From childhood memories to local classics from the far-flung distances of this country, there are secrets to every dish that appeals to our taste buds and sensibilities. If we follow the journey of our favorite plate back to the kitchen, we come across chefs who tell countless stories every day through the mise en scene on the plates. Here are our favorite chefs, who head up restaurants we adore.
Since first starting as a catering business with a mere two trays and 50 glasses, Istanbul’s acclaimed chef Maksut Aşkar of Neolokal has always seemed up for a challenge. “We’re trying to express how important tradition is in order to build a solid future,” Aşkar says explaining the thought process behind his exacting work. His visual plates mix Turkey’s heritage with innovation, continue to please Istanbul’s locals and visitors alike at Neolokal.
“It’s the food I grew up eating, it’s the food I know how to cook and it’s the food I like to eat.” The food Şemsa Denizsel serves at her long-standing restaurant, Kantin, appears to be the food Istanbul likes to eat as well. Locals and foreigners alike to to her space, to dine on dishes that are aggressively Istanbullu, serving with simple presentation that belies their rigorous standards and technique.
İsmet Saz, who earned his stripes in the kitchens of icons like Carlo Bernardini and Gordon Ramsay, has worked both at Istanbul favorites such as Ulus 29 and American classics like Dean&Deluca in New York City. The breadth of Saz's knowledge and experience is evident in the carefully designed kitchen of TOI, but above all, in the acclaimed restaurant’s menu.
With a career that started at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and several Michelin-starred restaurants in the city of lights, Aylin Yazıcıoğlu showcases Turkish ingredients treated to elegant French techniques at her restaurant Nicole. Featuring a single set menu that rotates every six weeks with the seasons, her creations exude elegance, subtlety and a deep love for Anatolia. “It’s not just about eating, it’s about sharing. So for me, it’s about the love I give to people.”
The former chef of Changa proved his craft to every customer who fawned over the menu at one of Istanbul’s most innovative restaurants. Now that he opened Yeni Lokanta (his own restaurant) the Istanbul food scene has gained a most essential new venue of culinary ingenuity.
Through the combination of a precise method, respect to culture and the natural elements, and an unrelenting sense of imagination, Gürs is nothing less than legendary. We can’t wait to see what the Scandinavian Turkish owner and chef of Mikla will do next.
A graduate of the Mutfak Sanatları Akademisi, Emre Şen has worked with Mehmet Gürs at Mikla and Michelin-starred Maurilio Garola in Italy before joining his family at Lavanda Boutique Hotel and Restaurant.
A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, Didem Şenol’s focus on local and seasonal ingredients is working in her favor. She was the brains behind the now closed Lokanta Maya, but her light, homestyle cooking lives on at several Gram locations.
The pioneer behind the very successful Çiya restaurants, Dağdeviren began his journey at the age of five when he began working at his uncle’s bakery. It can be said that he hasn’t left the kitchen since, except to scour the country to find the best recipes for his eclectic repertoire of dishes, sometimes rescuing the dishes from obscurity.
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