Interview with Khalid Dahbi: a successful Moroccan gastronomy chef in London

Interview with Khalid Dahbi: a successful Moroccan gastronomy chef in London



British-Moroccan Chef Khalid Dahbi.
British-Moroccan Chef Khalid Dahbi.

London, United Kingdom (TMT)- Khalid Dahbi is the tirelessly innovative British-Moroccan chef who has been causing an exciting stir amongst the local and international food press as well as within the intercultural audience based in London.

His gastronomic BABOUCH Moroccan concept was successfully launched last month as a pop-up restaurant at the prestigious Quintessentially Group venue and it aims to culminate in the opening of a novel and distinct Moroccan food establishment in one of the world’s most highly discerning dining capitals.

In his efforts to bring out the best of what Morocco has to offer outside its geographic expanse, he is also preparing in partnership with two other British-Moroccan individuals a weekend festival solely dedicated to celebrating what their homeland has to present to the British cultural and commercial public.

The charismatic 37-year-old Rabati is on a clear mission to raise the positive profile of Morocco and to bring its many cultural facets and great riches, including its gastronomy, fashion and music with a view to help foster and harness both the artistic and commercial ties between the two kingdoms.

What inspired BABOUCH the restaurant?

Khalid Dahbi: BABOUCH is about reclaiming the Moroccan culinary narrative as each dish has a history and a story to tell. I was inspired by my recent trips to Marrakech as I explored the local food markets and realised that our unique customs have been sold short overseas. When I came back to the United Kingdom, I researched what is available in London and found that the majority of so-called Moroccan restaurants in fact mix and blend with other cuisines to lazily please customers.

The Morocco Days Festival team,
The Morocco Days Festival team,

Moroccan food doesn’t’ need to be mixed with Lebanese, Mediterranean or Turkish cuisine for variety and it also need not be limited to the tagine stews and the couscous that don’t relay the full riches of Morocco’s eating traditions. Our healthy salads, for example, change with the seasons and are local prides and our seafood recipes also have been ignored, when they are a big part of the local diet, due to the centuries of living near to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

What makes BABOUCH different to the competition?

Khalid Dahbi: My recipes utilise simple but quality seasonal ingredients sourced from within the UK and putting in just the right type and amount of our exotic spices and herbs. I also like to present the classic dishes in an attractive modern way to bring out the colours and the flavours to add to the guest’s experience.

BABOUCH will be strictly inspired by Moroccan food and I am determined not to fuse it with other countries’ culinary offerings. Rather, I will be exploring our classic dishes and experimenting with the regional subtleties. I will also offer healthy options with low-fat salads, lean meat and vegetarian specialties. The space at the BABOUCH restaurant will also have a contemporary feel and be accessible to the sophisticated diner who is ready to appreciate not just the food but also the history and the story behind it.

Where can people sample BABOUCH?

Khalid Dahbi: I began BABOUCH as an experiment last year when I hosted two dinners at the London-based Aveqia pop-up restaurant venue. I prepared a four-course meal to 40 guests on each night and the feedback was highly encouraging and the partnership successful. So I will be hosting another two BABOUCH events at Aveqia in July that will be open to the public. People can also sample my food at the Morocco Days Festival with a capacity for 100 guests at each sitting over two days.

Tell us more about the Morocco Days Festival?

Khalid Dahbi: My aim is to create a significant cultural and commercial event to be repeated annually for the next five years that will put together for the first time – and under one roof – elements of the best of Moroccan gastronomy, Moroccan kaftan fashion and history, music as well as the holding of a B2B platform for companies and business guests to network.

I am partnering with Jalila Elmastouki, who will be curating the fashion elements and Jamal Boujrad, who has over 30 years of experience in the Morocco-UK hospitality and tourism industry. Through this, we wish to reinforce the cultural and commercial ties between the UK and Morocco, promote Morocco tourism and showcase to our audience what the country has to offer.

We are expecting 600 guests on each day made up of the press, VIPs, celebrities, dignitaries, professionals and the general public. The festival will be held over a weekend at the iconic De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms venue in London and will include the B2B segment, a London Kaftan Fashion Show, a Kaftan Heritage Exhibition as well as the BABOUCH restaurant.

We sincerely hope that the Morocco Days Festival becomes a significant addition to the yearly London cultural, fashion, culinary and commercial calendars.