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Growing up with seven siblings in Casablanca, Abdel Elatouabi learned early on to value his food. His father served in Morocco’s secret service but devoted weekends to cooking. He’d load up a carful of kids and head to the docks for off-the-boat fish, or hunt for the best-fed goats at farms, or stop on the road to buy armloads of just-cut mint. Today, Elatouabi continues that zeal for quality ingredients at his ruby-red restaurant, Le Marrakech, at 52 Alexander Street. “I love Hung Win Seafood (585 Gore Avenue) for their fresh fish and Tak Hing Loong Trading (217 Keefer St., 604-899-7928) for tiny rose petals for my lamb shank cooked with 16 spices.” He grabs gunpowder tea and chicken livers at the nearby T&T Supermarket (179 Keefer Pl., 604-899-8836) and explores the stands at Sunrise Market (300 Powell St., 604-685-8019) for well-priced organic fruit and veg.
His duck pastilla is a sweet and savoury confection using Fraser Valley–grown duck and includes saffron, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon from South China Seas Trading (125–1689 Johnston St., 604-681-5402). Moroccan food demands a lot of honey, which Elatouabi imported from France until he discovered Honey Bee Centre in Langley (7480 176th Street, 604-575-2337). “I love the orange-blossom honey. It’s fantastic.” When Elatouabi and his wife, Marijke Wortman, shop with their three young children on weekends, they always stop by Nelson Park farmers market (1100 block of Comox, Eatlocal.org), where they visit vendors for Little Qualicum Cheese (403 Lowry’s Rd., Parksville, 250-954-3931) and Klippers Organic Acres (2205 Ferko Rd., Cawston, 25-490-2050). Life’s lessons continue.