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My grandfather came to Morocco in 1909. He was from a poor family in Burgundy and he wanted to go to America. But when he got to Marseilles he was robbed and he couldn’t go on the ship. He found a place on another boat going to Algiers and paid his fare by working on board. Eventually he ended up in Morocco as a property developer. He created the mountain resort of Ifrane from scratch. The company he built, and which I now run, owns a large chunk of the avenue we are on.
My grandfather had two daughters and they had three children each. We all grew up in Morocco, but we studied abroad and then came back. I resisted returning until I was 40, but then I came back three years ago to open this restaurant with my brother, Yann.
Will I be here in the future? I seem to work in seven-year cycles: I did seven years in the futures market in Paris, then seven years heading my own company renting out film equipment. I sold that to come back to Morocco.
There used to be another brasserie here. It opened in the 1930s and was called Cafe des Ambassadeurs. But over time it became a cheap cafe. It is a pity we were not able to keep the name because it was hugely famous in Morocco, but it meant taking over the debts of the previous owners.
When we got the lease we had to rip off everything, strip it all back to the bones. The idea was to open a Parisian brasserie aimed at high-end customers. Some of the ingredients are hard to find here such as truffles or Parmesan cheese so we import them, but we get very good fresh fish and meat locally. Our chef is French, but the rest of the staff is Moroccan.
Rabat is a small town. It is very pleasant and comfortable. It is rather like Bordeaux with nice architecture and great access to nature. The sea and the mountains are not far and I surf, cycle and sail here. You can also golf or ride horses.
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