Wide Angle

Diaspo #129 : Moroccan delicacies in the heart of Beverly Hills with Chef Ben

He is the man behind the delicacies of California’s new «place to be» restaurant Tagine Beverly Hills. Chef Ben, or Abdessamad Benameur, is a self-taught, spontaneous and full of love and energy Moroccan man who brought the secrets of the Moroccan cuisine to Beverly Hills.

Chef Ben with Meryl Streep. / DR
Estimated read time: 3'

«I have never imagined that I would become a famous chef», revealed Abdessamad Benameur, known in Los Angeles as Chef Ben, a California-based cook and a friend of several American stars.

Born in Larache to a family from Tangier and his native town, his father was a mechanic at Volkswagen at the American base in Kenitra. While growing up in the northern city, also known as Port Lyautey, Abdessamad was «fascinated by the United States and Americans», who lived in the city at the time.

But with the departure of the Americans, the situation became difficult for his family. «I started to go to the north of the country to work. I grew up in a family that didn't have much but was happy», Chef Ben told Yabiladi.

Abdessamad Benameur was also a «sports student». «I even played in the first division of the Kenitra Athletic Club (KAC) for handball and my life was spread between studies and sports», he recalls. After high school, he went to France, which he left shortly after. He was planning to go to Sweden or Norway but a friend of his made him consider moving to the United States.

«I got my student visa at the age of 22. In the United States, I had a tough time in the beginning, but refused to give up».

Chef Ben

With «30 dollars in his pocket», he could not enroll in school. He thus chose «the long way by starting to work». «My first job was at McDonald's», he recalled. Chef Ben then went from one job to another in the restaurant industry, because he «likes meeting people». It also allowed him to learn the language on his own. In the United States, Abdessamad Benameur tried to open a small business which he called «Café Paris», although he did not «know the business well» at the time.

These different jobs, however, allowed him to come up with an idea: «opening a Moroccan restaurant, a modern one so that we can eat Moroccan cuisine every day», without getting tired of it.

The chef who didn't know Ryan Gosling

While gaining fame among celebrities as a chef and cook for their parties and events, Chef Ben met Canadian actor Ryan Gosling. «He had just finished his film The Notebook and was hosting a party at his house. I cooked for him and he was impressed with my dishes», recalls the chef. The Hollywood star wanted to meet him later and brought with him 150 guests, all celebrities. «My face turned red as I was very shy», he says.

The two men got along quickly and decided to open a restaurant together. «Tagine Beverly Hills» opened its doors on May 20, 2004 and became one of the best restaurants in this city located in the Los Angeles County. At the opening, there were a lot of American stars, like Naomi Watts, directors, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Salma Hayek and Cameron Diaz», he recalls.

«It's a little corner, with ten tables, a varied menu according to the season, love and big hearts. This is the source of our success. It is the work and the effort of a person who defines it».

Chef Ben

To him «Tagine» is a project which makes it possible to «build bridges with people». «We don't try to do much but just what is enough», he explains.

The secret behind his success? «Simplicity and good ambiance. We all like to eat and enjoy good food, but those who come to see me are epicureans who want to savor and have a good experience», replied the charismatic chef.

It was only when he and Ryan Gosling decided to buy premises for «Tagine» that the Canadian told him that he was an actor. «It was funny for me, because everyone here introduce themselves as actors», he jokingly recalled. It was only after seeing «twenty girls scream and run to take photos with the actor» that Chef Ben realized that he was a famous actor. «It was so surprising that I thought there was a fight behind us», recalled Chef Ben.

A «Tagine Beverly Hills» in Casablanca in March

When asked about the peculiarity of his dishes, Abdessamad Benameur, who considers customers as «his guests», said that he goes to the market to «bring back fresh and good products like our parents did». «A piece of fish is like a bride. You have to put makeup on, in this case spices, without overdoing it», he explains.

Chef Ben is also a frequent visitor to his home country. «I'm the type of person who visits Morocco quite often. But since my mother’s death, I’m going there a little less regularly», he says. But each time he visits his native country, he returns to Kenitra to «eat Moroccan sausages», his favorites.

«I have lived in Morocco a lot and I have unforgettable family memories. In the United States, we are the ambassadors of our country».

Chef Ben

Proof that he has never lost contact with Morocco, Chef Ben will open a «Tagine Beverly Hills in Casablanca with Palmeraie Group» next month, he exclusively announced to Yabiladi.

«I hope that Moroccans in the country who cannot travel to the United States can visit me there. In any case, it was important to me that my first restaurant outside the United States be located in Morocco», he concluded by announcing other future projects, in Canada and in Africa.

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