For the past 6 weeks I've been working closely with the kitchen at Lucca Istanbul learning all about Turkish cuisine. I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the chance to collaborate with Head Chef Tuncay Ucar on dishes for their Fall menu and also showcase my own menus inspired by Anatolian street food on busy nights.
I was told many times by local friends that the Turkish are emotional people and I witnessed a lot of this through my encounters with cooks all over the city. Whether they were working beside me in the Lucca kitchen or serving me a kebap in the Bazaar or even sprinkling the salt on my famous Nusr-et steak, anyone who had a hand in feeding me something was emotionally tied to my response. I learnt that spices were used in one certain way and meats and fish were prepared in one certain way. So being in Istanbul also became an exchange of knowledge when I had the opportunity to cook for my Turkish friends and colleagues, combining asian flavours with fresh and local Turkish ingredients that most only knew how to prepare one certain way.
Overall, food in Istanbul is so much more about the sense of family, tradition and belonging than where you decide to eat and with whom. From Turkish breakfast to Fish and Raki dinners, I am most inspired by the togetherness that meal times made compulsory between old friends and new ones. And I'm so thankful to have been invited to share in such generosity and emotion.
Thank you to my dear friend Brandon Patton for his huge support in making this happen, Lucca Istanbul especially Cem Mirap and Pelin Cakar for opening your doors to me and to Tuncay Ucar along with the entire kitchen team for your eagerness to learn and share so much of your talent through broken communication and google translate!
See you again soon Istanbul!