Serious Seven

Serious Seven

Aylin Öney Tan -
Serious Seven The idea is simple: You ate a lot, now give back! 
This is the theme of a forthcoming food conference titled “Yedi” to be held in Istanbul on Nov. 6. In Turkish, the word “Yedi” has a dual meaning. First, it means the number “seven;” in this case, it stands both for both the seven regions of Turkey and the seven hills of Istanbul (Yes, like Rome, Istanbul is built on seven hills!). The number seven is also considered auspicious in Turkey, having numerous religious attributions to its holiness. Second, it means “ate,” the past tense of the verb “to eat” in the third-person singular form. It seems that the theme and the title of the conference will give another dimension to the good fortune attributed to the number seven, and from now on, it will also stand for a good cause!

Now, first about Yedi: They describe themselves as an Istanbul-based, international food conference, bringing together chefs, producers and opinion leaders for powerful discussions on food and beyond. The foundations of Yedi were first laid at previous events titled “Discover Your Food” held back first as part of Gastro Istanbul in 2014, and later as a conference of its own earlier this year. This time the leading team is a trio (not seven!) of chef Mehmet Gürs of Mikla, Cemre Narin of Condé Nast Traveller Turkey and Sitare Baras of MSA. The reason that they felt the urge to make another conference following one in April was the growing discomfort at the injustice in the food world.

I’ve written about Refettorio of Massimo Bottura previously, the one I witnessed in Milan during Expo 2015 and the one in the favelas of Rio. The good news is that he will be here in Istanbul to tell about his Milan and Rio experiences and his future prospects. It has to be noted that his projects have been sponsored by Grundig (now owned by leading Turkish company Arçelik), which is also the sponsor of the event. 

The list is impressive. I’m especially anxious to hear about the prison project of Alberto Crisci. My special interest is due to my own experiences in such projects, as our group in the Ankara slow food community has conducted and contributed to two projects in the Ankara prisons of Sincan and Ayaş in recent years. The one at Sincan was a Terra Madre presentation, and the one in Ayaş was part of a multi-national prison project for slow food. It also brings back the memories of an ever-to-be-remembered, shocking talk at Oxford Symposium on food and cookery in the year of food and morality. It was about the wishes for a last meal on the part of death penalty prisoners. I still cannot forget the faces and accompanying pictures of food they ate in their final meal. I wish there were also one of these anonymous humble directors of Anatolian prison restaurants, one of many, talking about their own experiences. Nobody seems to recognize these institutions in Turkey, as Turkish prison restaurants are more like cheap eateries far from fine-dining places, only appreciated by budget-concerned locals. At least, I’m happy that I can meet him in person and have a few words on prison experiences. 

The heartbreaking story of Ayşe Tükrükçü is hard to swallow, a woman who was raped at the tender age of 9 by her own uncle, taken away from her family to enter the child service system, sold into prostitution by her husband and forced to work for seven (yes seven again!) brothels before remarrying a client. Following a divorce, however, she ended up homeless, surviving on the streets before eventually being helped by the NGO Şefkat-Der. After all these hardships, she became a volunteer with the civil initiation that helped her. She is now the driving force to help her homeless, fate-struck street friends with the “Soup to the Homeless” project, preparing and offering soup to the homeless and needy around Taksim. Her story somehow falls close to another “Small Project” led by Karyn Thomas to support Syrian refugees in Istanbul. Karyn seeks the opportunity to provide refugee girls with access to education after it was abruptly terminated because of the war in Syria. 

Last but maybe the foremost of crucial talk is by Arash Derambash. He is the man that made France ban plastic cups, plates and cutlery, and the hero behind the legislation to oblige supermarkets in France to give their waste to charities and food banks. Actually above all, this might be the sole project to save the planet. The one and maybe the only way to save the planet is to prevent waste, and his effort is strikingly influential beyond imagination. I hope his influence will inspire many in Turkey, and help us get rid of the garbage we can no longer sustain!

List of Speakers:
Alberto Crisci – The Clink, U.K. 
Arash Derambarsh – Councilor, Courbevoie, France 
Ayşe Tükrükçü – Hayata Sarıl Foundation, Turkey  
Defne Koryürek – Fikir Sahibi Damaklar, Slow Food, Turkey 
Deniz Ova – İKSV İstanbul Design Biennale, Turkey  
Ebru Baybara – Hayatım Yeni Bahar, Turkey 
Jock Zonfrillo – Orana Foundation, Australia 
Karyn Thomas – Small Projects Istanbul, Turkey 
Lars Charas – Feeding Good, Netherlands 
Massimo Bottura – Food for Soul, Italy  
Mert Fırat – ihtiyacharitası.org, Turkey 
Ronni Kahn – Oz Harvest, Australia  
Sasha Correa – Basque Culinary Center, Spain 
Yörük Kurtaran – Istanbul Bilgi Univ., Sivil Toplum için Destek Foundation, Turkey 

On Nov. 6, we will all be inspired to “Give Back!”  

Date: November 6, 2016 
Venue: Babylon / bomontiada Istanbul
14 talks, 20 minutes each
300 attendees - F&B industry, local and international press, opinion leaders
Tickets available at Biletix for 150 Turkish Liras for full attendance, including breakfast, lunch and dinner with full attendance at all talks. The event will be a unique opportunity to be in the presence of the most influential heroes who are “giving back.”
Most talks will be delivered in English; otherwise, there will be simultaneous translation.