Sliced and chopped: Kingscliff family business thrives
IT'S 6.30am and already the Zanzibar Cafe, Kingscliff, is a centre of activity.
The local fresh herbs and vegetables are being sliced and chopped.
The owner, Moroccan-born Alex Kamaoui, seems to be everywhere, tasting, advising, instructing and welcoming the early morning coffee drinkers.
It's just another busy day for Alex and his Australian wife Leanne who introduced harvest-fresh food with a Moroccan twist at the Zanzibar 14 years earlier.
Their patrons keep coming back; they know them and their teenage children who help out on weekends.
It's a thriving family business and they know and are proud of their food.
"My mother taught me how to cook and I love it," Alex said.
"It's very satisfying and reflects Moroccan culture.
"Food and friendship go together and we've made many good friends through our cafe."
It's been quite a journey, not only in distance but, culturally from Morocco to Kingscliff and I wondered how it came about.
"I was born in Marrakesh, I'm the youngest of 13 children, we lived a simple life, we were poor but so was everyone else
"We were happy as children, my father had livestock and we managed except for higher education.
"Not all my brothers and sisters were educated except for my eldest brother, he was exceptionally clever and was educated by the French, that was in the 50s, and he became the first Moroccan to hold a Bachelor of Economics degree at that time.
At first, Alex found Australia too quiet, especially after his lifestyle in Europe, but eventually he settled in and helped a friend to open up the first Moroccan restaurant in Sydney.
"And it was through him that I went to France for my education and stayed on," he said.
Alex said for a single guy France and Spain were great.
"There were boulevards everywhere and so much nightlife.
"I had found restaurant work in Italy and France and only came to Australia because one of my sisters who had emigrated to Australia, sponsored me."
At first, Alex found Australia too quiet, especially after his lifestyle in Europe, but eventually he settled in and helped a friend to open up the first Moroccan restaurant in Sydney - even showing him how to make cous cous and many of his mother's recipes later ended up in two books on Moroccan cuisine that his friend published.
Seven years passed in Sydney and Alex met, fell in love and married Australian Leanne and they had two children. Their holidays were spent at Kingscliff and now with children decided to leave the city, take the plunge and open the first Moroccan cafe on the coast.
I asked how the first week went and how they felt about it. "It was hectic, we had 18-hour days for ages, but the customers liked our food and kept coming back, and after all these years, we still have regulars from Brisbane, Byron Bay, Surfers, all over."
But how had they settled in? "We are very involved with the community, I've always played soccer, and I love to train kids, also I've been president of the Kingscliff soccer club for two years, and Leanne has run the soccer canteen for four years, so the local kids are getting a taste treat from our Zanzibar Cafe and so far, Leanne has raised thousands of dollars through that for the soccer team".