Kitchen Creative is a series produced by Surface in partnership with Gaggenau that spotlights artists, architects, and designers with a passion for cooking who treat the kitchen as a sanctuary for inspiration, meditative white space, and human connection. Told in the form of as-told-to essays, the personal stories align with Gaggenau’s dedication to its foundational professional kitchen principle, which is predicated on developing intuitive technology to equip home chefs with the tools to produce restaurant-grade results. In this feature, interior designer Rita Chraibi dishes on her multicultural approach to food.
I learned to cook at a young age because my French and Moroccan cultures obliged me to learn. It’s a big passion of mine because, like gardening or similar activities, it allows me to manage stress. I often do it while listening to classical music, and always with a glass of wine. After a long day of work, it’s a way for me to really escape and to stop thinking. Cooking allows me to be in my universe—I cut myself off from earth. The kitchen is a really therapeutic room for me.
My dual cultural background informs my approach to cooking. Moroccan cuisine is a lot different than French. It’s rich in healthy spices and aroma: turmeric, garlic, ginger, cumin. One of my favorite dishes is Berber tagine. I mix all the vegetables with a protein, a little spoon of olive oil, and, of course, couscous. The great thing about my Gaggenau induction cooktop, the 400 series, is it allows me to cook really slowly so as to not burn the tagine. It’s very precise and creative on the technology. For this type of recipe, you need low temperature.
I make sophisticated food, but my favorite is a simple fish like salmon or red snapper. Lemon, garlic, dill, and some vegetables. Put it in the oven and that’s it. Very easy. Moroccan food is usually cooked on the stovetop. French food is prepared in the oven. I like to cook French when I have guests because it’s heavy—you have lots of butter and heavy cream—which means it’s better to share. I’m really good at French breakfast, which is more elegant and refined. They are renowned for their pastries and I especially love to bake fondant and lemon pies.
It’s important for me to have guests over and to cook for them. I have dinner parties every weekend. I have four houses with four very different vibes. My favorite right now is in Miami because the kitchen opens to the living room and it’s very social. I’ve lived in different countries and it’s really interesting to see how the relationship with food is related to culture. In France, dinner is usually served at the table with individual plates and good wine, but it’s very conventional. Spain is more relaxed with communal dishes like patatas bravas (fried spicy potatoes) and paella. People always end up dancing and partying. Cooking is very related to the way of life.
With what we’ve lived through over the past year, the home has become more important than before. That’s the best thing we can learn from the experience of the pandemic: It’s important to find a balance inside our homes, which is why the kitchen is a special place for me. It’s important to have a space at the end of the day to spend time in and to be peaceful with your soul.
Surface Studios is the brand marketing unit of Surface Media.