If the point in question is to experience new things, you can leave yourself to Ahmet’s hands. Our questions are neverending when we come across people who know their city so well! But this time, what got us excited is his new project “Takeover Chef”. Rather than searching for new places to experience different tastes, doesn’t it sound inviting; to allow chefs to create menus designed for you in the comfort of your own space?
What’s your first recommendation to a tourist on their visit in Istanbul?
Just like everything else, tourists also have trends! The new generation tourist trend in the last years is discovering street food. Because that is the best way to observe a city’s culture, dynam-ics and lifestyle. My recommendations would be; Erzurum Cağ Kebab located in Sirkeci, is as Ansel Mullins said “the dream of a carnivore.” Beşaltı Kirvem Tantuni in Karaköy is another rec-ommendation. It’s quite hard to leave this small venue unhappy, where food is prepared in front of your eyes. Lastly, I would recommend Basta! Street Food Bar, which combine the street food culture with traditional ingredients in making sophisticated wraps, and hosted by my high school friends from Saint Michel Derin Arıbaş and partner Kaan Sakarya.
How did the idea of “Takeover Chef” come about?
Since the last 5 years, I focused on alternative accommodations and tours in Istanbul’s tourism industry. Due to the latest unfortunate events that occurred, to everyones knowledge tourism is going through tough times. But we can’t just sit and cry! As Takeover Chef, what we do is pre-cisely “Airbnb for chefs.” You pick the right chef and menu for you from tens of chefs. Many of these chefs are chefs you’ve heard of before or their food you’ve tasted in restaurants. Since they manage their calendar through our website, they decide how much or when they are going to work.
How exactly does this process work?
You can check out a chef’s profile and their previous experiences online through our website. You can choose from the menus of the chefs you’re interested in or request for a special menu for yourself. After our chefs finish shopping for ingredients, they come to our preparation kitchen located in Karaköy and complete their preparations. They arrive at the place where service was requested 2 hours prior to the event with experienced waiters, who mostly know English. And once the serving of the food is done, the area where we cook is left spotless. If you don’t think we leave it clean enough, we send you a cleaning service the next day, free of charge. And we do all this nearly for the same prices as you would pay in restaurants. Just like you can call our chefs to your houses, we can come across with many different concepts should you wish. We can turn your important business dinner into a dinner in a hotel room at the Bosphorus, or add some color to your party in the garden. As for places like event venues where cooking is not available, they’re our favorite. Preparing under the awareness of your cooking circumstances really feeds our soul.
I’d like to open brackets; It’s a very kind act, to invite your friends to your home on your special day and make sure to cover all the expenses. But just how everyone pays their bill when you go out on a 10 party dinner, it is possible to follow this payment when you call Takeover Chef. Rather than inviting people, pick the right house with the friends you would like to share this ex-perience with, and everyone pays their own bills. You’re going to see how successful it is in terms of price/performance. While the sharing economy got so far in the world, it’s such a pity that due to the codes in our brains we go without the many joys we could share with our friends.
Well, how does the pop-up section of the project work? We know that you work on un-expected menus in unexpected venues.
Last week, we turned a dear friend of mines house in Emirgan into a pop-up restaurant for the night. The dinner that had 40 participants was prepared as a “French Asian Tasting Menu” by Clarisse Müge Özden from Georges Hotel’s golden times and the New Zealander Chris Max-well, who you would remember from Cochine Restaurant. The preparatory process was com-plete madness, it’s no different than opening a restaurant. Thank God I work with crazy chefs like myself so there is no tension. (Laughs) In my observations, they are quite happy to be out of the restaurant kitchen and working in a more social setting. We already began discussing where and how our next pop-up will be.
When you look at your menus, for what food would you say, “You have to taste this”?
Vietnam style beef carpaccio from Chris Maxwell.
How many cups of coffee do you consume a day?
I stop after listening to my heart beat after my 3rd coffee.
A place you’re a regular at?
I’m such a regular at Aheste Pera that I’m almost like family now. It’s honestly the first spot that comes to my mind when talking about mezze. In fact, one of the partners Chef Sara Tabrizi has also cooked in houses under her Takeover Chef identity. Baylo Bar Bistro located a few steps from Aheste Pera is the perfect neighbourhood bar. You will always find someone to chat with even if you go there alone. Their cocktails are really good; manager Batukan Kocaaydın suc-ceeds in making everybody feel at home.
A life lesson you took from social media?
I used to be on Twitter but there is so much information pollution that I realized it made me paranoid after a while, and I closed my account. It shouldn’t be this hard to access correct in-formation. The funny and trendy stuff appear on other mediums as well, so I don’t really lose anything. When I’m sharing from the Takeover Chef Instagram account, I tell the stories of the food and their photographs in a candid manner. And I really have lots of fun.
What happens in a classic Sunday?
As I usually wake up hungover on Sunday mornings, Miss Pizza comes to my rescue. I think it’s Istanbul’s best pizza. I can barely see as I watch my favorite shows in bed! I try to not think about work the rest of the day, and just continue to be lazy.