Unheard Oxford: Hassan Elouhabi, kebab restauranteur

In 1995, just here, on Broad street, is when I first started – we’re talking almost 21 years. Before that I was working in a French bakery, making cakes, bread, and stuff like that – for three years, in Oxfordshire. I live outside the city, about 20 miles away from Oxford.

The students, well you know, when they are drunk they are sensible; you know what it’s like, when someone is drunk. Sure, funny things happen, but nothing too crazy. Sometimes kids forget themselves, they pay me for their food and they go, without taking any change, no food, and I have to run after them! Nothing special to be honest, not like something bad, just student life!

My favourite item on the menu? Well, I love my chicken wrap, with cheese and chips, chilli sauce and garlic mayonnaise. That’s my favourite – just a little bit of chicken and just a little bit of chips and I’m done for the whole night. Sometimes, depends how hungry I am, I go for a double burger with cheese and chips, sometimes mixed kebab with some onions, tomatoes, grilled, with some hot sauce and mayonnaise.

The most ordered item has got to be chips and cheese, and then chips and cheese and meat – chicken or lamb. Nowadays we do chicken strips and those are good as well, because the chicken strips I’m doing now are really tasty. Everybody loves it; sometimes, when I don’t have any chicken kebab left, people ask me for chicken and I off er to put chicken strips instead, and once they start the chicken strips they’ll keep coming back for it. Once they try the chicken strips in the wrap, they always want more! I also love the charcoal chicken, fresh, marinated, and the spices that I add to the chicken are mine. I brought them from home; you can see them over there [in the corner]. They’re Mediterranean spices; I’m from Morocco, up north there. I still have family there, my mum, brothers, and friends.

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Because I work such long hours during the day I’m like a plant – I have to wake up at one o’clock, no matter what, otherwise I won’t be here in time. I need to do the shopping and preparing and so on, grate the cheese, prepare the onions. So I need to wake up at one, and if I spend an extra half hour in bed I’d lose half an hour of work here!

I bring the van back home at the end of the night, and park it there. I work mostly when the students are here, from 0th week to 9th week. Around Christmas time Broad Street here is almost completely deserted, so I spend that time with family and relax. But in the summer we have visiting students on summer courses, so I still work then. Easter time, some students stay here to prepare for exams – you know, they have finals in third term and they keep us a bit busy. But I’m very busy; I don’t have time to read or anything and when I get home, I’ll have a shower and maybe just have some fruit to eat, watch a bit of TV and then, boom, I go to sleep.