Mourad Lahlou traveled to the US from Marrakesh, Morocco in 1985 to study macroeconomics at San Francisco State University. At that time, Lahlou was more into numbers than food; he only 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’s drive in the kitchen was getting serious and he wanted to try his hand at it. He opened Kasbah in San Rafael, California and in 1998 the San Francisco Chronicle named Lahlou a “Rising Star Chef.”
But Lahlou wanted to create a modern restaurant where he could revolutionize Moroccan cuisine. So he conducted an extensive search for a San Francisco location and closed Kasbah to open Aziza in November 2001. At Aziza, Lahlou strives to innovate his native cuisine; unravel the stereotypes surrounding it and share its fine dining potential. In 2007, he was named a StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef and, in 2009, Aziza was awarded a 3½-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle.
More recently, following Lahlou’s victory on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” Lahlou and Full Plate Media have partnered to produce a 13-part series for PBS exploring the food of Morocco, which will be shot in both Marrakesh and San Francisco. Lahlou will present Morocco’s culinary traditions alongside his contemporary interpretations.