Turkish cuisine vs. world cuisine in eyes of famous executive chefs

19th, 2012
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 Bringing together flavors from Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan countries, Turkish cuisine has drawn huge interest from people around the world in the past few years.

The growing demand for its cuisine is directly related to the growing popularity of Turkey, which has recently been referred to as the “rising star” of its region. Executive chefs of famous Turkish hotels, however, are seemingly divided into two camps over the success and popularity of Turkish cuisine. While some define it as one of the best cuisines in the world, others believe it is neither well known nor preferred by foreign gourmets. We visited İstanbul’s prominent hotels and asked their executive chefs about their opinions on Turkish cuisine.
Chef Eyüp Kemal Sevinç of Marriott Hotel Asia said around 80 percent of the hotel’s guests are foreigners who want to sample Turkish cuisine on their first day. “There are Italian, German and French executive chefs as well as Turkish ones in famous İstanbul hotels, which means visitors taste Turkish meals cooked by those foreign cooks,” Sevinç noted.
According to Uğur Alpaslan of Çırağan Palace’s Tuğra Restaurant, Turkish cuisine is the best among all cuisines. “They say Turkish cuisine is among the three best cuisines in the world. I don’t agree. For me, Turkish cuisine is the best. But we have a marketing problem. We are not good at marketing our cuisine in foreign countries,” he said.
However, the experienced executive chef complained that Turkish cooks do not love working. “What we see all around the country are similar meals. We have to work more and develop ourselves. We have to find the forgotten meals of our culture. This cannot be managed through individual efforts. It should be a state policy. I also object to calling our meals by foreign names. We call mantı ‘Turkish ravioli.’ Why do we need such a thing? Call our meals by their original names. Europeans should hear the original names of our meals,” Alpaslan remarked.
Zeki Kalaycı, the executive chef of the Hyatt Regency İstanbul, underlined that Turkish cuisine has grown more popular in foreign countries as Turkish cooks have started to be employed at famous hotels. “There were foreign cooks in hotels. Now there are also Turkish cooks. I believe Turkish cuisine has started to draw more interest in the world. The world has started to know Turkish cuisine. It may be a bit different to people at first as Turkish cuisine comes from a different culture. But the difference is forgotten once our meals are tasted,” he added.
Some famous chefs, however, do not agree that Turkish cuisine is popular and successful enough to compete against other famous cuisines in the world.
Mehmet Gök of the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, for example, regrets that Turkish cuisine is not well known in the world. “The main reason is that we do not have very qualified chefs. Those who have qualifications do not have any experience abroad. Thus, hotels employ famous foreign cooks. And, when one talks about Turkish cuisine, what pops into the minds of foreigners is kebab. What Turkish cooks do in Europe is serve kebabs to foreigners. We wanted to launch a campaign to introduce Turkish cuisine to Europe but did not receive assistance from our embassies,” Gök complained.
An Italian executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, Fabio Brambilla, claimed that Turkish cuisine can rank seventh or eighth among all other cuisines. “Turks have a different style of cooking. All meals are original; they are not like any other cuisine. But I don’t think Turkish cuisine is among the top world cuisines,” he said.
Eyüp Kemal Sevinç from the Marriott Hotel agreed, adding that Turks would deceive themselves if they believed that Turkish cuisine is the best. “We say Turkish cuisine is among the four best cuisines in the world. But when you observe the situation from outside, you will see that this is not true. We are evaluating the issue of cuisines in a nationalist manner. If we do so, then we will deceive ourselves,” he remarked.
When it comes to discussing whether foreign chefs are as successful as their counterparts in Turkey in cooking Turkish meals, the divergence of opinion becomes more evident.
Turkish chefs believe foreign cooks cannot be very successful in Turkish cuisine no matter how experienced they are in the field. According to Four Seasons at the Bosphorus’ Brambilla, cooking a delicious meal is related to the DNA of a cook. “I may not cook dolma as successfully as a Turkish cook. It is something related to the DNA. But I can cook many Turkish meals successfully. The meals of a country can be cooked best by that culture’s own cooks. Anyways, I do my best,” he remarked.
The executive chef of the Hilton İstanbul, Andreas Scheuregger, on the other hand, approached the discussion from a different angle and said no cook on earth would cook as successfully as mothers. “No executive chef would cook traditional Turkish meals as deliciously as a Turkish mother. I believe Turkish cuisine has grown more popular over the years. The main reason is that it has a wide range of flavors,” Scheuregger said.
Resource: Today’s Zaman

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