Aylin Öney Tan - firstname.lastname@example.orgHis name translates as “Happy.” True to his name, the guy seems to be a happy guy. He has a constant smile, especially when he talks about how he landed in cooking in the first place. As a commis waiter toiling hard carrying chairs and tables here and there, he thought that life in the kitchen would be easier. What a mistake! The true agony had begun; but he was lucky, his new chosen path quickly led him to places he did not dream of before, including the legendary Paul Bocuse School in Lyon.
Mutlu Şevket Yılmaz is the winner of the Bocuse d’Or competition in Turkey. He has his own small restaurant in Alanya, named Seasons, a modest place with ambitious food. He previously studied at the Antalya Tourism Vocational School and later graduated from the Gastronomy Department of Akdeniz (Mediterranean) University. His family and his Norwegian girlfriend have always been very supportive of him; actually it might be through his girlfriend’s Norwegian connection that he decided to work with Adrian Løvold, from a former winning Norwegian team. Nowadays, he is getting ready for the European finals to take place in Budapest on May 10-11. He’s been working hard at Gastronometro, the new gastronomy center at the Metro Cash & Carry headquarters. Gastronometro has an exact replica of the Bocuse competition kitchen built en situ, complete with all the cameras to watch over all his actions.
This year the main obligatory ingredients are chosen from the host country, Hungary – which are unfortunately completely strange to Mutlu’s usual kitchen supplies; they include sterlet fish and Hungarian red deer. As Turkey director Kubilay Özerdem stated, Metro has been supportive of the young chef and has provided him both food items alien to Turkish cooking so that he would have the opportunity to practice cooking techniques with them. This seems to be a disadvantage for the Turkish competitor, especially compared to the host country’s contestant, Tamas Szell, now competing for a second time and advantageously familiar with both ingredients. However, one strong point Mutlu has is he is living on a coastline squeezed between mighty mountain ranges and the sea. His inspiration will likely come from the formidable Taurus Mountains, an amazing source of wild ingredients ideal for matching deer meat, and needless to say, he has good command of the fresh breeze of the Mediterranean flavors that will enliven the rather bland fresh water river fish sterlet.
Last week, I had the opportunity of meeting Mutlu to talk about the potentials of the wild tastes of the Taurus range. I had previously studied the food and cuisine of the region extensively for the Antalya City Museum Gastronomy Section due to open next year, so I had some strong ideas in mind. To my delight, he was also playing with the same ideas, thinking about all the wild foraged tastes; he was a little bit short in putting together the historical context and story part of it, but his ideas on the taste combinations and pairings were spot on.
Last week his first test was before a group of food writers. He proved to be confident in execution; now, the next step is to perfect the dishes he has in mind and convey the story behind his ideas to the jury. Hopefully Mutlu will have happy results in Budapest, just as his name suggests, paving his way to the world finals in Lyon.