If a group of Turks were asked their favourite dish, it’s not difficult to assume that most of them would say it is their mother’s food. However, as times changed, the number of alternatives have increased, and brought competitors even to mothers. The owner of Food Project Istanbul, Ayşe Dilek is on of those names that up the game with her delicious food, vibrant colours, impeccable presentations and unexpected pairings.
When we see the dishes you prepare, we believe in “the art of food” once again. Other than cooking scrumptious food, how is your process of preparing good-looking dishes?
Thank you very much. Creativity and aesthetics can be applied to any field, I cannot describe it as art but we care about how the dishes look when we present them. The food has to look natural and delicious as much as aesthetically pleasing, and the cooking techniques are really important for any dish to look nice. Using good ingredients and good cooking techniques affect the results greatly, maintaining colours and textures. You would also have to pay attention to the utensils you use while you’re presenting.
What do you pay attention to in your presentations?
I use materials that reflect the natural qualities and taste of the food. If the only concern is aesthetics then you can’t get the result that you desire. I love to play with colours. But of course without using artificial colouring; I like to play with colours by adding healthy products such as matcha, spirulina etc. that are considered to be ‘superfoods’. Recently, I’ve been interested in black foods a lot. We make black grissinis, bruschettas and lemonades by using active carbon, which is really beneficial and cleansing.
Can you share the first moment when FoodProject came to life in your mind?
In fact, not being satisfied from my previous jobs pushed me to do something new. Everything evolved organically, and having been in all the outlets of this sector made it easy for me. First the name came up, then I got some service equipment from the places I liked. We have established the brand identity with a friend whom I trusted and admired. Even before I had a production kitchen, I got offered a 300 person catering job where we had to cook from home, then another brand offered a job and I realized yes, I need an industrial kitchen!
As a child, mom’s cooking was everyone’s favourite. How did your mother influence you in choosing this job?
My mother, yes she makes delicious food but she is not so big on being in the kitchen. But I’ve never met anyone who enjoys eating more than her! Actually for that reason, she had a lot of influence on me.
What are your favourite events for catering?
I like to work with companies who don’t interfere with what we’re doing -which is usually the case -. I love the events of Jotun, since the colours are the star pieces, which helps us put out really beautiful stuff. I also like Cartier jobs, because they always push us to be innovative and we always get satisfactory results after of long, painful research process. It’s a company that helps us to push our limits.
I use materials that reflect the natural qualities and taste of the food. If the only concern is aesthetics then you can’t get the result that you desire.
Which cuisine do you feel close to?
Italian and Indian. I love pastry. I had days that I’ve sent back the pasta 3 times because it was not al dante. I think Indian food is so much fun and I am really affected by the power of spices.
Can you tell us your daily routine? What are the habits that the food sector bring?
Photographing dishes entered my daily routine more than going to the bazaar etc. Even though I’m not so proud of it, I started to see every food, including the ones I cook at home, in a photo frame. Other than that, I pay attention to irrelevant stuff as prop and service equipment. Of course food shopping’s integrated in me.
What are your favourite ingredients for cooking in the Winter time?
I think root vegetables go well with winter. I use a lot of spices, especially the hot ones because they warm you up.
What are the differences between the tastes of winter and spring?
First of all, due to the difference in seasons, contrasting ingredients are used. In summer mostly cold dishes, in winter intense, rich and earthborn tastes satisfy me.
When you finish work and arrive home, do you cook with the same passion?
At home I’m not in the kitchen that much. But when I do cook, yes I have the same passion. I guess it’s the love for food.
What is the best dish to you cook? Is there any dish that you cannot manage to cook?
Since I’m not so fond of meat dishes, I can’t cook them well. My cooks are in charge of main dishes so it’s not too compelling. I like pot-cooked foods, I think I am good at those. I am also good at Indian cuisine. I cook dahl and raita really good.
Does the food sector have trends? What will they be for 2016?
As in any sector, there are trends in the food sector as well. Organic and healthy foods have already been at issue, and 2016 seems like it’s going to be the year of superfoods which are healthy, beneficial for the body; they’re good for concentration, boost energy and have extra benefits as well. And healthy snacks are a trending topic. I think we will see more power snacks like spirulina power balls, chia water, products with matcha, which we also make.
Photography: Tabitha Karp