It took Turkish chef Fatih Tutak years of travelling and experimenting with global cuisines before realising that what he really wanted to cook was the food of his homeland. Today, as chef patron of TURK, he brings his vision of New Turkish cuisine to life.
Traditional Turkish food is the legacy of the country’s unique position straddling both Europe and Asia combined with its complex history. Legions of conquering empires have left their mark on the landscape, with layers of diverse influences and cultures cultivated on the country’s fertile soil. With this rich culinary foundation, it’s little wonder that superstar chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi calls Turkish cuisine “one of the most exciting and accomplished in the world.” And in Fatih’s hands, with a CV that includes a four-month stagiaire in Tokyo at three Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin and stints in Copenhagen at Noma under Rene Redzepi, this is most certainly the case.
Fatih’s vision for TURK was born during his 2015 tenure as Director of Culinary Operations at Bangkok’s The Dining Room of The House on Sathorn, when he served a one-off tribute dish he called “From my Mom.” Starring his take on manti (Turkish dumplings), guests were blown away: this was his Eureka! moment. It was time to explore his roots and motherland, it was time to go home. “I needed to smell, touch, and feel the real Turkey, to be part of the people. The only way to feed my mind and heart was to go back,” he says.
Fatih’s home city of Istanbul is a wondrous place, and he is the most charming guide. In order to bring his vision for TURK to life, Fatih shares some of his foodie city secrets. Where best to start than Istanbul’s world-famous markets?
Labyrinthine streets, alive with organised chaos, buzz with the hustle of specialist traders who deal in everything from organ meat (roast goat heads are displayed with finesse) to olives, energised by street food bites such as mussels stuffed with rice. This is where one can appreciate the culinary diversity for which Istanbul is famous. It’s also where Fatih has sought inspiration for some of his menu, explaining how said snack of mussels and rice is reimagined at TURK with tamarind and seaweed, nestled inside a delicate shell-shaped squid ink tuile. Over in the spice market, we’re directed to Hayfene at no 51, his preferred spice and nut merchant selling pistachios as big as raw emeralds and magic blends of seasoning that evoke the punchy scent of Turkish kitchens.