The sound of waves
The sea is a miraculous thing. Waves washing sandy shores or hitting rocky cliffs must be among the most hypnotic scenes that captivate people. Waves evoke the sense of eternal repetition, the life cycle, the essence of a human’s helplessness against nature. They also spike feelings of love, create a cradle for romance and surely inspire creativity. Waves carry messages, sometimes spiritually and sometimes in a bottle. Waves are inspirational.
That is what exactly happened to Luca Pronzato about two years ago during a weekend in Lisbon where he watched the waves clashing the shores. At the time, he was still working at the game-changer Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, and was traveling with another Noma employee. While talking about all the colleagues they met over the years, it suddenly occurred to him that creating a platform bringing all of them together to share their vision would be a brilliant idea. How wonderful would it be to have a series of pop-ups popping everywhere around the globe, with young talented chefs on board, offering them a stage to shine. He perfectly knew how many young talents were toiling as line cooks in the kitchens, each of them full of ideas and inspirations, but rarely having the chance to put their ideas on the plate, let alone having their own audience. He himself was one of them.
Most of the creations of celebrated restaurants are the work of only a few people, but many others in the kitchen brigade never get the opportunity to try their chances on the creativity front. Many remain in the chorus forever, never being able to sing their own songs. Of course, dropping off their team and opening their own places is always an option, but finding the time and finance remains an obstacle. The need for investments and pressure of success is nerve-racking, and very few find a path to follow on their own. Fixated to the waves, Pronzato dreamt of a model that would give a stage to those young talents full of excitement and ideas and also possessing tremendous experience and expertise in chef skills.
That’s how the first ONA was born at Costa da Caparica near Lisbon very soon after the idea was conceived, literally even before the foam of the waves resumed to still water. As the idea came with the waves, hence the name ONA; the word “ona” means “wave” in Catalan.
And, of course, it did not remain just a creative hub for chefs. It also became a platform for the local producers to have the stage. Having worked at Paris bistros since the age of 16 and also at his parents’ family-owned delicatessen shop in Paris from a young age, he knew well the importance of quality produce and how important it is to support them. Same with the small boutique wineries, especially the upcoming natural wine producers. Wherever the waves would bring them, their motto would be to find about local tastes, products, cooking techniques and dishes, and learn about the local culture in general, a continual learning process seeking inspiration. Of course, local artisans and artists were not exempt from this cultural creativity hub. Artisanal pottery and tableware would adorn tables, overall design carrying a local flair. Together with all the chefs, sommeliers, waiters, producers, farmers, contributors, designers and artisans, they now call themselves “WE ARE ONA,” with each new pop-up adding a new crew on board.
After the first one in Lisbon, the consecutive waves that hit the gastronomy world were in unexpected places far away from shores. The ones in ski resorts in Zermatt or Basel warmed guests around an open fire. A transformed rooftop Paris apartment overlooking “Toits de Paris” offered a breakfast or teatime tasting menu only. Each new ONA had another concept and flair without comprising quality and giving ultimate attention to detail. The type of cuisine is quintessentially fine dining, with each guest chef bringing in his or her own style. The kitchen always has different influences, with a mix of local and global as well as traditional and modern cooking techniques.
Now the breaking news is that ONA has reached the Turkish shores of the Aegean Sea. This weekend ONA Anhinga Beach opened in Kaplankaya, situated north of Bodrum, south of Didim and set along a secluded wild stretch of the Aegean coastline. The team includes exciting names. Spanish head chef Nicolau Pla Gomez has a background in the kitchens of Frenchie, Celler de Can Roca, Clare Smyth, and the Istanbul dining scene will remember Turkish sous chef Aykut Doğanok from the former Nicole restaurant. Giorgia Castagna will be the Restaurant Manager in charge. I hope this Turkish coast ONA wave will connect people, convey messages and create a bond between culinary cultures of countries afar.
The best is to listen to the sound of the wave and keep following the waves; they may bring you to unexpected places. Rumor has it that the next wave will hit Mexico, and who knows, a few Turkish tastes may travel there with these waves, after all, tacos al pastor has roots in Turkish Döner Kebab.
Cork of the week: The cork selection is left to Sommelier Lucy Rosedale; we already know that she compiled an exciting list. Another exciting news is that the first Mezcal Bar in Turkey is also within the premises of Anhinga Ona Kaplankaya. Experienced mixologist Vedat Akar will be responsible for the mezcal bar, and Çağrı Özkapı will be in charge for all the Aegean cocktail drinks.
Art of the week: It is not only about food and plates. Art is an integral part of ONA at Kaplankaya. Established in 2015 in Balat, Istanbul, the international contemporary art gallery called The Pill is hosting a pop-up gallery along with a pop-up restaurant. In this special selection, there are works by world-famous sculptor Marion Verboom titled Achronies & Tectonies, the latest works titled Salad Cake by Turkish artist İrem Günaydın and fragmented sculptures of Ugo Schiavi. Throughout the summer, Mexican artist Pablo Dàvila will be exhibiting his works in different setups with interventions that will be tailored for the space.