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.


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