Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Team at Fez's Resto 7

Oliver Truesdale-Jutras and Phoebe Oviedo
Restaurant Numero 7 in the Fez Medina has made a name for itself with a program of international chefs-in-residence. What the chefs have in common is the creation of delicious, beautifully presented food using fresh, local ingredients. The latest team to take over, Canadians Oliver Truesdale-Jutras and Phoebe Oviedo, are no exception and have brought their own flair to the kitchen
When Oliver Truesdale-Jutras and Phoebe Oviedo first arrived in Fez they found it "surreally chaotic". They had just come from cooking at a resort in Japan, and the number of people, donkeys and the seemingly haphazard nature of the ancient city was the antithesis of the place they had been living in. "It was a real culture clash," says Phoebe. "Japan is hyper-organised."

"Initially, it was hard to get anything done," says Oliver. "We were taken aback, but mesmerised." The couple came to help out a friend, Analiese Gregory, who was a chef-in-residence at Resto 7 in 2014. They had met her while working at Sydney's famous Quay restaurant, and were quick to agree when she asked them to come to Fez.

Lavosh, dry fruit chutney and labneh

Their experience last year has made their return easier, as they know their way around and "we'd developed good relationships with suppliers", says Oliver.  "The food here is obviously a very essential part of life, and the vegetables are unbelievable - the quality and how fast they get from the farm to the souk."

Phoebe says their approach towards melding the flavours is very compatible, such as finding the right balance, "between sweetness, spice, acidity and texture." Oliver adds, "we are enjoying playing with spices and mixes."

Some of the dishes Oliver and Phoebe have created recently include heirloom eggplant with tomato and prawn foam, and sea bream with cauliflower, pistachios and burnt bread. "We spend ages sorting through the eggplants to find the small ones," says Oliver.

Confit egg-yolk, spring vegetables and brown butter emulsion

Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Oliver was determined not to be a chef like his father. "I worked hard against it. I was a picky eater, and a vegetarian for a while," he says. At fourteen, he became a "dish-pit jockey" as a part-time job. "But it was when I bought Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook as a Christmas gift for my Dad that I saw cooking as a craft was a cerebral process. It was a thoughtful and artistic endeavour." On leaving school, he attended culinary college for a year before becoming a kitchen apprentice in Vancouver at C restaurant. Then he began working at the renowned Domus, where he met Phoebe, who was cooking there under John Taylor, "who invented the farm to table restaurant scene in Canada".

Heirloom eggplant, tomato and prawn foam

Phoebe Oviedo was born and spent her childhood in the Philippines. "My grandmother ran a cafe and I hung out there after school," she says. "And my Uncle had a catering business." So she began to cook from an early age. After moving to Canada with her family in 2003, she studied cooking in college while still at high school and then took a job at Navarra restaurant, whose chef Rene Rodriguez recently won Top Chef Canada. Her particular love is baking bread and pastry.

When the couple met at Domus, "it took us the better part of a year to get together," says Oliver. "Phoebe is fairly quiet, whereas I am loud and gregarious, so it took me a while to realise there is another side to her."

Oliver spent time working at Benu, a Korean-modern American restaurant in San Francisco, before heading to South-East Asia. Phoebe joined him on her way to Australia, and they ended up there together for three years, firstly working with Analiese Gregory at Quay, and then later at Neil Perry's Rockpool restaurant.

"But we had to leave eventually," says Oliver, "Or we would have stayed forever." A stint working in Japan was next, before their first experience of Morocco.

Sea bream, cauliflower, pistachio and burnt bread

This time around, they are exploring adding more of a Moroccan twist to their culinary creations. "We are trying to move to using more artisanal produce, such as handmade cous-cous and smen. We want people to know they are in Morocco."

Phoebe says, "We are very interested in fusing modern and old school techniques, using both to achieve a cuisine that is innovative while still feeling warm and at ease.

“The residency changes you for the better: exposes you to new, exciting flavours, techniques and inspirations, and shows you what you are capable of.”

Poached peach, hazelnut, oat, meringue and plum ice
Where: Resto 7, 7 Zkak Rouah, Fez Medina
Reservations: 0694 277 849 or

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