Considered by many as the pioneer of modern Moroccan cuisine, Mourad Lahlou never envisioned becoming a world-famous chef. The Marrakesh native immigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old to pursue a master’s degree in economics, but fate had other plans for him. Missing his country’s cuisine, Lahlou taught himself how to recreate versions of his favorite Moroccan dishes with local ingredients using his own inventive techniques. Most of the lessons he learned about food came from his mother, who cooked traditional Moroccan recipes, and grandfather, who took him to the markets.
Lahlou opened his first restaurant, Kasbah, in 1996. Eventually becoming frustrated with the formulaic approach to Moroccan establishments in America, he resolved to close Kasbah in 2001 and open Aziza in San Francisco's Richmond district, with the goal of creating a more modern and sophisticated Moroccan-inspired dining experience. In 2010, Aziza became the first Moroccan restaurant in the United States to receive a Michelin Star. In January 2015, Lahlou unveiled Mourad, a restaurant that showcases a further evolution of his modern Californian (and Moroccan referencing) cuisine. The same year it opened, Lahlou received another Michelin star for his eponymous restaurant.
As the chef and founder of both Aziza and Mourad, Lahlou has been recognized as one of the most dynamic and creative chefs in the country. Shortly after winning the Food Network’s Iron Chef America in 2009, he released his debut cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan, which Bon Appétit deemed one of 2011’s best cookbooks.