Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Najat Kaanache

Born to Moroccan parents in a small town near San Sebastian in Spain, Najat Kaanache has been cooking at home since childhood and pursued a career in gastronomy simply because it makes her super happy.

“I love to see people enjoying food, and to bring them together regardless of their religion or their financial situation,” Najat says. “The most important thing to me is that there are many hands on a table, around a plate with lots of colours and aromas that represent a culture.”

Najat found peace and relaxation while working with food. This, and the fact that she is able to give a part of her soul through food, inspired her to continue her journey as a chef.

“I love uniting human beings through food,” she says.

Her love and passion for Moroccan cuisine runs deep.

“Moroccan and North African cuisine is very magical, complicated, simple and very thoughtful – all at the same time. It’s genious!” she says. “We can fulfil and satisfy our brain with spices and herbs by creating different emotions and sensations. Moroccan cuisine is in my blood.”

Najat’s earliest memories of Moroccan food, date back to her childhood at her grandmother’s home in Taza, Northern Morocco. She remembers pure olive oil pressed on stones, drying paprika, toasting cumin, picking fresh pomegranates and grapes. Some of her favourite Moroccan dishes include Zaalouk (1), Tfaya (2) on a beautiful couscous and Makouda (delicious Moroccan potato cakes).

(1) A delicious Moroccan salad of grilled aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices.
(2) Moroccan garnish of caramelized onions and raisins

Najat is now based between the US, Mexico and Morocco. Her journey and passion for food inspired her to bring her vision to life. Together with her team, she now creates magic in the kitchen as the owner and chef of the beautiful restaurant Nur in the ancient medina of Fez, named World’s Best Moroccan Restaurant in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She also opened CÚS (a Moroccan bistro in the heart of Mexico City) and Nacho Mama (a funky Mexican cantina in
the medina of Fez).

“I’m happiest in the kitchen when a guest comes to see me after a meal or a service and their happiness transmits to my soul, my team’s soul and all the spirits around us,” she says.

She loves serving local ingredients with a personal touch and sources her produce through local producers and farmers. She has a great passion for local Moroccan produce, especially local mushrooms, which she believes are not valued enough. According to Najat, sustainable cooking has everything to do with the work of local farmers, fishermen and producers.

“Our farmers, our fishermen and our livestock breeders are people who grow and take care of their produce and animals with attention, love, water and food,” she says.

“We easily forget the farmers, fishermen, and producer,” she adds. “By the time a piece of fish, or meat or simply a carrot arrives at our table, we don’t stop and think that someone has been taking care of this product and putting their energy in it.”

Najat believes in the importance of recognizing the people in the field.

“The farmers and anyone else who takes cares of products and produces food for restaurants and for people to eat, are the heroes I believe. They are the people who are feeding us and we don’t have prizes for them,” she says. “We don’t give a prize for the best farmer or the best fisherman.”

Najat also believe that everyone should study were our food is coming from, and that by inspiring people to reflect about the way we produce food, we can positively change our food system.

“We need the planet, nature and food to survive and we need to start asking ourselves questions about where our food is coming from.”

In her cooking, Najat is inspired the most by all the women who practice and understand the traditional Moroccan cuisine, who worked in kitchens and palaces in the past and who represent Morocco’s culinary heritage. “I’m inspired by all the women who truly know Moroccan traditional food and who are responsible for teaching young women and men to cook traditional Moroccan food such as Tfaya, couscous, Mlaoui (3) and bread,” Najat says. “Whenever I meet one of those women, I get inspired by their stories. We now need to build our own stories but respecting the past and the present while dreaming of the future.” (3) A type of traditional Moroccan round pancake.

Full of positive energy, love and passion, Najat is a true inspiration who celebrates Moroccan cuisine and flavours every day.

She published her own cookbook ‘Najat’ featuring 80 colourful recipes of Morocco with her own magical touch and the beautiful stories behind the dishes and products. Her book has been published in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and will soon be released in English. Learn more about Najat, her journey and her
latest cook book here.

Photo credits for all: © Najat Kaanache

What Are You Cooking?

When you make a dish using sustainable Mediterranean ingredients share the love with a photo of your culinary creation @RootedEveryday #MedFoodHeroes

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes