A TURK­ISH TWIST

Southeast Asia Globe - - Flavours - – Dene Mullen

With a to­tal of 14 years in Asia, punc­tu­ated by stints at world-class res­tau­rants in­clud­ing Noma, chef Fatih Tu­tak got the op­por­tu­nity to put his stamp on the Din­ing Room at The House at Sathorn restau­rant a lit­tle over three years ago. At­tempt­ing in­no­va­tive Turk­ish cui­sine in Bangkok was a risk, but Tu­tak has been re­warded with rave re­views and a place on this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Res­tau­rants list. Here, he dis­cusses the chal­lenges of open­ing South­east Asia’s first fine-din­ing Turk­ish restau­rant

“We opened here three-and-a half-years ago and started out do­ing mod­ern Asian cui­sine based on my trav­els in Asia. I never even imag­ined at that point that I was go­ing to cook Turk­ish food. Ev­ery­thing was beau­ti­ful, I used a lot of ingredients from around Asia, but a lot of peo­ple started com­ment­ing: ‘You’re from Istanbul, why don’t you start adding a small touch of your heritage?’ I thought, well, that makes sense. A French guy cooks French cui­sine, a Chi­nese guy cooks Chi­nese cui­sine – I’m Turk­ish. How­ever, Turk­ish cui­sine isn’t seen as suit­able for a gas­tro­nomic restau­rant. It’s very com­fort­ing, big por­tions, made for shar­ing.

“But I thought that, as a Turk­ish chef, if I don’t try to bring Turk­ish cui­sine to the higher lev­els of gas­tron­omy, then who is? Of course, then the prob­lems started. Ge­o­graph­i­cally we are very far from Tur­key. And peo­ple were judg­ing: ‘Why eat Turk­ish food in Bangkok?’

“Of course, I won’t say that I’m cook­ing tra­di­tional, pure Turk­ish cui­sine, but this is my own vi­sion. I try my best. There are all the spices, some of which peo­ple hand carry for me. It’s a big chal­lenge, but it’s one I wanted be­cause I can­not do this in Istanbul. I’d es­ti­mate we are five to ten years more ad­vanced than Istanbul here cui­sine-wise. Maybe we’re a lit­tle too avant garde, a lit­tle too ex­treme, but I don’t want to do some­thing too sim­ple. I want peo­ple to dis­cover the his­tory, the cul­ture, the heritage and the life of the chef, com­ing from Istanbul to Asia and do­ing this crazy stuff here.

“I set my­self a rule, though, when I started do­ing this, that I would never play with the tra­di­tional Turk­ish dishes. If that dish is al­ready tra­di­tion and it’s al­ready fuck­ing good, don’t touch this. If women have been mak­ing this for 100 years, don’t touch it. I think the orig­i­nal one is al­ready per­fect.

“Now we have Turk­ish peo­ple com­ing from Tur­key to eat Turk­ish cui­sine here. I’m not jok­ing, peo­ple come here on hol­i­day from Tur­key to eat here. Isn’t that crazy? I feel very proud that Turk­ish peo­ple ap­prove.”

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