Presently the sous chef at Grand Hyatt Doha, Chef Kenza Fatahir always aspired to become a journalist. But a push from her father and the ‘Hyatt’ learning platform, led her to embrace this profession, travel beyond Doha and showcase authentic Moroccan cuisine in India By Rituparna Chatterjee
Calling herself ‘Hyatt’s daughter’, Chef Kenza Fatahir’s culinary career has been constantly revolving around this international hotel brand and will continue to do so. Presently, the sous chef at Grand Hyatt Doha, Chef Fatahir’s culinary journey began when she was coaxed into becoming a chef by her father. Interestingly, she never wanted to pursue a culinary career but aspired to become a journalist. “I never wanted to become a chef. But since my brothers were already in this profession, my father decided to choose the same career path for me,” reminisces Chef Fatahir. From there onwards there was no looking back. She went onto receive her training at Hyatt Regency Casablanca from 2006-2009 as demi chef de partie where she learnt and experimented with different cuisines including Moroccan, French and international. “After three years I got my diploma from Hyatt Regency Casablanca,” she adds. Slowly and steadily she climbed up the kitchen ladder to become the sous chef of Grand Hyatt Doha.
From managing fine dining restaurants to the events kitchen, her experience in the culinary field has been diverse. However, when you ask her about the most challenging time in the kitchen, she quips and says, “It was a new experience for me to work in the events kitchen. There is a huge difference between working on an a la carte menu and for events. The revenue generated from events is maximum, and you are dealing with huge quantities of food like for 400 pax which is unlike in an a la carte meal for 50-100 covers.” Apart from preparing delectable dishes in the kitchen, Chef Fatahir loves interacting with her guests while working, seeking their feedback whenever possible. Her proudest moment was when she won the first prize at a culinary competition in Casablanca in March 2010, where she was the only female participant.
Fifty Five East, the casual dining restaurant at Grand Hyatt Mumbai, recently organised an authentic Moroccan Food Festival from September 12-23, 2015 where Chef Fatahir was the visiting chef. Her association with this festival is quite an intriguing story, she mentions. “I was in Kathmandu, Nepal cooking for a major Indian wedding. Moroccan cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian but the challenge was to create a vegetarian fare at the wedding, which I did by substituting meat with vegetables. For instance, making shallot tagine instead of lamb/ chicken tagine.” Her efforts during the wedding were noticed by the staff at Grand Hyatt Mumbai and soon she was invited to curate the menu for the Moroccan Food Festival. “Grand Hyatt Mumbai wanted to offer something different to its in-house guests so I was brought in to create awareness about Moroccan cuisine,” she explains.
There are several similarities between Indian and Moroccan cuisine. “For instance, both use similar spices. Hence, Moroccan cuisine isn’t really unknown to the Indian palate. Though Indians use a lot of chillies, which we don’t, but we do use a lot of other spices like paprika, turmeric, etc,” adds the chef. With growing awareness of this international cuisine in the India market, the chef hopes that Moroccan cuisine will soon become a usual fare at big events, weddings and other occasions.
Learning is a continuous process, advocates Chef Fatahir. “I want to work in Canada and France and learn the artistic presentation of food there. It is necessary to constantly learn new dishes, presentations and evolve with time,” preaches the chef.
- Favourite cuisine – Thai
- Favourite destination – Casablanca, Morocco
- Favourite book – Cookbooks authored by Chef Choumicha Chafay
- Favourite restaurant – Cafe M, Hyatt Regency Casablanca