Morocco has long been a place of mystery and enchantment. The country's landscape acts as a perfect setting for an adventurous tale of thieves and kings and conjures thoughts of romance and wonder. Walking the streets of morocco is like a banquet for the senses. Palm trees kiss the sky, they sway in the breeze as if they are waving to travelers below. At their base is a frenzy of busy people in the souks and bazaars.
Upon taking a closer look, one will find legendary hospitality, gorgeous handmade pottery, ornate mosaics, colorful textiles and shoes, all while the aromas of spices dance around one's nose. Coriander, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric are piled artistically like small mountains.
Traveling through Morocco, it becomes clear why this country is a gem of North Africa. Rich in a history that has been meticulously preserved for hundreds of years, the country itself whisks you away on a journey through time. City streets are filled with chiming cell phones and high end fashion while the desert, hot and dry, is the home to nomads caravanning throughout the Sahara. Morocco and its people are the source of alluring art and architecture, a captivating culture and a colorfully appetizing cuisine.
In my family, meals are a centerpiece for togetherness and joy. Everyone gathers around and discusses their day, tells jokes and laughs all over a communal dish of freshly cooked cous cous with steaming vegetables. I have long been intrigued by what goes on in the kitchen, as I come from generations of butchers and bread makers, like my father.
When I was a little boy I would venture into the cuzina (kitchen) to help my mom. She enjoyed the help (and having an audience). I soaked up the lessons I was learning as I handed her spices and watched her add them without measurement, yet so exact. She was a creative cook, but learned in a traditional way from my grandmother. I fondly remember her moving gracefully from the hot stove to the refrigerator and back. My creativity and love for cooking is deeply rooted in memories that were cooked up in a modest kitchen in Morocco.
I moved to the Bay Area in California looking for my "American Dream". needless to say, I experienced culture shock and became very homesick. I missed the food I grew up with. So I started cooking, which eased my homesickness but fueled my desire to be a chef for a bigger audience. I was a sous chef in two restaurants, worked odd jobs and one day opened my own restaurant. I still remember the lines of people around the building, everyone waiting to indulge in my creations.
Every Lateeva creation is based on my philosophy that dining means more than just eating. Lateeva is my way of inviting everyone to dinner.