Born and raised in San Sebastián of Spain’s Basque Country. Najat Kaanache gained fame as a lead actress on Spanish daytime television series «Goenkale». She latly traveled throughout the Middle East and South America working in philanthropy to empower women and street kids. She later gained fame as « The Pilgrim Chef » by blogging throughout her four years training with the world’s top chefs: Ferran Adria, Rene Redzepi, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal and Martin Berasategui.
1- Could you tell us how did you decide to switch from being an actress to becoming a Chef?
I am a granddaughter of the Atlas Mountains, raised between their arid peaks and the lush Pyrenees of Spain’s Basque Country. My friends and family were very proud of my achievements as an actress, but I yearned for the freedom to express the unique blend of culinary cultures in my life. I took a leap of faith and followed my dreams all around the world. My early culinary influences were my grandmother, mother and aunts in Morocco where we grew, harvested and prepared our own olives, wheat and animals. My Basque culinary influence came from my mother adapting her kitchen to our new Spanish coastal surroundings. My palate is emotional, colorful and magical; it came from my memories and grew through my variegated life experiences. I was very fortunate to grow up immersed in two culinary paradigms that allowed me to contemplate the juxtaposition of ancient tradition and haute gastronomy. I learned to understand and appreciate that although food has no culture of its own, it is deeply cultural and binds us all together. This was my heart’s message, and one I could only deliver by becoming a Chef.
2- You have spent 4 years training with the world’s top chefs… Could you share with us the things they have in common? and you learned from them?
The characteristic all great champions possess is passion. I learned that seizing the opportunity to train with the best requires planning, perseverance, sacrifice and taking great risks. Each of my chefs allowed me access to their sanctum and to gain new insights that would illuminate my path toward wearing a chef’s jacket. Grant Achatz gave me an opportunity and reaffirmed that my intensity was passion rather than insanity. Ferran Adria opened the door to a wonderland of the kitchen as a laboratory and gave my mind the freedom to create. Rene Redzepi provided a window into the elegance of simplicity that exists in nature. Thomas Keller reminded me that respect, refinement and cleanliness translate into perfection.
3- While traveling throughout the Middle East and South America, you were working in Philanthropy to empower women and street kids, please tell us how did this experience influence your career and your lifestyle?
I learned about the atrocities and disadvantages facing women and children in war-torn and impoverished nations and took my opportunity to embark on a philanthropic mission when I liberated myself from my demanding television career. I was woefully underprepared for the harsh realities I was about to face. The conditions I saw will haunt me for eternity, but they did not dissuade me of my purpose. I found the little place in my soul that could reach to every human with a bright healing light, and that place was my love for food and creativity. I could share joy, color and a sense of pride through teaching women and street kids to support themselves by being resourceful and creative with what they had available to make crafts and food. This experience helped me to find my soul’s voice, that I needed to focus on the power of food and creativity to bring people together, to bring them joy and to nourish every sense of their beings.
4- Based on this Description, how do you relate to the Mayshad Woman philosophy?
“To Be a Mayshad Woman, is a Choice a Woman makes to live a stimulated life with a positive Philosophy based on Gratitude, Acceptance and Accomplishment, in order to Be Who She Wants to Be.
She handles different Aspects of her Life with Confidence, and makes sure to always remain Herself, guarding her own values.”
I am a champion; I am a Mayshad Woman.
5- Could you please share with us the plans of Najat Kaanache for the upcoming months?
I am currently traveling throughout Mexico filming a network TV show to investigate its vibrant gastronomic culture. I’m honored to be invited to cook with Mexican chefs Enrique Olvera and Matteo Salas next month at the San Miguel de Allende Food Festival where the featured country is Morocco. I am so excited to attend and to present a conference alongside Mexican gastronomy legend Gloria Lopez Morales in which we will illuminate the links between Mexican and Moroccan culinary cultures.
Building on the joy I found in making my Spanish television program “Cocina Marroqui”, I will continue exploring my Moroccan roots, sharing my insights and expressing my perspective through food. Hopefully, I can contribute to an intriguing culinary conversation that will convince the great league of gastronomy to shift its cycloptic gaze toward North Africa. Moroccan cuisine has informed the work of so many great chefs, however relatively few Moroccan restaurants have proliferated the globe. It is ironic that a cuisine forged through intense and constant cultural interaction has traveled so little! I can foresee an influx of talented, inquisitive chefs into Morocco and an outcropping of disruptive Moroccan restaurants opening everywhere.