‘Spain is getting taste for foreign food’

After stints in locations as diverse as Caracas and Kazakhstan, this versatile chef has now bitten the bullet by setting up a catering business in Madrid. Meet Belgium's Moustafa Moussaoui, aka Mousse.

'Spain is getting taste for foreign food'
Madrid-based chef Moustafa Moussaoui says you should make hiring a business consultant (gestor) part of your investment plan.

How did you end up in Madrid?

When I was 21, I left Belgium and came to Spain. I lived in Madrid for seven years, and met my partner here. Then I went back to Belgium and worked in a bank and at the European Commission before going back into gastronomy.

I've spent time in places like Los Angeles and Algiers and also learned to become a cooking sushi chief in Japan. I then came back to Madrid in August 2013 to study and Le Cordon Bleu (one of the best cooking schools in the world). 

Tell me about your business model. 

The business has three parts: there is the home chef business, which is basically where I deliver meals to people's homes. It's a little like a restaurant at home, and for this I have a set menu, or the meals can be tailor-made.  

It's a still a new idea in Spain, and — yes — there are people with money willing to pay.

The second part of the business is my cooking classes, where I teach people how to make sushi, or cook Moroccan food. Those classes are in English, French or Spanish on demand, and my motto is 'no secrets'. I want people to be able to make the food at home afterwards.

My clients here are expats and locals, basically people interested in learning something new and having fun. 

The newest part of my business is the catering services which I set up in July, which is about supplying Belgian quiches and cakes.

Spaniards have a reputation for being nervous about new food. Have you experienced that?

Spaniards are in the habit of having their own food — they are proud of it and rightfully so. But they can be lazy about trying other food. At the same time, there are more and more people who have travelled and want to try new flavours.

There's definitely a market for people interested in international cuisine, while there has also been a return to 'home-made' cooking in Spain, and my products definitely fall into the group as they have no additives and all made fresh on the day.

Spain is notoriously bureaucratic. Did you have any problems setting up your business?

I paid an expert to help me start my business, and I would highly recommend including that cost in your investment plan. It saves you a lot of hassle.

Just dealing with the licence for my premises involved a huge amount of paperwork, and it's stress you don't need.

What other advice would you give to people setting up a business in Spain?

Location is critical. For example, I chose to set myself up in the area of Alcobendas in northern Madrid, where rents are cheap, but where we are also surrounded by offices.

Being there also means I have good access to neighbourhoods like (upmarket) Chamberí and (office-filled) Chamartin.

It's also important to make sure you offer something different: I hired a consultant to see what was already available. I didn't want to replicate something that was already on the market. It's important to be unique.

Basically, it's all about patience, planning and preparation. Setting up the catering side of my business took four months.

Have you had any problems on the supply side?

I do find you sometimes have to be pushy with some people. It was a bit difficult at first to adjust to the Spanish way of working. For me, as a northern European 9am is 9am, and not 9.30am or 10am. I'm still adjusting to that.

I also found that though my set-up costs are half those of the people I studied with in Madrid, my costs are higher than I thought.

But it definitely pays to start small and grow your business.

What are your plans for the future?

The aim now is to build up the brand and open more sales points based on growth. I'd also like to open up my premises to private parties so that people can come and dine there.

I don't want to set up a restaurant though: it's too passive — I like to get around!  

For more information about Mousse's catering and courses visit his website at

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