Turkey enters the selection, a source of pride for young Istanbul chefs

“Finally, the Michelin is interested in Turkey!”, we exclaim among the culinary critics of Istanbul.“Because Turkish cuisine is not just kebab”, jokes Aylin Yazıcıoğlu, former head of the Nicoleone of Istanbul’s gourmet restaurants, while the famous French culinary guide is including Turkey in its 2022 edition for the first time. The names of the tables will be revealed in the evening, Tuesday, October 11.

Aylin Yazicioglu, the former chef of Nicole, in October 2022. (Marie-Pierre Vérot RADIO FRANCE)

History – Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire – and geography combine to make Turkey a land of mixed cultures, which inspires Fatih Tutak, the leader of Turk Fatih Tutak. “My main influencehe tells us, it is multiculturalism. Turkey mixes so many cultures. We have Arabs, Circassians, Easterners, Westerners, Roma, Armenians, Jews, Kurds but we are all Turks”.

Chef Fatih Tutak in the kitchen of his restaurant

The signature dish of Fatih Tutak is the Midye Dolma, mussels, inspired by Istanbul street food. But at home, everything is eaten, even the shell. “We only cook with fire because I think real cooking is done over fire, explains the chef. We have different kinds of coals, wood essence to have a good smoky taste”.

For Fatih Tutak, real cooking is over a wood fire.  (Marie-Pierre Verot RADIO FRANCE)

A quest unites young Turkish chefs, that of the product. Blue fish from Marmara, tender lamb from Thrace, pistachios and pomegranates from Gaziantep, corn flour from the Black Sea, sun-drenched tomato from Anatolia, sumak, pepper from Urfa, sesame from Antalya… But also a subtle use of spices, says Aylin Yazicioglu: “The prince of fish, for example, the blue fish of Marmara, is only found in this sea. It is very delicate. That is why in Turkey at the moment you will find fish cooked over a wood fire. Because it’s the aroma of the fish that is tasty. For us, the taste of the product is very important and you should never mask it with spices”.

In the Hodan restaurant, chef Çiğdem Seferoğlu revisits traditional dishes. One of his favorite dishes: the artichoke. It even employs a specialist who monitors harvest dates in each region. “We start with the harvests in Cyprus. The artichokes are particularly tasty in the spring because it is hot there. Then we go back to İzmir, to Urla. And we follow the harvests to the Pamukova region in Bursa. “

The two chefs of the Hodan restaurant Çiğdem Seferoğlu and Hasan Yildiz, in October 2022. (Marie-Pierre Vérot - RADIO FRANCE)

The artichoke thus always arrives fresh and melting on the plate, cooked in oil, then breaded, topped with crunchy peas, dill and mint… Anatolia in season. “What matters, explains Çiğdem, it’s the taste, more than the artistic presentation that Michelin stars demand. I would love to get oneshe adds,but I know it’s also a lot of stress and I wouldn’t want to give up my freedom.”

Michelin Guide 2022: Turkey enters the selection, a source of pride for young Istanbul chefs

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