Family starts anew in festival
Hassan El Kour was 11 years old when he left school, left home and went to work for a shopkeeper selling spices, herbs, olives and other traditional Moroccan foods and fruits.
He was number six in a family of 11 children and his parents could no longer afford to keep him at their home on the outskirts of the historical fortress town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast.
Hassan already knew a lot about Moroccan spices and herbs from helping his mother, but now his knowledge became more profound, working from dawn to dusk in the market places of Casablanca. He speaks Arabic, French and English, but has found his cooking is a universal language; and being a talented chef and conversationalist, he makes friends easily.
He came to New Zealand with his Dunedin-born partner Emily, settling in Nelson. Their baby Lily Amena was born in an eco house on an island in the Waimea Estuary. They moved to Christchurch where he worked in a Moroccan restaurant in the city.
Then the September earthquake destroyed the building and his job. He secured another position in a large market garden, tending tomatoes in the many glasshouses. The February quake put paid to all that. The family has now moved to Wellington, where he is a restaurant chef once more.
‘‘One day I would like my own restaurant, but first I would like to know more about New Zealand and New Zealanders,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s good to be at the Porirua festival and working in the Migrating Kitchen. It’s a chance to meet people and to learn about others who are new to this country.’’
Partner Emily will also be at the Festival of the Elements, as a stall holder. She has her own business selling clothing, fashions and other goods, mostly personally selected while she was on her overseas travels. She also attends markets in Wellington City and Lower Hutt and trades on the internet.
‘‘ I’m determined to sell only ethically produced products and fair trading clothing,’’ she says.
The business had been growing in Christchurch before the earthquakes and had a strong customer base. Now the family is in a new place.
‘‘We’re excited to be here for the Waitangi Day celebrations and be part of the Festival of the Elements. It’s like a new beginning.’’
Master of spices: Hassan El Kour, with partner Emily and daughter Lily Amena, will provide a sprinkling of Morocco to the Festival of the Elements on February 6.