1:30pm, and we’re ready to eat. Bob must have been reading our minds as he entered the kitchen and announced:

“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 sit and enjoy the fruits of our labor with Bob, he continues 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 explains 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 as we sit with him, eating and learning, he gets up from the table 2 or 3 times to greet people who walk through the door, or to sit down with others who are already seated. He seems to know everyone, and not only locals: a group of British tourists come in and announce, “WE’RE BACK!” They had eaten lunch here yesterday, and returned for another meal. It’s impressive to observe.

Around 3:00pm, we realize that we’re running out of daylight and still need to explore the city. We don’t want to leave, and as we begin to say our goodbyes, it’s as if Bob reads our minds again:

“So, we’ll see you for dinner tonight?”

YES, OF COURSE YOU WILL!

We venture back into the streets, to burn off some calories with an afternoon hike to the Spanish Mosque. Bob walks the first 10 minutes with us, to make sure we follow the right path through the medina.

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Round 2: dinner with friends

Fast forward to 8:30pm, and it’s back to Lala Mesouda for dinner. The moment we walk in the door, we’re 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 asked them to “start bringing us things!”

As was the case with lunch, Bob bounces back and forth from the kitchen to different tables around the restaurant. He joins us 3 or 4 times, and even brings us a VERY special delicacy. One that’s not on the menu. One that’s never been on the menu, in fact.


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
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 find ourselves completely stuffed as the restaurant is getting ready to close. We exchange information with our new friends and say some heartfelt goodbyes.


 Moroccan cooking, Chefchaouen, Lala Mesouda, Beldi Bab Ssour, cooking class, Morocco, tagine
Finding each others’ Facebook profiles…

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

When you find yourself in The Blue Pearl of Morocco, stop in for a meal. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!

-DnA

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