Host of Morocco’s version of Masterchef and owner of several restaurants across Marrakech, Madrid and Paris, Chef Moha Fedal is known among some circles as the Prince of Moroccan Gastronomy, but he didn’t achieve this status by being a traditionalist. He did so by always bringing something new to Moroccan classics.
Sporting his iconic hat and big smile, on our last trip to Marrakech, Chef Moha even walked us through the alleys of his favorite market in Mellah, and showed us around his kitchen at Dar Moha. So without further ado, join us in a tête-à-tête with the man credited with reinventing Moroccan cuisine.
Meet Chef Moha
GLH: Hello Chef. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. For people who might not know you, could you quickly introduce yourself?
Chef Moha: My name is Moha Fedal. I was born and raised in Marrakech but, after high school, I left the city to attend an “école hôtelière”. I am the owner and Head Chef of a restaurant in Marrakech called Dar Moha, and a few other establishments abroad.
GLH: And what would say are the things that contributed to making you who you are today?
Chef Moha: Along the way, I met many people, some I always listened to; others not so much. And Marrakech has also always been a tourist city, where one can come across a lot of people: the rich, the poor, the French, the American…it’s a multicultural city, and that helped me broaden my perspectives. Before I wanted to be a chef, I wanted to be a hotelier. My dream, after completing high school, was to discover the outside world and not stay in Morocco. And the best way to do that was to study abroad, and I wanted to work in the hotel industry.
Why that, specifically? You see, when I was little, I would walk by La Mamounia and the guards, who were at the gate would ask us to cross the road. This always intrigued me. I wanted to see the luxury, the beauty of the place and I was like “I want to be here!” This is where I belong.
But when I went to Geneva for école hôtelière, I discovered that I had a penchant for cooking. We worked in the restaurant of the school and I was gifted, and the chef would often say to me “I’m happy because when I give you a job, you do it well”. It did take me long to join the kitchen brigade permanently.
GLH: How did you decide to come back to Marrakech?
Chef Moha: I was born here and my family lives here. I left the city when I was young and when I bought the Riad where Dar Moha is now, I gave myself 2 years to rediscover my country and to get the restaurant going. I hit pause on my life in Switzerland, and came back to start this new adventure.
At first, I imagined the Riad like a Guest House where I’d be cooking in the kitchen as well. I noticed that the customers often came back but especially for the food; the cooking took precedence over the hospitality, and when I finally got the license, I went 100% for the restaurant. At the beginning, I only knew how to cook international cuisine. I was much less familiar with Moroccan cuisine, I knew less about it, except for my mother’s dishes, of course. And I said to myself “After all, this Riad is Moroccan, so why not try Moroccan cuisine but make it fresh and modern?”
GLH: You’re considered the pioneer of modern Moroccan cuisine. What does that mean? How did you combine tradition and modernity in your kitchen?
Chef Moha: Moroccan cuisine is very complex, and so I invited many locals to come and share their secrets with me. I was the first to bring changes to the traditional cuisine, like cooking in smaller portions so guests could taste several dishes, or think of dishes that combine Moroccan products with flavours that are both local and international, like our famous couscous au foie gras. Moroccan cuisine gets richer and more layered as you add ingredients and flavours from other places, and I believe it should not be restricted.
GLH: And which one would you say is your “favourite” dish?
Chef Moha: I don’t have a favourite dish; Every new dish is exciting and full of possibilities. However, there are a few that come to mind like the couscous au foie gras, sweet eggplant with almond paste, pastilla with duck breast…
I also have a soft spot for my dishes that won awards. I won the first prize for my Tangia in 2018. In 2020, the Trid dish won me an award. Trid is a special dish prepared when a woman gives birth.
GLH: For a while now, you’ve been committed to promote Moroccan cuisine on the world stage. Why did you choose this crusade?
Chef Moha: Indeed, I am fighting so that Morocco is represented on the international front, and to preserve the gastronomic heritage and the identity of the country. I was chosen to try and have our couscous and cuisine be recognised by UNESCO.
Recently I made a commitment to have Tangia be part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Today, the Tangia is made in a pressure cooker whereas traditionally it was prepared and cooked in a clay jar … and we no longer make the jar. This practice is disappearing.
If we fight to have this dish and practice recognised then maybe this ancient tradition doesn’t have to die. This will also help to save jobs, such as the craftsmen who prepare the Tangia or the potters who make the clay jars. If these artisanal professions are recognised by UNESCO, they will continue to exist.
GLH: You have also been a member of the jury of MasterChef Morocco since 2014. What do you hope to pass on to the future generations through this?
Chef Moha: Well, MasterChef is successful because it’s a competition that is watched by youngsters and older people alike. I thought it would be a nice way to get children to fall in love with cooking. Men are starting to love cooking as well, even if in Morocco, cooking is often considered to be a woman’s area of expertise. Before, cooking was an option for the failures, those without a formal education or a degree. MasterChef Morocco is helping to change this perception. It takes away the shame that was once associated with men who cook; Today it’s trendy!
GLH: You were born and bred in Marrakech. Are there secret places that the locals like to keep to themselves?
Chef Moha: I will say the place where I was born and where I spent my childhood: Agdal Gardens. My father was a city landscaper and that was the magical place where I grew up. It is truly a countryside-like place but in the medina; 500 hectares of garden space that are part of the Royal Palace.
GLH: Your restaurant is set up in the former Riad of Pierre Balmain, why did you choose this specific location?
Chef Moha: To be honest, the Riad chose me; It was fate. I entered the Riad and it was love at first sight. I worked to have it, and you’ll see, all the furniture has been kept intact. It is truly an 18th century palace.
GLH: If you had to choose your favorite place in Marrakech today, what would it be?
Chef Moha: I would say the Musée des Confluences, in the Dar El Bacha Palace. The building is magnificent and is right in front of the restaurant.
I also love Le Bled, where my farm is. I love taking care of my vegetable garden and walk around in peace and tranquillity.
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