Culinary exchanges

Culinary exchanges

Aylin Öney Tan -
Culinary exchanges

Alan Paton and MSA students

The crowd was anxious to hear. Young chefs were waiting nervously, hoping that their names would be called. The winning team would have a big reward: a trip to Turkey. This was at the “Skills for Chefs” event last July at Sheffield University. As part of the event, a competition was dedicated to encourage talented teams; “Young Restaurant Team of the Year” had a very special treat. They would win a culinary training week in Istanbul, hosted by the MSA-Culinary Arts Academy.


Cem Erol with guest chefs. 

The winners were Martin Lane and Jamie Mallett under the leadership of Alan Paton, the executive chef of Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa. Six months after the gala night, the young toques finally arrived in Istanbul, impatient to discover what the city was about to offer. Cem Erol, head chef of MSA, who masterly prepared an unforgettable Turkish dinner at Sheffield, was going to be their culinary guide and tutor. Actually, the Sheffield experience was a turning point in MSA’s ambitious mission to make Turkish cuisine known in the world. The academy has spent three years developing a special education program called “Turkish Cuisine to the World Movement,” which is aimed at training foreign chefs and bringing Turkish tastes to an international platform. The movement encompasses a wide range of academic and cultural studies, researches and projects. Accredited by the international City & Guilds organization, MSA conducted demonstrations and training sessions in the leading culinary schools within this context, as well as launching an internationally certificated Turkish cuisine program. Previously, the academy had realized a special Turkish dinner at the prestigious culinary school South Downs College. There will be second one; together with a course for Level 3 culinary students on March 24.

It was not only learning for the training chefs. It was a two-way exchange; they also presented their own cuisine and culture to the students of MSA within the “MSA Demo Days” scheme. It was days of mutual experience.

Their Turkish cookery expedition included a visit to the spice market exploring local spices, tasting “lakerda,” the sublime cured bonito at Beyoğlu fish market, and observing the fascinating skill of baklava making in Karaköy. They learned to make several typical dishes ranging from Ezogelin soup, the ubiquitous lentil and rice soup to sakızlı muhallebi, milk pudding with mastic. They tried their skills at rolling mounds of Swiss chard into cigarette-thin dolmas; learned how to properly char eggplants to make the smokiest Hünkar Beğendi, the lamb stew with eggplant puree; let themselves be amazed at the wonders of salep, the orchid root to make the most astonishing ice cream. They also had the opportunity to meet the leading chefs of Turkey and listen to their ideas. After days of intense submersion in the Istanbul culinary scene, the pupils of Paton, at the very beginning of their career, took a giant step into a culinary world that was alien to them just half a year ago.

Bite of the week

Talk of the Week:
Another cultural exchange is taking place at the Consulate General of Greece in Istanbul. Lectures on “Food, Spirits and Gastronomic Traditions in the Eastern Mediterranean” continue to take place every month at the Sismanoglio Megaro in Beyoğlu. This month’s focus is on Byzantine food, with talks by Ilias Anagnostakis (National Hellenic Research Foundation) on “Byzantine Diet: Myths and Realities,” and by Angelos Sikalidis and Aleksandra Kristo (Yeni Yüzyıl University) on “The Old and New Diet of the Aegean Population.” The lectures are free of charge. Jan. 20, 7 p.m.

Event of the Week:
Culinary exchanges of the week include inter-city activities. Last week, Burçak Desombre flew from Istanbul to Ankara to lead an annotated dinner at No: 4 Restaurant prepared by chef Kemal Akman at the Wyndham Hotel. The “Sommelier’s Table” events will continue featuring different wines; the events will include pop-up restaurants within the hotel and whole-day wine classes led by Mehmet Yalçın in the coming days. Check it out at the hotel.

Cork of the Week:

The undiscovered gem of the dinner by Burçak Desombre was from Tomurcukbağ, a delightful Trajan Reserve 2011 Kalecik Karası. Having visited the winery as a resident of Ankara, I was already a fan of the owner, Dr. Sabit Ağaoğlu, but I can say it was a total revelation for my Istanbulite friends. Trajan wine is a totally bio-dynamic wine made from all natural wild yeasts of the terroir, reflecting the true character of the indigenous Kalecik Karası grape, native to Kalecik, just a half an hour’s drive from the Ankara airport.

Fork of the Week:
One taste that baffled the guest chefs from the U.K. was clotted cream from buffalo milk. High-quality buffalo “kaymak” and buffalo yogurt can be found at Manda Yoğurdu, Şair Nedim Caddesi, Çatlak Çeşme sok. No 1/C Beşiktaş; 0212 258 11 41. Their grass-fed buffalo butter is also ideal for your bulletproof morning coffee with butter.