My parents lived in D.C. back in the ‘60s, when I was born here. Then we returned to Morocco, where I grew up. I’m the first of 12 brothers and sisters. My mom made sure no one was forgotten. And I had very strong ties to my grandmother. To me, she was an idol. She helped anyone in need. She would say, “Listen, if you go play with the neighborhood kids, I don’t want anybody coming to the house to complain about your behavior.” So, while I was outside, this was on my mind.
What my grandmother was telling me, I later told my own kids. I’ve always been there, coaching, but they choose what they want to do. As children grow, we have to let go. I’m very, very, very proud of them.
With driving, I’ve learned a lot about the city. I see the different neighborhoods and the changes happening. My first ride to some areas, I was nervous. I had thought the area was bad, but this idea was from the ‘80s, when the city had big problems. I was surprised when Uber rides took me past houses being built or fixed up. I noticed all different kinds of people walking around.
While I was a chef, I was in a kitchen all the time. I didn’t go out. I didn’t enjoy food. It was all work. A lot of tasting, a lot of line checks. I’d come home hungry. The first thing I did after retiring was go to Morocco for six weeks. That’s my plan again this summer, to spend five more weeks there.
When we visited Casablanca, I brought my kids to the rocks next to the ocean near the Hassan II mosque, where I used to collect mussels. But nothing was there. All the good stuff that came from the ocean was gone. It made me realize the world is changing. Ecology is in danger. A few years ago, countries in Africa and the Middle East wouldn’t even believe that. But right where I grew up, there was the perfect example.
Photo: Magda Zofia
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