Asia Dreams - - CONTENTS -

Still think­ing of travel, but this time with a culi­nary theme, we talked to Sezai Zorlu, chef owner of Turkuaz about his hum­ble be­gin­nings as a kitchen hand and his culi­nary jour­ney from the Turk­ish mil­i­tary to Sin­ga­pore and even­tu­ally to In­done­sia, cook­ing for am­bas­sadors and lu­mi­nar­ies on the way.

Q: When did your culi­nary jour­ney start? A: Pro­fes­sion­ally, I started work­ing in my fa­ther's restau­rants in Sin­ga­pore back in 1993. We had four restau­rants, but I chose not to con­tinue them when my fa­ther passed away.

Q: Why did you be­come a chef? Was it al­ways your pas­sion?

A: When I was grow­ing up, we al­ways gath­ered on week­ends at my grand­par­ents' house, and we'd have a huge fam­ily lunch. I have 45 cousins and nine un­cles. We'd slaughter a whole lamb, lit­er­ally, to feed my fam­ily! Ev­ery­one helped out mak­ing salad, mar­i­nat­ing the meat and grilling it. Food has al­ways been cen­tral to me. It's not just some­thing to fill your stom­ach; it's a place of joy. I love ev­ery as­pect of it, from pre­par­ing it, serv­ing it and see­ing the joy on peo­ples' faces. For me, food is life, life is food.

Q: How is the Turk­ish food cul­ture dif­fer­ent than other cul­tures?

A: In our cul­ture food doesn't wait for us, we wait for food. This is how you ap­pre­ci­ate food.

When we get to­gether to eat, it's never half an hour for a quick meal. Our break­fast is one hour. You can­not miss your break­fast; break­fast is when you start your day with your fam­ily, with the peo­ple that you love. You don't grab your sand­wich and go. Our din­ner is at least two to three hours. You work for 12 hours a day. If you tell me that don't have an hour for food, I feel sorry for you.

Q: What’s your cook­ing phi­los­o­phy?

A: I be­lieve in sim­ple tech­niques, be­cause this is how I was taught by my mother and grand­mother. Taste is the most im­por­tant, pre­sen­ta­tion is se­condary. You can have gold cut­lery and di­a­mond gob­lets; it does not make any dif­fer­ence.

Sezai Zorlu, chef owner of Turkuaz is well known for his au­then­tic Turk­ish cui­sine. Start­ing from hum­ble be­gin­nings as a kitchen hand, Chef Sezai’s culi­nary jour­ney has taken him to the Turk­ish mil­i­tary, where he served a gen­eral’s fam­ily, to Sin­ga­pore where he helped his fa­ther man­age four restau­rants and even­tu­ally to In­done­sia, cook­ing for am­bas­sadors and lu­mi­nar­ies.

Q: Which coun­tries have you been to in your ca­reer and which is your favourite? A: Turkey, Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia, and I can safely say I love In­done­sia! I love the coun­try and the food. There is so much va­ri­ety of food and her­itage, and the peo­ple are so friendly. Ev­ery part of In­done­sia is so dif­fer­ent but ev­ery­one is so har­mo­nious. In­done­sia is beau­ti­ful.

Q: What’s one dish first-time visi­tors to Turkuaz must try?

A: You can't come to Turkuaz and only try one dish, we have 100 dishes. Turk­ish cui­sine is not like other cuisines where you or­der an ap­pe­tiser and a main and eat by your­self, it's some­thing that you need to share. We are not a fine-din­ing restau­rant; we are a fam­ily fine-food restau­rant. Ev­ery dish we do here is freshly cooked. We cut our salad, grill our meat and bake our bread to or­der. I can guar­an­tee you that no­body makes fresher food than we do in In­done­sia.

Q: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d do?

A: That's a re­ally tough ques­tion, I've ac­tu­ally never thought about it. When I was grow­ing up, I helped my mother in the kitchen. Cook­ing is about the love and care you put into the food, and the joy you see on your guests' faces, that's what makes me happy. Any­one can make money. I can work at a ho­tel or work in an of­fice to make money, but I'd never do that. Even if I had to sell sa­tay by the side of the road, I think I'd still be cook­ing.

Q: What ad­vice would you give as­pir­ing chefs?

A: That we're only cook­ing, we're not con­struct­ing a space shut­tle to go to the moon. It's sim­ple; you don't need a fancy de­gree to cook. I don't have a de­gree and I speak four lan­guages, own two restau­rants and have 90 peo­ple work­ing for me. As long as you have the will and dis­ci­pline, you will be suc­cess­ful. My job is to ed­u­cate, to pass on knowl­edge and skills. Any­one will­ing to learn and put in the hard work is al­ways wel­come to join my restau­rant. If you think it's dif­fi­cult, I started as a dish washer. That's the best way to learn, from zero.


Jalan Gu­nawar­man No. 32, Ke­bay­oran Baru, Jakarta 12110, In­done­sia

T: (+62) 21 7279 5846

Mixed Baklava

Sezai Zorlu

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Mezze Plat­ter with Lavas and Ozel Bread

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