Gastronomy world gathers in Istanbul for cook-off
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
Nearly 1,500 chefs, 250 of whom are foreigners, will participate in the competition of the Gastronomy Festival.The smells of culinary delights will be wafting from Istanbul’s TÜYAP Fair and Congress Center from today until Feb. 9 as gastronomes from around the world meet for the 11th International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival.
Yalçın Manav, whose All Cooks Federation (TAF) is organizing the festival, said competitions would be organized in 52 categories as part of the event.
As part of the contest, competitors will be asked to prepare a main course, an entrée and a sweet determined by the jury president using materials provided, said Manav, TAF’s chairman.
Manav said nearly 1,500 chefs, 250 of whom are foreigners, would participate in the competition and that 25 more would exhibit their talents in a special competition for chefs with disabilities.
The economic crisis in Europe has impacted the number of chefs attending from the continent, but top cooks from 18 countries are still expected to participate in this year’s gathering, he said.
“The economic crisis has hit festivals, too. We hosted nearly 30-35 countries in the festival every year, but this year we are hosting [chefs from 18] countries. Most of them are from the Balkans. We used to have guests even from South America, Asia and Far East until three years ago,” he said, while adding that Istanbul would still host one of the largest festivals in terms of the number of young chefs and dishes on offer.
Manav said culinary education was insufficient in Turkey, noting that overseas culinary schools typically provided at least two years of education. “This is between three and 10 months in Turkey, and it is too expensive. The education and culture ministries should solve this problem. Students take 10 months of education and pay nearly $12,000. Who can afford it? Gastronomy is a very popular business in the world. It is also an art.”
The chairman also lamented the lack of studies conducted on the culinary arts in Turkey, noting that while 60-70 works might be conducted abroad, this number was only four or five in Turkey due to financial problems. “Istanbul is a city of 14 million people. But there are only seven or eight culinary schools. Italian cuisine, which has nothing but pizza and pasta, is everywhere in the world. We were noted for ‘rakı and shish kebap’ in the past and now it is ‘döner.’ But Turkish cuisine has 1,100 dishes. It is a synthesis of Arab, Far Eastern, European, Iranian and Iraqi cuisines. Eggplant comes from India and you can make 17 types of meals with it. We increased this number to 263 in Turkey.”
Turkish chefs preferred in five-star hotels
In the past, many of the chefs in Turkey’s biggest hotels were foreigners, Manav said. “As a federation, we send our chefs abroad to learn foreign cuisines. Foreign chefs didn’t know [anything except] world cuisine, while Turkish chefs know all the world cuisine. At the moment, the chefs of all the five-star hotels in Istanbul are Turks. Their team is made up of Turks, too. We achieved this within five years.”
The TAF chair said the state and NGOs should focus more on the culinary arts. “We need to promote rich Turkish cuisine abroad. We need to focus particularly on regional dishes. Then we can become number one in the world,” he said. Manav also said “Hünkarbeğendi” (an eggplant dish known as Sultan’s delight) was the most loved Turkish dish abroad. “It has won many awards in competitions abroad. It was followed by ‘karnıyarık’ [another egglplant dish],” he said.
He also said they had prepared 1,515 types of mezes for the Guinness Book of Records in 2010. “No one was able to break this record for three years.”