Hajja Latifa El Maroudi, Moroccan cuisine from Tamegroute in Texas

Once inside his restaurant, we forget that we are in the United States and we are teleported to Morocco. Hajja Latifa El Maroudi wants to preserve the Moroccan character of her premises, paying attention to the smallest details. Native of Marrakech and originally from Tamgeroute (province of Zagora), the entrepreneur believes that serving local meals to her customers must be done in an authentic atmosphere, with decor imported from Morocco, pottery, tajines, spices , oil and other staples known in Moroccan cuisine, which she imports from the motherland.

Her connection to the United States began after her son immigrated in 1987. Since then, Hajja Latifa has traveled to the country from time to time, for family visits which have multiplied after her two daughters also immigrated in 2000. In 2006, her three children offered her to settle in San Antonio, in the State of Texas, which was not easy for the mother of the family, at the height of her 74 years. “They went to work while I stayed home alone, which bothered me a lot, especially since I like to be active,” she tells us.

A start to fight monotony

This situation prompted Hajja Latifa to go to one of the mosques to pray. She offers the person in charge of the place, a Jordanian citizen, to take care of the cleaning on a voluntary basis during his free time. The man immediately agreed. However, the management of the place of worship decided to devote a monthly salary to him. After a year, she manages to save a large amount of money, which will allow her to start her own project. From 2009, she launched her restaurant Moroccan bites tagine.

“I met a Jamaican Muslim citizen at the mosque, she spoke classical Arabic and she ran a clothing store. In front of his shop, I saw a small closed shop and I didn’t understand what was written on the sign hanging on it, as it was in English. She told me it was for rent. That’s when I decided to launch my project.

But Hajja Latifa faces opposition from her children. “I gave my son the choice between letting me do what I wanted or going back to Morocco,” confides the restaurateur. In the end, she succeeds in convincing her children. As she loves cooking and has seen the scarcity of Moroccan restaurants in the city, she decides to launch a small restaurant, with only four tables.

It was a difficult start for Hajja Latifa, who works alone, knows little English and struggles to count currency. With time and her good reputation with her customers, the situation changed, her two daughters left their jobs to join her in the restaurant and help her in the management. Her daughter Nadia tells Yabiladi some memories, when her mother called them during their working hours asking for help counting the money.

From four tables to forty

Hajja Latifa’s day starts at five in the morning. She prepares the meals to open the doors of her restaurant to customers around eleven o’clock. “I prepare all the famous dishes from our Moroccan region, such as couscous, harira, pastilla, zaalouk, but also Moroccan bread; I bake 60 loaves of bread a day”, confides the restaurateur. As is customary in Morocco, Friday is a special couscous day and Saturday is the fish tagine.

The success of the project prompted her to rent two adjoining premises. The number of tables has increased from four to around forty. Most of Haja Latifa’s clients are Americans, including celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg, Jay Ramsay Fieri, Moroccan-born actor Saïd Taghmaoui and many others. She received the best mother award during the mother’s day organized by the mayor of the city, for her dedication to work, her reputation and her relationship with customers.

Staying at the restaurant all day, however, caused him a leg condition, which required an operation. But despite this health glitch, the restorer did not give up and returned to her stove, because she wants to pay attention to the smallest details.

She also receives high school students in her restaurant, who come with their teachers to discover Moroccan cuisine. Hajja Latifa is even asked by universities to prepare Moroccan dishes. At the end of this month of January 2022, an American magazine must come and photograph the dishes she will prepare.

As a good Stakhanovist of the stoves, the restaurant owner also offers catering services for cooking on special occasions. It also welcomes customers wishing to learn how to cook Moroccan dishes. From Tamgroute to Texas, Hajja Latifa has become a true ambassador of Moroccan gastronomy.

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