Café Clock’s upcoming opening will feature a menu created by head chef Tariq Hadine. Tariq supported owner Mike Richardson in opening Café Clock in Fez six-and-a half years ago and is excited about the opportunity to go through the process again—this time in Marrakech. Between these two openings, this native Fassi has traveled to the United States, where he gained experience working for a high-volume restaurant, where over 1,000 people could be served at a single meal. He’s happy to be back in Morocco where he is closer to his friends and family. We sat down with him to learn the secrets of Café Clock’s kitchen.
Café Clock: What is your favorite Moroccan meal?
Tariq: I’ve got so many actually… If I have to chose… There’s prune and lamb tagine or couscous tfaya (sweet couscous with caramelized onions and raisins)
Café Clock: Do you prefer cooking or eating?
Tariq: Both. But, I would probably say cooking more than eating.
Café Clock: Are you a better cook than your mother?
Tariq: Oh never. No. I want to be like my mother, which is why I keep learning. She’s a great cook and so is my grandmother. They are my icons—they inspire me. You should see them when they are cooking for a party—it’s really amazing. Sometimes it’s more enjoyable to sit and watch them work than attend the party—because of the smells and the flavors… it’s so yummy.
Café Clock: What kinds of food to you specialize in?
Tariq: Moroccan cuisine is my passion. I thought before that it was easy when I sat with mom and grandmother. Now, that I work in the industry, I see how many other ways there are of doing things. I love Moroccan cuisine and also enjoy fusion. For example, there’s a famous Essaouira tagine-quiche. First you make a chicken tagine and then add olives and eggs and bake in oven… I like to add cheese and cream to make it more quiche-y. It’s actually similar to a South African dish called Boboti that’s a bit similar with different spices. It’s ground meat with eggs in it—quiche style. For that I use rasl-hanout (Moroccan spice blends) and cinnamon rather than curry.
Café Clock: What is your favorite kind of dish to prepare?
Tariq: I have so many favorites—it’s hard to pick just one. Harira (Moroccan soup) is special, of course. Working in different places made it interesting for me because I saw many ways to make it. I also read about it. I worked for a lady who worked for the king’s family… She really liked my harira because I used my mom’s recipe. She told me it was how it should be, which made me proud and it made me want to encourage others to make their harira this way.
Most people can make harira in 30 minutes, but it should be done in 1.5 to two hours (if a big batch). To have the best harira, you have to use fresh chick peas soaked in water (instead of canned). Boil tomatoes for 25 minutes before blending so that they lose acidity and to enhance the flavor. Finally, instead of just putting all of the ingredients together to cook; rather you should take steps: first cook chick peas with onions, herbs and tomato juice (after boiling and blending), then thicken soup, and finally, season and add coriander.
Café Clock: What makes Moroccan cooking special?
Tariq: It’s the multi-cultural influences of a lot of cultures: Arab, Berber, Jewish, Andalouz… I’m so glad to have the opportunity to learn this kind of cuisine. Moroccan Harira, for example, varies from city to city.
Café Clock: Which Moroccan city has the best cuisine?
Tariq: Fez of course. Fez is the best. If you ask this to anyone in Morocco they will definitely agree (even if they don’t like Fez. Fez is one of the oldest cities and was the capital and it was influenced by so many cultures.
Café Clock: You recently found a vendor for camel meat…
Tariq: I was getting a little worried because I had already visited five or six butchers who said that I wouldn’t find it inside Marrakech. But Khalid got a tip and we went to souk sebt (a market in Marrakech) and there’s a guy who provides fresh camel meat for families. They order and he delivers.
Café Clock: But it’s easier to find camel meat in Fez?
Tariq: There are about three butchers in Fez who sell camel meat, so it’s easier there. A lot of people believe that camel meat is healthy, which is probably why some families ask for it. In many Arab cultures, the camel is nearly sacred because our Prophet used to ride camels. That probably encourages people to think the camel is special, though many Moroccans probably haven’t tried it.
Café Clock: What do you think the new café will bring to Marrakech?
Tariq: In terms of food, Marrakshis will have their first camel burger! I’ll be trying to bring some Fassi flavors to Marrakech. And Café Clock will be the first really cross-cultural café in Marrakech—it’s different from every other café here. We really try to bring Moroccans and foreigners together with food and cultural activities.
Café Clock: What is it like to be a part of the Café Clock team?
Tariq: It’s a family more than a team and there’s a great energy. It’s beautiful… the ways that we work together to… you feel like you’re working for a family. You don’t just come for a salary. You want to make guests and your co-workers happy and share positive energy with everyone around you. I think Café Clock is different from other restaurants in the way that we all support each other.
Café Clock: What is it that makes this dynamic possible?
Tariq: Part of the answer is Mike [Tariq laughs]. He brought this kind of energy. He tells you what’s going on and you tell him what’s going on. This sharing helps everyone to make the best decisions about how the restaurant functions. Café Clock is more than people just working to get a salary and to go home. Mike brings people together. Because we\’re having a good time, love goes into the preparation and service at Café Clock.