ASA, WHICH HOSTS WORLD-FAMOUS CHEFS, JOINED THE TEAM THAT WOULD COME TO TURKEY WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE EVENTS HELD FOR THE 2019 GÖBEKLİTEPE YEAR AND EXAMINE STREET FOOD AND LOCAL PRODUCTS. WE HELD A PLEASANT CONVERSATION ON THE CULINARY CULTURE OF ANATOLIA WITH SÖZEN, WHO IS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS WORK AS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF FOR GASTRONOMICAL PUBLICATIONS.
Could you tell us about the Göbeklitepe organisation and your goals?
Göbeklitepe is very important for us. However, many historical points of Turkey are also very important for us, for we believe that the destinations with the greatest historical dimension in the world lie in this region. For this reason, and since this year is the Göbeklitepe year, we want to connect other projects along with Gastroway with Göbeklitepe. We brought world-famous chefs as part of Gastroway, and found the opportunity both to show the historical sites of Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Mardin and Diyarbakır, and to examine agricultural areas and taste traditional dishes. We also presented projects that would be prepared by food companies and would encourage exports. Of course, this year we started with Gastroway, but our projects will continue with Göbeklitepe and Gastromasa. Between 26 and 30 November, we will bring over the gastronomy media along with the most important chefs of the world. We will consider it our mission to advertise Göbeklitepe better. Our work on this matter continues.
The world’s important chefs and journalists came to Gaziantep. Why did you choose Gaziantep?
We look at it not only as Gaziantep, but as Mesopotamia. We examine Turkey’s northeast and southeast, that is, we Northern Mesopotamia as a whole. However, of course Gaziantep is an important city in terms of gastronomy… The world’s best baklava, best pistachio nuts, and the best food are here, and we want them to be known better in the world. Just as Lebanese cuisine being known in the world, we are carrying out work to advertise Gaziantep in the same manner. For this reason we brought our chefs to Gaziantep within the scope of Gastroway. However, by carrying out greater projects under Gastroway, we both present the food here, and show the historical sites. Continuing with these projects with respect to Antep pepper and sumac for exports, we are making efforts to advertise the city abroad.
What other events are taking place under GastroAntep? Could you give us some more details?
We have already been taking groups to Gaziantep every year. Last year we hosted the world’s best chefs in Gaziantep, and we will be doing this this year too. Again, Michelin star-winning chefs came for Gastroway. This year GastroAntep is being held on 12-15 September, and we will be bringing the best chefs in the world from different countries. Here we are planning conferences, workshops, and the fourth best international competition in the world. The world’s best chefs will cook here; I recommend enthusiasts not to miss this.
This year you organised Gastroway in Mesopotamia. Will it be held in other cities too?
Last year we organised the event in the Aegean Region. Next year we may do it in two places; we attach great importance to the Black Sea and Eastern Black Sea regions. Eastern Mediterranean is very important for us, that is, the cities of Antakya, Adana and Antalya are very important in this matter. We will announce the actual destination by the end of the year.
Turkish culinary culture is being introduced under the name Gastroway. Foreign chefs, culinary culture authors, gastronomy experts came to Turkey in the recent months. Could you tell us about our guests’ impressions?
They were international authors from different places of the world. We both bring them from different places, and take care that the event has an international quality. Therefore, we attach importance to the articles to be published in newspapers and magazines, as well as news on social media and digital platforms. The authors we invited from different countries in the World to contribute to the advertisement of Turkey both examine the agricultural products, food, history and nature of this country, and render great services towards Turkey’s advertisement. We keep track of the correct international media. We have a network for this. Therefore we are abroad half of the year. We conduct research on this subject, and bring the right chefs as well as the right media. Of course, our main international work is Gastromasa. There are many organisations in the world. This is one of the four best international conferences in the world. The others are in Madrid, San Sebastian and Milano.
We made a lot of efforts to achieve this, and of course we will open up Gastromasa to the world as a Turkish brand; our negotiations continue. Here, the chefs of the 50 best restaurants of the World are coming along with Michelin star-winning top-notch chefs. In a sense, we are establishing a bridge. As Turkey’s investors, chefs and those working in the professional gastronomy sector, we obtain information from them and provide them with information in return. This way, we contribute to the development of gastronomy in our country. Also, we are planning an important international organisation to take place in Antalya in the next years. Many tourists visit our country from Europe, and especially Russia. For this reason we will organise a “Host Summit” to improve on our hospitality sector, which is already good. It will be based entirely on a tourism hotel management and tourism gastronomy concept. Gastromasa comes from the world’s best fine dining sector. So, to Host Summit we will bring the world’s best role models of the tourism – hotel management sector. I believe that Turkey, and especially Antalya, will make a very important contribution. We are authoring such international organisations.
Gastronomy has emerged as a separate arm of tourism in the recent years. How rich is Turkey in terms of gastronomy? Do our guests have adequate knowledge about Turkey’s culinary culture?
I believe that enthusiasts of tourism gastronomy in the world have not yet accepted Turkey as a destination. We have to work towards that. At exhibitions abroad, we must not only talk about our historical sites, but must also represent our culinary culture accurately. Apart from our traditional cuisine, we must present our food at all levels at a tourism exhibition. We must present different models starting from street flavours to the highest level fine-dining restaurants. There are certain world-famous chef colleagues of ours, I wish to thank them here. They worked their way up to their present position. Other than them, our greatest wealth is our street food. Foreign chefs or tourists who visit Turkey without having no prior knowledge are amazed by our street food. They find our chicken breast, our kokoreç and our döner very different. Also, our traditional restaurants, tradesmen’s restaurants must be better supported by the government… These are our values.
Our traditional restaurants other than tradesmen’s restaurants, our kebab and fish restaurants must also receive the attention they deserve. However, we need chefs’ restaurants in order to develop tourism gastronomy, because those are the places that do the advertisement in the world. When you look at Peru, you would see Ceviche on the streets. But Peru does not carry out its advertisement through Ceviche. You enjoy it, it is delicious, you eat and drink; but Peru has the best restaurants in the world. Although far behind Turkey in terms of economy, their marketing is very successful. Our government must support chefs, the youth, and chefs’ restaurants. They need to open their own restaurants and advertise to the world; we also need global public relations companies for these. Because being a chef is not enough on its own. We need gastronomy writers who are known throughout the world, and we are at the beginning yet.,
Turkey has many undiscovered features yet. One of these was culinary culture. What has been done until now, and how can we develop gastronomy tourism after this point?
Non-governmental organisations are making efforts in Turkey. We thank them all, but Turkey’s gastronomy, if it wants to draw customers, must be more active as in the metropolises Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir. Currently Turkey is not known adequately abroad, we are making efforts. It is not only us, but we have other colleagues who are working on this. We must all meet on a joint vision and advertise. We need a approach to gastronomy tourism that examines everything from street flavours to the highest-levels and addresses all strata. When a person living abroad with a budget of 5 thousand Euro comes to Turkey, we must introduce him to street flavours properly, and take them to these places.
A person’s objective for travelling abroad is actually to get to know that country’s culinary culture. So, what would you like to say to those wishing to visit Turkey? Is Turkey a rich country in terms of gastronomy?
Turkey is a very rich country in terms of its agricultural products and traditional restaurants. But we cannot say that it is the third best cuisine in the world. Maybe it is, but we cannot say that. Currently, the infrastructure for this is weak. This was the reason for our choice of the Mesopotamia region for Gastroway. Of course, we would like to introduce all of the country. Gaziantep is a pioneer, but everything down to the gifts at the hotels in which the guests will stay need to be examined. Not only there, looking at the Aegean region, – although there are traditional restaurants south of İzmir – the restaurants do not know a very good restaurant. That is why we need advertisement. There are hidden flavours. For instance, currently there are people from Rhodes and Crete in Ayvalık. There is a serious number of Cretans here. But we need to increase the number of authentic Cretan restaurants. So, looking at Turkey in general, we can say that our agricultural areas are superb, and our traditional restaurants are very good – but we will improve on this a bit. We will increase the number of chefs’ restaurants – we must start with the advertising after the infrastructure is complete. Not having an infrastructure is a national catastrophe; all of your work is wasted. But one must start somewhere. We trust the people of Turkey, and for this reason we continue with our work.
Is there anything you would like to add?
We export olives, olive oil, pistachio nuts, sumac to the best restaurants in the world. We do this for ourselves, for our country. For we trust in Turkey’s food products. For this, we need to meet with vendors abroad, the world must get to know these products. To achieve this, we must work in coordination with the Ministries of Agriculture and Tourism. Also, Gastromasa is a Turkish brand, and it will exist in the world too. For this reason, we will also advertise Turkish chefs through Gastromasa.