Coming home from clubs and pubs in Oxford, England, students and locals alike make routine nighttime stops at Original Hassan’s to satisfy their appetites. Stationed on Broad Street, across from the front gates of Trinity College, restaurateur Hassan Elouhabi’s food truck has been servicing customers since 1995.
Prior to this longtime business venture, Elouhabi worked for three years at a French-style bakery in Oxfordshire, where he prepared cakes, apple pies, croussaints and bread. When the bakery relocated to London, Elouhabi decided to start his own catering service to avoid transitioning his family to a higher cost of living.
He tried out businesses in Spain and his home country of Morocco before applying for a general spot within Oxford. After being waitlisted, a city planning council granted Elouhabi’s truck its position on Broad Street, where it has operated year-round ever since.
He describes his cuisine as European mixed with Moroccan. At first, his dishes included jacket potatoes, until he discovered early on that regular customers preferred chips as a central ingredient.
“I’m only doing what people around here like,” Elouhabi said. “I’m happy for everyone that’s happy with me. I want to make people happy.”
Elouhabi said he purchases high-quality food that he sells at a lower price, favoring the happiness of his customers over profit.
“I know it’s expensive, but I’m so happy to sell it,” he said. “I’m happier when my customer loves my food. If you want a kebab, I want to make sure that kebab is really good. I want the sauce to be good, the meat to be good, the bread to be good. I want to make sure it’s done properly, not just quick and fast.”
Elouhabi wakes up soon after sunrise, pours a cup of tea and prepares food throughout the day. Each night, he willingly commutes 20 miles from his residence, which he found to be the only reasonably priced house with a driveway long enough for his food truck. He arrives at his designated spot around 6 p.m. He returns home as late as 4 a.m., or until the law obligates him to close down, just to please students pulling all-nighters.
“Oxford depends on students,” Elouhabi said. “Oxford without students is nothing. Without students, Oxford is just a ghost town or something.”
Over the years, Elouhabi has served such Oxford alumni as Chelsea Clinton in addition to those who became heart surgeons.
Elouhabi, who is in his early 50s, plans to continue running the food truck—alongside his son Muhammad and business partner Ali—for as long as possible.
“I’ve been doing it for years now, so it’s in my heart now. I’ll just carry on until I’m finished. I’m used to it, and I like it.,” Elouhabi said. “When time stops, I stop.”
TAP's Recommended Dish: Chicken strips (marinated in his homemade sauce recipes), chips and cheese; for vegetarians, falafels or chips with cheese.