After earning her first Michelin star and publishing her first cookbook in 2022, Zineb “Zizi” Hattab started the new year cooking at one of the world’s most prestigious gourmet festivals. As one of 10 guest chefs for the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival 2023, Zizi was the only invitee coming from Switzerland. She brought dishes inspired by her Moroccan and Spanish roots for the festival’s Middle Eastern theme this year. I spoke with her in the lobby of the Badrutt’s Palace, which hosted her during the event, to talk more about her recent accomplishments and plans during her time in St. Moritz.
In Conversation with Zineb Hattab
Sitting in the grand lobby of the historic Badrutt’s Palace hotel, I glanced up and saw Zizi arriving for our interview. With her laptop and phone in hand, she grabbed a seat across from me, smiling warmly. The last time I saw Zizi was at her restaurant, KLE, in Zürich. During that visit, I sampled her carrot cake with white chocolate frosting. She shared the recipe with me for my second cookbook, Sweet + Swiss. After that meeting, she somehow managed to open a second restaurant in Zürich, DAR; write a best-selling cookbook in German, Taste of Love; and earn her first Michelin Star for KLE.
She insists that the Michelin star was an absolute surprise. With both of her restaurants, stars were never her goal. And, for the book, she explained how she worked with a team of talented women to produce its enticing recipes and stunning photographs. Always modest, but confident in her work, Zizi brought her unique Spanish-Moroccan style of cooking to the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival. At the same time, her dishes can have a splash of influence from her time at the Mexican restaurant Cosme in New York City. She presents a multi-faceted style, all the while keeping laser-focused on serving 100% plant-based cuisine.
Coming back to IGNIV at Badrutt’s Palace in St. Moritz represents a full circle moment for Zizi. For the festival, she served her gourmet dinners at IGNIV, the restaurant of her former boss, Andreas Caminada. In fact, she had already worked at this restaurant in 2016, when staff from Schloss Schauenstein came to IGNIV to help out with its opening. She has come a long way since that time, invited back this year as one of 10 guest chefs for the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival.
Zizi’s Plant-Based Dishes at the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival
For the festival’s Porsche Grand Opening, Zizi knew that people would be standing. Therefore, she decided to serve dishes inspired by street food. Her first dish was a steamed bun filled with a plant-based merguez. She created the filling with a paste of rice and beans, adding a blend of spices typically used for a Spanish chorizo or Moroccan merguez. She drizzled some salted lemon mayonnaise on top and finished it with a small dollop of curried carrots.
In addition to this fluffy dim sum-style bun, Zizi also served a kefta tostada. She used a nixtamalized organic corn tostada from a local producer in Zurich. “We give it the twist of having the kefta spread with the yogurt sauce, mint and coriander. Then, we add date syrup for sweetness, along with a nice salad on top for a component of freshness,” she said. The result was a fragrant, crunchy, sweet and savory vegan tostada that was very satisfying.
For the Mountain Brunch at the Badrutt’s Palace alpine restaurant, Paradiso, Zizi served a colorful beetroot salad. She packed it with flavor and different textures. Working with Chef Emily Barratt, she served this salad with a creamy turmeric foam and crisp pickles.
A Moroccan-inspired Gourmet Dîner at Badrutt’s Palace
Overall, Zizi talked about how she wanted to participate in the festival to represent Morocco and share its cuisine. She feels that Moroccan food is often underestimated. In her opinion, people have an awareness of tagine and couscous, but often not much else. Also, she talked about how the cuisine of Spain and Morocco are very much influenced by one another. Having grown up in Spain with Moroccan parents, these two places are very much part of her identity. Through her cooking she hopes to change people’s minds and expand their perception of the cuisine from these countries. The St. Moritz Gourmet Festival provided her with this opportunity to reach a potentially new audience for her style of cooking.
Furthermore, she knows that not everyone has fully embraced vegan dishes. She can see a negative reaction on people’s faces sometimes when she mentions her commitment to plant-based cuisine. “But, then they try it and love it. We have found our way to reach people with the taste, because you cannot lie with taste,” she tells me. Her decision to change her own eating habits and open two restaurants eschewing animal products is influenced, among other factors, by environmental concerns. “I can tell you what’s going on in the world or in our ecosystem. But in the end, if you taste something and it’s delicious and if it makes you feel good, then I don’t need words.”
For her three gourmet dinners during the festival at Badrutt’s Palace, Zizi’s menu started with a chickpea and lentil soup known as harira, often used to break the fast during Ramadan. While she doesn’t participate in this month of fasting herself, she describes this soup as “very comforting and earthy.” “It’s something I’ve eaten all my life and it’s a favorite dish among the guests at DAR. Even though we do a lot of creative things at the restaurant, this dish, and how my mother makes it, remains a favorite.”
For the main course, the menu included couscous and a full cabbage that roasted in the oven for three hours. The charred cabbage was then painted with harissa and served with a fresh mojo vinaigrette of chili, onions and herbs.
Finally for dessert, she prepared an ice cream sundae that’s inspired by her mother. “When I was younger, my mom always liked the soft serve ice cream from McDonald’s. She always wanted the peanuts that came with the sundae, as well as the caramel sauce.” With this memory in mind, Zizi prepared her own plant-based version of this sundae. She makes it with rosewater ice cream, homemade toffee and caramelized peanuts. Not surprisingly, her mother likes it much better than the McDonald’s version.
Here is Zizi’s full menu from the festival:
HARIRA SOUP WITH CHEBAKIA CRUNCH
BOMBA WITH AIOLI AND SALSA BRAVA
CORN TOSTADA, DATE SYRUP AND HERB YOGURT
KHOBZ WITH ROMANESCO AND HUMMUS
PICKLED VEGETABLES WITH CHERMOULA
TURMERIC FOAM, ROOT VEGETABLE SALAD
KFM (KLE FRIED MUSHROOM)
RADISH, APPLE, CUMIN SALAD
POINTED CABBAGE, HARISSA, MOJO
COUSCOUS TAGINE, CONFIT SULTANAS, PUMPKIN
FILO PASTRY, ORANGE BLOSSOM, ALMONDS
ROSEWATER ICE CREAM, CANDIED CHERRIES, PEANUTS, TOFFEE
The full menu was CHF 190 per person and with the wine pairing for each course, CHF 250 per person.
Zizi’s Transformational Management Style
Beyond her talent for cooking, Zizi should be admired for her management skills. She’s surrounded herself with a great team at both her restaurants. In addition, she spoke highly of the five women who helped pull together her first cookbook, Taste of Love.
Zizi talked with me about the importance of building harmony in the kitchen. “Once you create this kind of environment, it attracts similar people.” When someone new comes for a trial period, they can very quickly see when it doesn’t work.
She described the atmosphere in her kitchens as a “happy hippie life.” “Still very professional, but very human. In the end, I think my biggest achievement with my team is to have them as ambassadors of what we do. They are protecting these values, and they are the ones who keep it alive.” She credits the success of her restaurants, in part, to her staff and the positive work environment they have developed together.
For more information:
St. Mortiz Gourmet Festival, Woehrle / Pirola Events & Public Relations, +41 (0)44 245 86 94, firstname.lastname@example.org