Moroccan restaurant to close as owner calls time on 'wonderful journey'
PUBLISHED: 09:26 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 19 September 2019
A restaurant owner who succeeded in his quest to open Norfolk's eyes to Moroccan cuisine has decided to seek pastures new.
Mohammed Guenaoui - known as Ali by his customers - is set to close Marrakech Fusion in Dereham, bringing to an end a 23-year career in the restaurant industry.
Having opened his first business, 'Casablanca', in 1996, Mr Guenaoui has treated diners in Wymondham, Attleborough and Norwich to some of the north African nation's finest cuisine.
After taking an extended break due to illness, he returned to Wymondham as Marrakech Fusion in 2013 before relocating to Dereham.
But following more than two decades of dedication, Mr Guenaoui has opted to close his final restaurant after September 28 having achieved his long-term goals.
"My vision all those year ago was to bring Moroccan cuisine to Norfolk," he said. "People didn't really know what the food was so it was difficult.
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"I've played a part in promoting my country and we have done it in a traditional way. We cook my mum's tagine and I always say to people 'if you don't like it I will give you her number!'
"Without me I'm not sure how many people in Norfolk would have experienced Moroccan food, so it is something to be proud of and it's what this is all about - sharing things with others."
Despite shutting up shop, Mr Guenaoui will not stray far from hospitality and will soon take up a role training the next generation of restaurateurs. He admits he will miss running his own business, but says the time is right to put his wife and daughter first.
"I have reached a stage where I can't do long hours and I want to spend more time with my family," Mr Guenaoui added. "At the end of the day that is why you do it - to support your family.
"Running a restaurant involves so much more than serving a dish. It completely takes up your life and, at some stage, it will really impact you.
"I am so humbled by the way people have helped and supported us. I've made so many friends - people I will never forget - and your customers become your second family.
"It has been a wonderful journey so there are no regrets. If I was young again I would take exactly the same path."