The Moroccan Chef who cooks for Hollywood Stars
London, Jan. 27, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Its not all the time you find an African outside an industry who robs shoulder to shoulder with cream la cream in that industry particularly the entertainment industry, more importantly, the Hollywood.
But one Moroccan chef has been able to do that and still does it successfully. He is Abdessamad Benameur, popularly known as Chef Ben. Ben is known as the chef of Beverly Hills stars. During his career, Ben has cooked for numerous A-list of celebrities from Hollywood.
But his relationship with superstar Ryan Gosling, however, remains special and one of a kind.
In the last few weeks, international media has spotlighted the chef’s Moroccan restaurant Tagine Beverly Hills despite it being open since 2004.
The restaurant has gained visibility since Notebook star Ryan Gosling bought a share in it.
Morocco World News had the chance to chat to Chef Ben about his career, his relationship with Gosling, and his love for Morocco, as well as an exclusive peek into the secrets of a hub for high class celebrity diners.
Ben said the place opened in 2004 after he met Gosling. At the time, the chef had a small business with his friend Christopher Angulo who is also a partner in Tagine, Beverly Hills.
“The story about it is simple. I was working like everybody else. I spent the last 30 years in Los Angeles working in the hotel and restaurant business,” Ben said.
Ben and Gosling decided to open Tagine three months after they met.
The chef shared with MWN that he did not know Gosling was an actor when they met.
“I was always asking Gosling about what he does for a living. He told me I am an actor,” he said, laughing.
When they first met, Gosling was just finished with his famous movie the Notebook.
“He was a little kid who was just trying to establish himself. He had just broke up with Sandra Bullock when I met him,” Ben narrated.
The story began when Gosling fell in love with Moroccan food, especially Ben’s recipes.
Gosling was the first to offer to team up with the Moroccan chef.
“Are you interested in opening a restaurant? I told him we don’t have enough money, neither did my partner Christopher.”
Ben tasked Ryan how much he could invest, suggesting $50,000.
“He said he has it. Who can give $50,000 just because he likes my food, I thought,“ Ben told MWN.
It is always a pleasure to hear success stories, and Ben’s was like a dream come true.
The cook started his career like a normal student from Morocco trying to support his family as they did for him when he was in Morocco.
Gosling, Christopher, and Ben launched the project in spite of the risk of losing money. The three friends felt they had nothing to lose as they could always earn more money with hard work.
Gosling consulted with his lawyer who told him he would lose money with the investment.
“He asked his mother, but her answer was different than anybody else. She told him to follow his guts,” said Ben.
Speaking about his relationship with the Hollywood star, the top chef said that his connection with the actor is not only about investment.
“We are really, really good friends.”
Artist by nature
Ben’s story proves that one should never underestimate people’s abilities to learn new things. The famous chef never went to a culinary school.
When Gosling asked Ben about where he learned how to cook his answer was simply this: “Meet the guy who has no teacher.”
Ben was inspired by Moroccan cuisine, and especially by his mother’s recipes.
“I don’t follow the rules; just like a little kid in the kitchen,” he told MWN.
The chef describes himself an artist with a creative mind.
The chef emigrated to the US in 1987. He grew up in Kenitra, a city 53 kilometers from Rabat but was born in Larache, northern Morocco (172 kilometers from Rabat).
“I came to the US as a student not knowing anyone. This is how the adventure started. A long road to help my family.”
The chef worked as a waiter, assistant manager, and other jobs in different restaurants before he opened his own business.
“When food is delicious, it is delicious because it has no religion or politics behind the taste,” said the Chef.
Asked if Moroccan cuisine is popular in the US, the chef said: “It was not, it is now. When people think about opening Moroccan restaurants they always link it to belly dancing. This is not how it goes for me, all I can offer is food, food, and food.”
The chef said wanted the place to be a home for for his clients, “a place where you go to find your mother preparing good dishes.”
“When you cook from the heart it becomes the best romantic place in California,” he said.
His customers love to discover new dishes, because of course, Ben has his own recipes.
Sharing one of his secrets, the chef said that it is always necessary to make some changes in recipes.
The chef makes his food using Moroccan recipes but, he uses the spices in a lighter way.
“They would love it, but they will not be able to eat it on a daily basis if it is heavy. If it is done the right way, people would taste it and will come again to try another dish,” explained Ben.
Asked about his best selling dishes, the chef said “people like everything mostly. They love a variety of salads and fish.”
Where stars dine
Tagine has only ten tables, and you can rarely find a free space. “We host a lot of people, and booking is always full,” Ben said.
In addition to the restaurants fans, the hidden place is also a favorite spot for Hollywood celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek.
Ben shared with MWN a set of photos of celebrities dining at Tagine, including Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep.
The chef describes his restaurant as a “place where you can come in and forget about the outside world.”
Ben promised that MWN will be the first to hear about his upcoming ventures.
The chef is currently in discussions with the owner of Palmeraie Casablanca, Berrada Sounni, about opening a branch of Tagine in Morocco.
He added that there is demand for a franchise, and clients have asked him to open Tagine restaurants in London and New York.
“Russia is also in the list,” Ben added.
Chef Ben said it is “time to be doing lots of running.”
He said he sees himself as an ambassador for Morocco.
“Even if I don’t live in Morocco, I keep this attachment to my country, and I keep recommending that actors go and discover Morocco and Marrakech,” he said.
He said that he is always proud of his country and always impressed with the developments it continues to achieve.