Mevlüt Özkaya, Deniz Temel, and Serkan Aksoy are three chefs who possess a global vision whilst maintaining deep ties to local products, food cultures, and their own cultural heritage. Their paths take them across Anatolia, through local heritage. Sometimes, they faithfully recreate classic recipes, striving to bring out the finest qualities of each ingredient. On other occasions, they put their own spin on these traditional recipes using their expertise and cooking styles. And at times, they invent entirely new dishes that showcase specific ingredients.
Mevlüt Özkaya – Mürver
Although Chef Mevlüt Özkaya has been the executive chef of Mürver for two years, he has been honing his culinary skills since the age of 16. He embarked on his gastronomic journey by collaborating with various chefs and gaining experience in different kitchens, working in every part of them. While attending the tourism vocational high school, he felt most at home in the kitchen department – it was the most enjoyable, vibrant, and visually captivating part of his education. By the time he completed his on the job trainings, he was enchanted by the mesmerizing world of cooking. Before long, he decided to pursue a career doing just that. He was born in the colourful tourism capital that is Antalya and began his career there. However, his roots are from neighbouring Isparta.
He is among the young chefs who have adopted an ingredient-oriented approach to work. He makes and presents dishes that highlight the main ingredient without damaging its DNA in any way. He firmly believes in using only local ingredients that are in season and he applies that in the kitchen. To him researching and scouting out local ingredients and knowing what to do with them is important as the ingredients themselves.
One who is raised in Anatolia’s gastronomic culture and food for centuries generally finds it easy to keep abreast of next-generation cooking and R&D techniques. As such a person, Mevlüt is always looking for ways to translate the memories of the food from his youth into his cuisine and implements the equivalents of world trends in our geography.
Everything inspires Özkaya: food markets, conversations with friends, travels, social media…. you name it. Stumbling upon a new ingredient excites him no end but the challenge of transforming that ingredient into a sustainable menu item is where his real passion lies. His desire to explore more of Anatolia knows no bounds.
He regards his own generation as being more prolific than those before him. They may have cracked open the window to the world, but he is determined to fling it wide open!
Deniz Temel - AlafA native of Mersin, Chef Deniz Temel’s culinary journey began at the age of 13 apprenticing alongside his dad’s friend, a fisherman, while attending the tourism vocational high school. He’s been a chef for 11 years now.
He describes his own gastronomic repertoire in two ways. First: discovering the ingredients and then combining them using techniques known only to him. The whole notion of creating something new enthralls him. Second: deconstructing, strengthening, and recombining traditional dishes – that is, learning a classical recipe and re-making it from the best possible ingredients. He doesn’t reinterpret it; rather, he makes it sing.
What he enjoys the most when developing his repertoire is discovering what he can do with ingredients with the potential to generate income for an entire region or city apart from making local dishes. However, his true magic lies in using just the right techniques and timing to combine and present the ingredients perfectly, without altering them in any way. He also likes to turn food into a game that plays out through the texture of the food or a hidden message concealed within. But his two biggest sources of inspiration are travel and ingredients.
He employs what he’s learned from other restaurants both here in Türkiye and around the world to highlight his ingredients, and – more importantly – preserve them. He’s always seeking new ways to add value to and elevate the ingredients in his kitchen. Firmly believing that his restaurant ought to foster sustainability, he pours tons of research from books, the Internet, and other sources into everything he does.
He focuses not on the goals at the end of the road but also the road itself and he conjures up food stories for himself in which the road is his goal. Just how nomads settle and migrate, his story is shaped on the journey itself.
Serkan Aksoy – NicoleChef Serkan Aksoy has been cooking ever since he was 14. However, his love for food stretches back even longer, to stories he heard at home as a kid. Coming from a family from Bolu, Chef Serkan Aksoy's appetite for cooking was whetted by witnessing his father's and his chef friends' professional narratives, memories and experiences in professional kitchens at home as a child, and listening to their stories about the power of chefs in business.
Aksoy realized early on that a chef’s personal style doesn’t develop overnight. He believes that when you find just the right path for yourself, you must follow it (ups and downs included) and do so without allowing others to sway you otherwise. He finds inspiration in how ingredients simply reveal themselves to him and adores thinking about what he can cook with them. His own take on cooking relies on getting to know every ingredient up close and personal. He applies various cooking techniques to them, and then creates dishes around how they respond.
The shape and design of the plate – i.e., what he serves his meals on – also stirs his imagination. Whenever he looks at a plate, he envisions how he’s going to present his creation – as though he is talking to them and they are talking back to him. In short, he focuses himself on ingredients and serving dishes.
Aksoy understands that there’s always something new to be learned from others – a far cry from the “we know best” attitude of his forefathers and fellow Bolu-rooted chefs alike. Having grown up in nature, his restaurant too follows the four seasons. That said, he isn’t shy about rejecting ingredients he dislikes, even if they happen to be in season. He won’t introduce any new ingredient to his menu until he is completely satisfied with the product. Likewise, he won’t replace any dish until he finds the best ingredient there is.
Chef Serkan Aksoy feels identified with every dish on his menu and is becoming more and more purist every day, adopting the idea that simple is the best and wants to simplify his dishes masterfully.
Hero image: Mevlüt/Özkaya/Mürver / Serkan Aksoy/Nicole / Alaf