ISTANBUL, 3 June (BelTA - Anadolu Agensy). - The Turkish metropolis of Istanbul is poised to become the 38th destination to join the famed Michelin Guide collection, with the guide set to announce the city's Michelin restaurants and the number of stars they earned on Oct. 11.
Achieving Michelin star status is a kind of Holy Grail for chefs, like winning an Oscar in the food world. The winners are featured in newspapers and television shows, and their expertise is acknowledged for the whole world to see.
The guide takes into account the quality of the ingredients, harmony of the flavors, mastery of the techniques, personality of the chef as expressed in their cuisine and, just as importantly, consistency both over time and across the entire menu.
Turkish cuisine boasts a wide variety of foods dating back to the Ottoman Empire. One of the restaurants serving traditional Turkish dishes is Pandeli Istanbul, a popular destination inside the Spice Bazaar located on the city's historical peninsula.
Pandeli is known for its pristine interior design, imposing mosaic setting, and its serving traditional Turkish food the old-fashioned way. While tweaks have been made to some recipes, according to chef Bayram Karacam, spotlight dishes such as sultan's delight, lamb's shank, lamb in tandori, grilled meatballs, doner kebab on oak charcoal, and eggplant pastry are served just the way they have for centuries.
The restaurant's guests include famed figures from the world of entertainment, royalty, and politics, among them Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Queen Elizabeth II, Spanish King and Queen Juan and Sophia Carlos, actress Audrey Hepburn, and many others.
Istanbul, however, is not just about tradition, nor is the Michelin Guide. The city holds thousands of restaurants with a dazzling diversity from one shore to the other, including the renowned Aseka. This fine dining hub is located in a 100-year-old historical building in the Karakoy nieigborhood. Aseka adds a new flavor to Istanbul, reflecting a classical yet modern style in its offerings.
Chef Omer Akosman said achieving a Michelin star is an accomplishment of teamwork, as everyone in the kitchen has to put their best foot forward every day.
"I try not to confine myself to certain rules or certain cuisines,” he explained.
“I mean, when it comes to creativity, I just start with the product, then I just put some technique. I admire all cuisines, so I try to take an impression from all of them.”
'Anatolia boasts world's best culinary culture'
Right across from the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul's famed Fatih district, we can experience the appetizers from the vast Turkish Anatolian heartland in Galeyan, a tasty destination. With its distinctive location and decor, the restaurant is full of the rich atmosphere of the historical peninsula, which over the centuries has played home to three different empires.
Yunus Emre Akkor, Galeyan's chef, says the civilizations that have called Anatolia home have indisputably had the best culinary culture and food in the world.
"During the Ottoman era, eating and drinking and writing food recipes were mostly done by physicians, because food has a healing effect,” he said. “By using the right ingredients, with the right spices, and by eating at the right time, food actually makes an addition to a person's lifespan.
"To be honest, food has no nationality. Food has geography,” said Akkor. “If that geography has a depth in history, if it has climatic diversity if the yield is high on the geographical ground, that is, on its soil, it nourishes you, it nourishes the culture, it nourishes the food.
So whoever owns the Anatolian geography has the best culinary culture in the world today. In my opinion, this is inarguable," Akkor added.
Gwendal Poullennec, Michelin Guide's international director, explained why Istanbul was added to its iconic red books: "As an illustration of the rich and intense history of the city, which has always been a crossroads of humanity, cultures, and traditions, you can find in Istanbul a culinary diversity which has astounded our teams."
The Michelin Guides have been published since 1900 by the French tire company of the same name. According to Michelin Guide's website, restaurants can get zero to 3 stars for the quality of their food based on five criteria: “quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits."
"Restaurant inspectors do not look at the interior decor, table setting, or service quality when awarding stars – these are instead indicated by the number of 'covers' it receives, represented by the fork and spoon symbol," it added.