Star stories

Star stories

Aylin Öney Tan -
Star stories Just a week after writing my impressions about the culinary scene in Barcelona, I’m getting excited about seeing three stellar chefs from Spain in Istanbul this weekend on Dec. 10. Having Albert Adrià, Elena Arzak and Andoni Luis Aduriz around a table and listening to their stories, is beyond my imagination. Be prepared to learn about their past, high and low points in their career (both Adrià ard Aduriz failed in school), hear about their future scopes and share their hopes for the future. And it’s not only three of them, there is much more!
Imagine a table where the stars of the culinary world come together - that is what “GastroMasa” is about.

“Masa” means “Table” in Turkish, giving its name to Turkey’s first gastronomy conference convening culinary professionals from Turkey and world-famous chefs together, experiencing and tasting Turkish cuisine and sharing their stories, passions and dreams with their Turkish colleagues. The conference was initiated in 2015, though the initial gathering was rather small-scale, it was an instant hit in the culinary scene in Istanbul. Surely, the contribution of exciting names like Christian Escribà, Johanna Maier and Sergi Arola had been instrumental in the popularity of the first year’s event. 

This year, Gastromasa 2016’s theme is “Story” and its international guests include many star names in addition to Adrià, Arzak and Aduriz. Among the speakers will be Lima de Luca, Brazil’s popular steak chef; Antonio Carluccio, the founder of Carluccio’s in London; Gianluca Fusto, the globally famous Italian pastry chef; Regis Marcon, the chef of Regis & Jacques Marcon, one of the foremost contemporary restaurants of France; and Mason Florence, the South Asia representative of the prestigious “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” award.

Young and internationally successful Turkish chefs from around the globe will also be among the guests: Fatih Tutak, the executive chef of Bangkok W Hotel’s The House on Sathorn restaurant, and Somer Sivrioğlu, the founder and chef of Australia’s most popular award-winning Turkish restaurants Efendy and Anason. Sivrioğlu uses Anatolian inspirations to create new tastes, and he is a great success in the other end of the world, with both of his restaurants frequented by the food connoisseurs and bonne viveur. Sivrioğlu’s “Anatolia:

Adventures in Turkish Cooking,” co-authored with Australian journalist and food scholar David Dale has also become a great accomplishment, a gem of a reference book on Anatolian cuisine with wonderful photos.

The German contribution to the conference comes from two talented, self-made Turkish chefs Serkan Güzelçoban and Ali Güngörmüş, two of the only three Turkish chefs holding a Michelin star. The first Turkish chef to be awarded with a Michelin star, Ali Güngörmüş is the owner of the Hamburg-based restaurant Le Canard Nouveau. He was born in Tunceli and immigrated to Munich with his family as a child. He started out with the most modest of opportunities, being educated in a culinary technical school, but his talent made him shine quickly. Güngörmüş also has a restaurant called Pageou, named after his village Pago in Tunceli. 

The other Michelin starred chef from Turkey, Serkan Güzelçoban, has a deeply touching and intriguing story.

He is the founder of the restaurant Handicap, staffed mostly by mentally and physically disabled personnel, in Künzelsau, 45 minutes away from Stuttgart. Handicap is a special place, not just because of its handicapped staff, but also with its challenging menu inspired by Anatolia, the chef’s homeland. He admits that at the very start, his intention had not been to do Anatolian inspired dishes, but an unexpected visit of his father to the restaurant showed him the way he should go. Totally unimpressed by the food, his father asked him one question: “What is this on the plate? What do you think you’re doing?” Brought up with the tasty food cooked by his mother, all of a sudden he realized that there was no way to satisfy his father’s highly developed palate with the rather plain restaurant grub he was trying to serve. He decided to make a drastic change and called up his mother to ask for the “tarhana” soup recipe from their native town Denizli in Turkey, a nostalgic taste of his childhood. That was the life-changing turn, he started to serve dishes what he describes as “East meets West,” or may be “Turkey meets Germany”, just like his own self. Restaurant business is very stressful, more so working with disabled people, but easygoing and the positive nature of Güzelçoban made Handicap a great success with his unique team. He says there have been several moments of despair, because a disabled person can completely forget how to do a plate that has been practiced hundreds of times, but then every time such a mishap occurs, he thinks, “What if this happened to me, or to my child?” He manages to overcome tough times with positive thinking and smilingly added “The reward of their success is priceless.”  

Serkan found his own voice through food and created a story worth sharing with others. Each chef attending GastroMasa has weaved their own stories, created their own narratives, and that is how they achieved that star quality. Food is about people, about place, and about creating new stories to tell others. Time to listen to the stories of the stars!

Note: This year’s Gastromasa will be taking place at the CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel on Dec. 10. Over 600 professionals, including chefs and restaurateurs, will represent more than 40 countries at the event. Tickets are available on