12 May 2023

Five minutes with Mustapha El Mourtazak, Al Maghrib

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Mustapha El Mourtazak

Owner of newly opened contemporary Moroccan cafe Al Maghrib, Mustapha El Mourtazak. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who is Mustapha El Mourtazak: I’m a Moroccan man, who after finishing school, decided to move to another country to continue my journey. I worked in a lot of different places and gained a lot of experience in hospitality. I used to speak only Arabic and French before I learned English. I can speak English a little bit, not too much. I have gone through a lot in life to reach the level I am at right now. I’m trying to get bigger and bigger and get more famous and try to improve that. People can do better … and can grow if they work hard, do the right things and be nice.

Best recent dining experience: A little Morrocan restaurant in Sydney called Sultano.

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Favourite cuisine: I love Moroccan cuisine and I like Arabic cuisine in general.

What ingredient can I not live without: Ingredient I can’t live without … onion. It’s the base of most of our food.

How many Weet-Bix do I do: I’m not a fan of cereals, to be honest.

Best coffee spot in Wagga: It’s Al Maghrib. When I was a barista at Carlo’s, people loved my coffee. I have had three years of training with Lavazza (an Italian coffee brand), and I’ve been training people how to make coffee art. I can count myself among the best coffee makers in Wagga.

Al Maghrib uses Fish River Roasters for their coffee. Photo: Al Maghrib.

Favourite coffee: Espresso.

What’s your coffee blend: Fish River Roasters. I used to have it when I was working as a barista at Coolamon Cheese. It’s a really beautiful flavour of coffee. I’ve been travelling around to see what are things people love the most.

What’s the weirdest coffee order you’ve received: I have a customer who asked for seven sugars in his small iced latte. He won’t mix the sugar and he will just drink it. It’s basically honey.

Next big thing in the Wagga food scene: It’s going to be my restaurant, Al Maghrib. I got a lot of great feedback and support from the people of Wagga. I was worried a lot in the beginning. Before we opened, people that would pass by would ask if I wanted any help to open up the place. It made me really happy.

Favourite place to lunch in Wagga: Carlo’s. I know what kind of food they have and how they cook inside.

A must-try on our menu: Tajines (slow-cooked lamb or chicken with lemon, garlic, onion, saffron, ginger prunes, almonds, cinnamon, honey and sesame seeds served with freshly baked Moroccan bread).


Almond, white chocolate and berry muffins. Photo: Al Maghrib.

Most used ingredient at Al Maghrib: Chicken, onion and traditional saffron. Pure original saffron is very expensive and very healthy.

Our top pick from our desserts: We don’t have them yet, but we’re going to have desserts for a special of the day. In the future, we are planning to make little Morrocan biscuits called ghoriba. We’ll have Morrocan fruit salads marinated with rose water and pure orange juice. It’s very famous in my country to make this kind of fruit salad.

My biggest culinary influence: My mum. Every time she would cook, I would jump in. Before even I started my business, when I would be cooking at home, I’ll be talking to her. She would always be like, ‘How many spoons’, ‘Add this’, ‘Minus that’. When I’m cooking, she is like my chef.

Favourite cookbook: Not really. Most of the recipes are homemade. I use my own recipes.

Al Maghrib’s msemen served with honey. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene: The Oakroom. I worked there for almost a year. The people and the management are really good and they make really good food.

What are this week’s specials at Al Maghrib: I have daily specials.

Death row meal: Chicken lemon tajine with my Morrocan tea.

Where am I travelling to next: Good question. It has been on my mind to go to Belgium. My sister is living there and I haven’t seen her in a while.

Chicken briouat

Al Maghrib chicken briouat. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Dream destination: Bali.

My biggest fear: Failure.

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My least favourite food: Chinese.

My top three cooking tips: First of all, hygiene. Follow your recipe. Make sure to focus on the flavour.

Al Maghrib is at 32 Fitzmaurice Street and is open from 6:30 am – 4 pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

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