Istanbul’s chefs may not get the same international recognition as their counterparts in other parts of the world, but that makes them more of a hidden treasure than normal. Each of the Turkish chefs you will find below brings their own unique story to this ever-changing and historical kitchen of Anatolia. Whether traditional or authentic, the distinctive flavors that these magicians create are matchless.
In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to 12 of Istanbul’s best-known and skilled chefs who are turning out fantastic food for locals and visitors alike.
Civan Er is the owner and executive chef of Yeni Lokanta.
Considering his restaurant is translated as ‘New Restaurant,’ it’s no surprise that Er is notorious for his modern dishes. His success has him opening a branch in Soho, London. The original Istanbul branch, however, houses locally sourced produce with a chic vibe. Each dish will excite different aspects of your tastebuds simultaneously: from combining sweet and sour, savory and sweet; Er is a master in stunning the palate.
Er is the conductor of the most harmonious dishes. To err may be human, but Er’s dishes are divine.
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Musa Dağdeviren is the owner and executive chef of Çiya Sofrası.
Dağdeviren is perhaps one of the fascinating chefs to arise from Turkey. Born to an agricultural family of farmers and bakers, and as the youngest of six siblings, he grew up by his mother’s side. It wasn’t just learning the classics from his mother, but his older brother’s second-hand bookstore ignited a love of reading, philosophy, sociology, and social sciences within him.
After traveling to various countries and all around Anatolia, Dağdeviren finally understood his purpose: to create an ethnographic museum that would resemble an antique shop or a second-hand bookstore – but this time for “artisan food.” In an effort to build his dream, he has spent two decades searching Turkey’s far-flung hamlets for traditional recipes and agricultural products that are being lost to modernization.
He also successfully transformed the underestimated kebabs and lahmacuns into a high-class experience with Bach, Chopin, and Vivaldi playing in the background.
Although his restaurant has a very home-like feel, it is evident why he has been described as a “people’s chef, historian, and cultural ambassador.” Perhaps that’s why he was sought out for Netflix’s documentary “Chef’s Table.”
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Müge Ergül is the executive chef of Sanayi 313.
If living in the moment was the philosophy of the kitchen, then Ergül would be the guru we’d all be following.
Sanayi 313, the famous restaurant in Istanbul’s auto parts district, has so many green plants as a reflection of the chef’s motto: from farm to table. Ergül’s healthy, seasonal dishes make an excellent detour from the typical high-dining kitchens.
Ergül’s food is the ultimate detox, and she readily provides vegetarians a taste of that high life. Reducing food waste, this ecological gastronomic experience will have you feeling as fabulous as your tastebuds feel.
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Mehmet Gürs is the owner and executive chef of Mikla.
This is the promised land of milk and honey. Or, at least, Anatolian raw milk cheese and honey.
Gürs has undoubtedly earned his reputation as being one of Istanbul’s most recognizable chefs. Perhaps his exotic concoctions are the result of his Finnish-Turkish roots, but we think it’s exciting as to how he pairs octopus with pickled apples or pumpkin dessert with saffron ice cream or even the traditional sütlaç with apple sorbet.
Gürs has a highly refined vision. Not to mention that each dish is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s paintings. The restaurant hosts scenic views; however, if the starry, starry night of Istanbul doesn’t take your breath away, the inspired dishes certainly will.
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Arda Türkmen is the owner and executive chef of Mükellef.
With his cute smile, it would be easy to underestimate this baby-faced chef. He’s not only renowned for his work as a TV chef, judging the ambitious amateurs, but also for being the first choice of non-Turkish celebrities visiting this country. If you can’t get your hands on his cookbook, then you should undoubtedly visit his restaurant to see the proof in his puddings.
Each of his flamboyant dishes is like a 3D sculpture. However, his truly impressive feat is fragrant spices that he’s become accustomed to using, from coriander to nutmeg to star anise. Courageous in the course of trying different things, his palate may scream Errol Flynn, but his cooking style is as precise as Gordon Ramsey. However, he’s a nicer, far more patient, and gentlemanly version. It’s no wonder why he’s Turkey’s favorite.
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Maksut Aşkar is the owner and executive chef of Neolokal.
Aşkar’s rise is so legendary that we wouldn’t be surprised if a culinary star ascended to the heavens to celebrate his birth. Aşkar knew his destiny was to bring a touch of modernity to the complex Anatolian kitchen. So much so that he began studying hospitality and tourism from high school all the way to university.
Neolokal is a neologism of the words ‘neo’ (new) and ‘local,’ so it’s no surprise he is lovingly renovating his mother’s traditional flavors. The winner of Time Out Istanbul’s “Chef of the Year” award in 2014, Aşkar also gives back to his community by teaching at Özyeğin University, being an active member of Turkey’s Slow Food, and even promoting his beloved Anatolian cuisine by hosting collaboration dinners.
The only explanation for his not being greeted by a star at birth would be that he is the rising star. If you want culinary satisfaction, you may need to make a wish upon this star.
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Sezai Erdoğan is the executive chef of Tuğra Restaurant at Çırağan Palace Kempinski.
The views by the windows are as astounding as the décor of Tuğra Restaurant. It’s just the interior design nor the plates that are Ottoman-inspired; Erdoğan’s menu perfectly complements the Palace-styled restaurant. Erdoğan has clearly delved into the historic records to bring alive Turkey’s history.
This indulgent restaurant is a staggeringly romantic spot making it perfect for anniversaries or even surprise proposals. Inheriting the tastes of a proud empire, Erdoğan brings Turkish culture to the forefront with his authentic recipes.
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Ercan Yamantürk is the executive chef of IST TOO at Shangri-La Bosphorus.
Yamantürk’s inimitable style fuses Turkish cuisines with world cuisines. It’s not just silk road countries like India and Japan but also a touch of European excellence are all united to bring forward a taste that would be impossible to find elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the 21 years of experience, or perhaps Yamantürk has an artistic soul; either way, he succeeds in innovating the customs of eras long passed. Despite the decadent menu, the hint of discipline emanates from each inspired dish.
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Can Oba is the owner and executive chef of Can Oba restaurant.
It’s not just the stunning interior that’ll move your senses. Each dish arrives on your table as though Da Vinci himself painted it. Beautiful, colorful, but, most of all, creative. The cheese served with the fig may as well have been served on Mount Olympus. Extraordinarily, the executive chef, Can Oba, is not just a visionary, but he’s also an exceptional host. Passionate about every dish, you may find yourself listening to the romantic legend behind every morsel.
What’s more impressive is that all of these dishes are created without the help of a basketball team of cooks in the kitchen. Each dish is a gastronomical marvel. This modest restaurant is nothing less than a fairy-tale, and its host, Can Oba, is nothing more than just a breath of fresh air.
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Aylin Yazıcıoğlu is the executive chef of Nicole.
At first glance, you may find yourself transfixed by Yazıcıoğlu’s happy yet sophisticated demeanor. After trying her food, however, you will know that she was born to cook. Introduced into the world of flavors by her mother, there is a tale behind each dish. A genius approach to portion control, Yazıcıoğlu’s kitchen is about giving your tastebuds a sample of each appetizing story.
Acknowledging that the zenith of international cuisine is the French kitchen, Yazıcıoğlu doesn’t shy away from the scrumptious tastes of the Turkish kitchen. Combining the French methods with homegrown, seasonal produce metamorphosis Yazıcıoğlu menu into a distinctive amalgamation that is highly Turkic in its character. Turkey is a country filled with varying ethnicities assimilating into one identity, which Yazıcıoğlu seems to tap into unconsciously.
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Deniz Temel is the owner and executive chef of Alaf Restaurant.
Inspired by nature, Temel first entered the kitchen at the tender age of 15. Mingling with people of different ethnicities, Temel brings a touch of authenticity to the richness of the diverse cultural dishes. Exploring each season, each corner of Turkey, each culture, Temel brings forth his life story through an enriching, sensory kitchen.
He is one of the most respected chefs in Turkey, and he has a long history of experience with Anatolian cuisine. After establishing Alancha restaurant in Istanbul and Alaçatı, he continues to offer his culinary abilities at his new venue Alaf restaurant.
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Luigi Mariconda is the executive chef of Paps Italian.
There are many knock-offs of that Italian taste, but not at Paps Italian. The authentic taste that Mariconda brings to Istanbul is adapted to the Turkish taste without losing any of that specialness.
Hailing from Naples, Mariconda has brought his time-honored family recipes to the heart of Istanbul. All the fresh ingredients are sourced from all over Turkey and cooked with traditional techniques. Nonetheless, choosing between the vibrant colors of the sourdough pizzas or the diverseness of the salads will be a demanding task. It’s not just the food. Choosing between rich wines or mind-blowing cocktails will be an arduous task. Once you’ve chosen, you can sit back and soak in the intimately Italian atmosphere.
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Fatih Tutak is the owner and executive chef of Turk Fatih Tutak.
Last, but definitely not least. Like the hero of an epic romantic saga, Tutak has unrelenting energy when it comes to food. His perfectionist drives to create the ultimate gastronomical experience is perhaps the result of his never-ending curiosity. Exploring (and cooking) the world, Tutak realized that he was really on a journey to discover himself and his roots. We have the fortune of being able to witness such creativity at his restaurant.
Tutak’s underlying goal is that food should touch the heart first, as taught by his mother. Whether he is an idealist or visionary, it can confidently be said that he is constantly exceeding all limitations by combining his creativity with local, healthy ingredients from passionate producers.
If you want to experience tasting the results of a dreamer, ensure you make reservations as the Turk Fatih Tutak restaurant is only open for a handful of hours between Tuesday and Saturday.
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We hope that this blog post will inspire your next dining experience and you have enjoyed reading about the celebrity Turkish chefs in Istanbul. If you are looking for chef restaurants in Istanbul, consider trying one of these top-notch establishments.
For those who are interested, we offer food tours throughout Istanbul where our guides provide insight into the culture and history behind each dish served. You can find out more on our website or simply call us at any time!
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