Hungry for More
Updated: Jan 4
An Interview with Moroccan star-chef and artist Driss Mellal
While writing this article, I gained two pounds. As I was going through the photographs Driss Mellal sent me of his culinary masterpieces, I felt a constant urge to open the refrigerator door. Time and again, I found myself standing and staring in to the cold, in the hopes of finding something to satisfy my craving. I pitifully nibbled my way through this article, hence the two extra pounds, and day-dreamed of joining one of Driss’ exuberant 6-day culinary retreats in Morocco.
Driss (36) grew up in the Dades Valley in the south of Morocco, known for its spectacular red-colored canyons, magnificent oases and mudbrick palaces. The region, nicknamed the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, is the perfect inspirational backdrop for artistic souls, such as Driss’s.
“I grew up in a family of creatives. My mother was an exceptional carpet weaver and my siblings painted, so I, too, naturally pursued my own artistic path and studied art for seven years.” To support himself during art school, Driss worked at local Moroccan restaurant kitchens, gradually refining his culinary skills and developing a deep passion for the culinary world. “It was in these kitchens that I realized that preparing food wasn’t just a side job, it was what I wanted to do with my life”.
Realizing that this was his calling, Driss decided to move to the world’s culinary Mecca, Paris, and professionally train as a Chef. He spent nine years in France, learning, researching and experimenting with flavors, textures and techniques from around the world, substituting his palette of colors with a palette of spices and ingredients. Driss intelligently and creatively incorporates visual art in his kitchen, and the result is breathtaking.
In 2018 Driss returned to his beloved Morocco and settled in the enchanting city of Marrakech, where he embarked on his own culinary venture. Today he owns a successful catering company that offers a fusion of modern Moroccan cuisine with international and Mediterranean influences for intimate dinners, elegant weddings, international fashion shows and culinary retreats.
“At my company, we are constantly developing new ideas. My personal goal is to redefine the local culinary scene and to develop the modern Moroccan cuisine. I grew up on classic Berber dishes, the main of which is the tagine, which I ate practically every day as a child. The tagine is a great foundation for culinary creativity. There is such a wide variety of different ingredients you can use, and I love integrating modern and global elements in these classic dishes”.
Aware that Morocco is a huge draw for tourists, Driss has also developed an extraordinary all-inclusive 6-day “Hungry for More” cooking retreat. “Morocco has so much to offer for foodies, with a myriad of influences from the Berber to Jewish, Spanish and French kitchens. We put up our guests at a beautiful Riad in the heart of Marrakech. We cook together, we eat together and we visit the markets so that our guests can experience the “real Marrakech”. They learn to prepare authentic dishes with a modern flare which they can then easily recreate back home.”
While the concept is centered around unforgettable food, for Driss, it is really about bringing people together in an inspirational setting, eating, laughing, connecting. “I love that Morocco inspires people all around the world and when they come, I want to give them an experience of a life time. I am a firm believer that beautiful and delicious food has the power to connect people around communal experiences, turning friends into family and moment into wonderful memories.”
For more information visit Marrakech Gastronomy