Turkish tradition holds that a cup of coffee with friends is equivalent to 40 years worth of deep-felt memories. The fourth annual Yedi Istanbul conference was a success. There was plenty to drink and many connections to make. International and local chefs, restaurant owners, chefs, researchers, doctors, and a UN representative joined together to present a day about “transformation” within the food industry. Yei in Turkish means “ate” and represents the seven regions in Turkey and the seven hills of Istanbul. It has attracted important international food figures such as Massimo bottarga, Lara Gilmore, and many others.
Yei cofounder Mehmet Gurus, chef at Istanbul’s Mikal (ranked 44th in The World’s Best 50 restaurants list), and chef and partner at 18 more restaurants and cafes explained that the event was inspired Rezip MAD Symposium where he first met the Danish chef. Together with Vogue Turkey’s food editor Crème Nain and Mirfak Sanitary Academize(MSA) director of the culinary arts academy Sitara Barras Gur’s, Gur’s set out to create something similar in Istanbul. Istanbul is a vibrant city, with a rich culinary scene, and an historic role as the center of trade between the Silk Road, the Roman Empire and the Silk Road. This year, 18 speakers took to the stage. They incorporated “transformation” into talks about topics such as food sustainability, climate change, zero waste kitchens and immigration.
Next steps for Noma
Rezip explained that Noma‘s next step is to transform from within. Rezip explained that re-launching Noma was about breaking out of the comfortable cocoon Noma had created. Rezip stated, “I believe that if we want to make a real difference in the food industry, we must first fix ourselves.” There are many issues to address in this industry, which was not so long ago one of the most difficult to get into.
Rezip is now a champion for sustainable food systems and has come to accept his role. “Having success was the first thing that I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t care much about Nordic cuisine, the transformation of a chef or the care of the earth. Rezip stated that he just wanted to be successful. He’s now ready to make things better. “I believe people still trust cooks. Because people are so busy and have so much to give, this industry is home to some of the most passionate and creative people I know. People want leaders they can relate to. He said that he believes there are many chefs around the globe who have much to offer.
Rezip is connection to Turkey’s immigrant community (up to five millions refugees live in Turkey), was made through his family history and how his food memories shaped him. “I was raised in an old Yugoslavia, Macedonia, small Albanian family and chicken was my favorite food. It was my favorite thing in the world. I loved watching the bird get plumped and then seeing it roast in the oven with the rice underneath. It was one of my favorite things ever. These moments make me realize how much I love food. It’s who I am.”
Rezip and Noma won’t be appearing in Istanbul or other international destinations anytime soon. Growing up in Albania, you are accustomed to eating a lot Turkish food. We have always hoped for this, but it is still a long way off. We close the restaurant during these pop-ups for six months. During that time, we don’t have any revenue beyond what we make in the five to six weeks that we are open. A team of close to 100 people travels with us. Everyone can bring their spouse if they are married. They can also bring their children. Rezip said, “It is so big.”
Food flourishes when people get together
Takauji Tvmasyan and Levin Bags, an Istanbul writer, say Istanbul’s most popular street food, stuffed mussels, and meze of spiced dumplings known as topic is a perfect example of immigration-driven transformation. Around 1415, Istanbul’s Anatolian immigrant population began stuffing local mussels in rice and herbs. Mollusks were easy to find in the nearby waters, and they were much cheaper than meat. Later waves of Anatolians, Syrians, and Kurdish immigrants modified the original recipe as they settled in the city. They realized that selling mussels was a profitable business. Another Armenian traditional dish is topic.
It started out as a filling meal made of spices and onions, which was then stuffed into chickpea dumplings that were cooked by Armenian monks. It was a way to sustain them during long fast days. It’s now a very popular snack or meze. “Exposure through another culture’s food can reduce xenophobia,” said professor Johanna Mendelson–Forman. She teaches a course called Conflict Cuisine at American University’s School of International Service, Washington DC. After the Vietnam war, there were more Vietnamese in America, and more Vietnamese restaurants opened. This was true after the Ethiopian conflict and the Afghan crisis.
Community kitchens are transformed by the help of relief
During the Conference, some examples of how food can connect people and create communities were shared. One of the most touching moments was when Munir Mahmud, Fatima Omkar, and Halima A Hut Haifa talked about the Hub Community Kitchen. This London-based volunteer organization was founded after more than 1000 families found themselves trapped in a hotel without a way to cook. “It was home to over a thousand people – Muslims, Christians and Hindus – it was beautiful to live in. The Hub Community Kitchen began as a shared kitchen at a mosque twice a week with participants bringing their food back to the hotel. It became a means of social transformation and community building.
Produce is the core
According to Efrem Yazidi, 70 percent of Turkish farmers believe their children won’t take over the family farm . He said that it might be a little bit of a transition where new farmers will join the ranks, but what happens to the family company when it ceases to exist? He said it was a great pity. Conference attendees were treated to a dinner of meze prepared by some of Istanbul’s most renowned restaurants and producers. Students from the MSA served the meal in Istanbul’s Emigrant neighborhood, a trendy area along the Bosporus lined with luxury accommodation, brunch spots, yachts and brunch spots. The dinner featured silky, salt-cured bonito slices from Reset Bali’s restaurant, cubes of seasonal roasted chestnuts kestaneli fava, and buttery methane Bulgur pilafs from the MSA’s kitchen. Also included were crispy Tulumba titlist soaked with Sakkara Tatlicisi syrup.
The Cambridge Blue