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FOOD > A chef’s path to Michelin

Aylin Öneytan - aylin.tan@hdn.com.tr

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Tolgar Mireli has been graduated from Bilkent University and travelled in EU.

Tolgar Mireli has been graduated from Bilkent University and travelled in EU.

He stepped out of the kitchen completely knackered. It was a warm December evening - not an oxymoron, as it was Dubai where the December heat reaches almost 35 degrees. Instead of taking a shower and going to bed, he headed to the airport still wearing his chef’s jacket. After a long flight via Munich, he landed at the Mozart airport in Salzburg, where the temperature was below zero.

Without hesitating to spend his hard-earned money on a taxi, he took one, winding up the mountain slopes to reach the small ski-resort of Filzmoos.

There he was, in front of the Hubertus Hotel, just 30 minutes early for his appointment with the most accomplished female chef in Europe, Johanna Maier. Butterflies in his stomach, he shivered. It wasn’t only that he had just a chef’s jacket on, but it was also the thrill of performing at a Michelin-starred restaurant made him dizzy.

The next 11 hours were nightmarishly hectic. He delivered seven courses, all thoughtfully designed and meticulously executed, and presented to the scrutiny of Maier and her two sons. The delightfully refreshing fennel soup was followed by seared scallops with a strangely peppery apple juice-basil foam. The artichoke ravioli had a subtle Mediterranean note. The fresh cod nested on velvety celeriac purée, followed by lamb that belied a distinctly Turkish influence with its accompanying smooth, mashed aubergine. The final was the classic chocolate fondant, done to perfection.

The Maier family kitchen trio looked impressed. It had been a great stress for the young chef, daring enough to take the risk and toil of flying all the way from the land of sand to that of snow.

Now it was time to go back to work. As the cab-driver gently drove downhill, he felt a great relief, gently patting his freshly signed contract. He shivered again, this time because of the cold and the snow all around.

Following the Stars

The hero of this story is Tolgar Mireli, a young and promising chef from Turkey. Born in Ankara in 1985, Mireli had a strenuous early school life, changing eight schools before securing a place in Bilkent University. However, despite being in one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey, nothing seemed right for him, and he felt the need to make a change.
 
Following his instincts, and having the advantage of holding an EU passport through his German grandmother, he enrolled in Bremen Hochschule to study Tourism and Hotel Management. From then on it was a fast track. He came back to Turkey to finish two major chef schools, and then headed to Hamburg, to work as an intern in Le Canard Neuveau, the restaurant of the first ever Michelin-starred Turkish chef, Ali Haydar Güngörmüş.

The next destination was al-Muntaha, the most prestigious restaurant of the legendary seven-starred Hotel Burj al-Arab in Dubai. There, Mireli had the challenge of working with the two-Michelin starred German chef Björn Alexander Patek. This place was unforgiving, every single plate had to be impeccable, and it proved to be an unmatched experience.

One day, as Mireli was browsing through the pages of the book “The 100 Best Restaurants in the World,” he had the wild idea of writing to these restaurants. He sent letters to 40 of them requesting a job. Only Hubertus replied. It seemed insane to leave all that gold and glitter in Dubai, and transfer to a small ski-chalet. However, Johanna Maier had her own appeal, 2-Michelin Stars plus 4-Gault Millau Toques, and her motherly tutorship would surely polish his skills. Hubertus was the right step in a long climb for Mireli to achieve his own stars.

Tolgar was briefly in Ankara, to conduct a workshop in the Chef Akademi as a guest of Chef Ali Açıkgül. When asked, he speaks passionately about his dream to have a restaurant at the top of a tower or in the midst of sea. He will surely achieve his goal. After all, he has already demonstrated the braveness of a Young Turk, plus the discipline and stamina of his German ancestry!

Fork of the Week: When at home, Tolgar whips up a quick tagliatelle, sauteeing garlic and halved cherry tomatoes in good olive oil, adding a handful of rocket leaves and shaved parmigiano. So simple and straightforward!

Cork of the Week: Tolgar adores Chardonnay with pasta, whatever the sauce is. The ideal pick is Vinolus Chardonnay 2011, from Oluş Molu, a Turkish producer with a maternal German connection just like himself (and myself). Her Chardonnay is from Kayseri, where her father is from.

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: When at home, Tolgar whips up a quick tagliatelle, sauteeing garlic and halved cherry tomatoes in good olive oil, adding a handful of rocket leaves and shaved parmigiano. So simple and straightforward!

Cork of the Week:
Tolgar adores Chardonnay with pasta, whatever the sauce is. The ideal pick is Vinolus Chardonnay 2011, from Oluş Molu, a Turkish producer with a maternal German connection just like himself (and myself). Her Chardonnay is from Kayseri, where her father is from.

December/03/2012

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