Döner strikes again!

Döner strikes again!

Döner strikes again

Inevitably, last week, the agenda, especially for Turkish people in Berlin was completely occupied by football and döner kebab. Those two topics are strangely intertwined. While the excitement of the European Football Championship is at its peak, the döner closely follows football in Germany. Not a day goes by without a news item about döner appearing in German newspapers. Now that we did not make it to the semi-finals, the agenda is totally left to the ever-returning topic of the revolving kebab.

Why is this happening? Why can’t we refrain from revisiting the döner issue? Well, both the football fans and players obviously want a taste of it.

Former Galatasaray player Lukas Podolski is on the agenda with the döner chain he opened with his Turkish partner, and it is said that döner earns even more than football. Bild newspaper was shaken up by the order of 300 portions of döner placed in the hotel where the football players were staying.

But the real reason why döner is constantly on the agenda is that it is weeks away from being registered by the EU. The objection period to the pending registration is coming to an end. So far, no party has officially objected to the registration, but it is clear that the debate will continue. Obviously, the EU registration concerns Germany where döner is widely popular; because it will be the authorities in Germany who will oversee and deal with the consequences of the product specification of döner in line with the EU regulations. There are lots of misleading false information going around, so let’s see the forthcoming EU recipe for döner.

How does the application process work?


The registration of döner as a traditional product in Türkiye was made in 2021 with the application of the International Döner Federation UDOFED. The institution granting the registration is the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office, which also registers Geographical Indications.

According to EU registration rules, the application can be made through state institutions or directly by an association of producers. In this case, it was UDOFED that applied for the EU registration. The process works as follows. The applications are examined by the EU within a maximum of 6 months and the approved files are made public for 3 months. If there is no objection within these three months, the registration comes into force, which will be by the end of July.

What is the registration about?


First of all, the registration here is actually about the use of the word döner, and it will be registered as a traditional specialty, not with a national or regional connotation. A frequently misled interpretation is that it will be registered as Turkish döner, which will not be the case. There will be no country or origin registration.

According to the EU Regulation, “Traditional Product” registrations do not require origin features as in “Geographical Indication” registrations. In other words, comparisons in the press such as Roquefort cheese and Champagne are wrong.

Roquefort cheese in France can only be called Roquefort cheese if it is produced in the Roquefort region, and the same is true for Champagne.

In this context, there is also no reference to a locality such as in the case of Neapolitan pizza, which has been registered as a traditional product as a typical taste of Napoli in Italy. In short, only the use of the name döner is within the scope of registration.

What will be the EU recipe for döner?


The application attempts to define the exact description where the word döner can be used and provides a detailed definition of döner as a traditional product.

The döner in Germany is quite different from the one in Türkiye. It is served with plenty of salad and a variety of sauces. However, this point is totally left out, and the focus is on the döner itself. In addition to meat, minced meat and mixed, the not-so-traditional chicken döner is also included, but among poultry meat variations, turkey and others are excluded, while in the Turkish registration, it is allowed. The spec mentions certain spices such as black and white pepper, and red pepper, but no other spices such as cumin etc.

So, how authentic are these döner definitions? Do all local döner kebab places in Türkiye follow these definitions to the letter? In Türkiye, even regional döner varieties with Geographical Indication registration, do not fully match the döner recipe which to be registered by the EU.

How is compliance with the definition of döner measured? How is inspection carried out in Türkiye and how will it be done in Europe? What will the sanctions be if the product does not fit the standards described in the registration document? All are a matter of curiosity. On the other hand, it is worth remembering this. The registration of Neapolitan pizza also caused a lot of controversy in Naples because it included details that were difficult to comply with. A maximum diameter of 35 cm, a center dough of 0.4 cm, a crust height of 2 cm, etc.

Many traditional pizza makers in Naples found the definition too restrictive and removed the word “Neapolitan” from their signs to avoid penalties. The registered communique may be restrictive in practice and, like the Neapolitan pizzerias, Turkish döner makers in Germany may get into trouble and avoid using the name döner to avoid punitive measures.

Future of Döner?


Döner is open to constant change. Young chefs are trying to give döner kebab a new direction, to give it a new class, so to speak. In Berlin, a new wave of kebab restaurants like KWA-Kebap with Attitude are emerging. In Munich, Cihan Anadoloğlu made headlines with his Istanbul-Tokyo-inspired Wagyu meat döner at Hans Kebab, which he sold for 35 euros. It seems that according to the use of the word döner in such new-wave kebab joints may become a problem.

First of all, döner is a concept, a method of cooking. It will evolve, it will change, this is inevitable. It has already evolved into something quite different in Germany compared to the ones in Türkiye.

Moreover, there are variations such as the Greek Gyros, and Arab Shawarma (both meaning revolving) and they have no intention of using the original Turkish word.

Frankly, there are not many people other than Turks who want to use the word döner, and there is no such thing as Germans trying to make a cultural appropriation while it is true that German politicians like to use döner as a peace pipe. There is hardly a German politician who does not hold a döner knife in hand in front of the revolving kebab spit to give the most endearing messages of friendship. So much so that it seems that the bridge of friendship with the Turks is through the knife edge of the razor-thin back of the döner knife.


The future of döner might prove to be dubious with the EU registration, but its symbolic status uniting the peoples of Germany and Türkiye will remain forever.

Aylin Öney Tan, Euro 2024 ,