Female chef listed for top award with project to improve lives of Turkish, Syrian women

Female chef listed for top award with project to improve lives of Turkish, Syrian women

Female chef listed for top award with project to improve lives of Turkish, Syrian women Ebru Baybara Demir, a chef and social entrepreneur from the southeastern province of Mardin, has been selected as one of the 10 finalists of the Basque Culinary World Prize, which is given to chefs who improve society through gastronomy. 

Demir is the first Turkish finalist to be named for the Basque Culinary World Prize with her Harran Gastronomy School Project-Amazon Queens, which is supported by the UNHCR and the Harran district’s governor’s office and aimed to help improve the employability of economically vulnerable Turkish and Syrian women through culinary training.

If Demir wins the award, she will use the prize to establish a permanent gastronomy school which will support local employment and record affluent cuisines’ cultures, according to a press release from her agency on June 23.

The winner will be announced in Mexico on July 18 and the award ceremony will take place in San Sebastian, Spain in October 2017, the release said. 

Demir has been the instructor chef at the project, which was created to protect local values of Harran, record the soon to be forgotten local recipes and ingredients, support the social integration of Syrian refugees and help women to provide for the local economy, it noted. 

“I take pride in being the first Turkish finalist in one of the world’s most prestigious chef competitions, the Basque Culinary World Prize, of the leading kitchen institute Basque Culinary Center, in which every year a chef who blends kitchen talent and creativity, with social responsibility projects to support the community is awarded. What makes me happy, more than the award itself, is that refugee women from Mardin, Urfa and Syria who I struggle to touch and change the lives of, will have the chance to be known worldwide and even more of them will have an opportunity to choose the kitchen as a place of profession by their own talent and effort,” she said. 

If she wins the award of 100,000 euros, Demir will establish a permanent local gastronomy school, aiming to boost employment and eternalize rich cuisines, according to the statement. 

“The biggest problem in our region is unemployment and migration due to uncertainty. The second one is cultural loss. This rich culture faces extinction because Syrians cannot find a platform to pass the culture they brought with them. We want to support both communities to pass on their cultural richness by blending them together and helping them create a job out of the thing they are best at, which is cooking. This is why we plan to establish a gastronomy school in that area to provide employment to the people. If the prize comes to our region, we will finance the school and record the rich kitchen culture to pass it on to the next generations,” she added. 

She founded Cercis Murat Konağı Restaurant, Hayatım Yenibahar and Amazon Queens initiatives, which have created jobs for more than 200 women in need, according to the release. She studied Middle Eastern and traditional Anatolian cuisine for six years to unearth original recipes, register them and teach recipes to her cooks so that they can be passed through for generations to come.