Middle Eastern chef Olcay: Dancing in the kitchen relieves my stress!

He is a Middle Eastern chef, as he likes to be called; Combining in its cuisine the cuisines of 21 countries that lie on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, it offers it with a variety of appetizers, pastas, pies, main dishes and cakes … full of artistic sense, which it shares. with restaurant “Jaffa”; Where Chef Olcay bows over colorful plates and patterns, each style resembles a Mediterranean country.

What is the story of your passion for cooking?

Cooking is not just a normal job for me, it is a way of life. Whenever I see smiles on people’s faces after eating the food I cook, I live a happy day and forget the long working hours and stress in the kitchen.

I was washing the dishes

How did the journey start?

I applied for a job at a hotel as a dishwasher just to see the chefs

As a teenager I was obsessed with cooking shows, sometimes even helping my mom in the kitchen. My curiosity did not stop there; I applied for a job at a hotel as a dishwasher just to get a closer look at the chefs in the kitchen.
Every time I look at my belly coming out, I remind my grandmother of her childhood, who every morning got up earlier than everyone else to mature. I get out of bed at the smell of fresh bread and remember those fresh breads I eat every morning.

What are the differences between Middle Eastern cuisines?

The dishes that appeal to me the most are from Levantine cuisines

Middle Eastern cuisine lies on the shores of the Mediterranean and there are many variations from one cuisine to another, united by the same spirit and main ingredient of the dish, but I take different techniques and flavors and create my own mix.

In which Middle Eastern cuisine does chef Olcay find himself?

The dishes that attract me the most are from Levantine cuisines, with a mixture of spices, citrus, lemon and orange .. Everything is fresh and has a great taste, especially when added to sumac in their dishes, its aroma is incompatible by taste.

Which recipe unites Middle Eastern cuisines?

In Middle Eastern cuisine, about 70 dishes contain eggplant

Lentil soup, this dish unites Middle Eastern cuisines, although each country differs from the other in the way of preparation and spices, and according to statistics, eggplant is the most consumed vegetable. In Jaffa’s kitchen there are about 70 eggplant dishes, with different names and special ingredients; Where I work there are 5 plates. But the most famous dish is hummus, and of course oriental roast. We take great pride in the way we master our meat preparation.

Some say Armenian and Afghan food is considered oriental. What are the similarities between them and Arab cuisines?

There are many similarities, including long-term cooking of meat, spices, olive oil, rice, cooking techniques and much more.

What is the first recipe you prepared in your life?

It was my mom’s special cake and although she supervised me in preparing it, I failed to serve it properly.
Now, since I cook food to taste, to include it in my menu, I prepare it more than once to avoid the possibility of failure; Until I got the perfect taste for each dish, for example, I perfected the North African tagina after the fifth experiment.
Learn more: Emirates Chef Hend Al Raisi: I’m fascinated by programs that make everyone love cooking

What touches do you give to your dishes?

Combine traditional recipes with modern cooking techniques

Adding a little more butter or cooking a little longer can make a big difference. Usually combine traditional recipes with modern cooking techniques and new ingredients.

What is your ritual in the kitchen?

In professional kitchens there is usually chaos, I try to remove this tension by telling jokes and dancing with the team. I feel very comfortable when I’m in my kitchen. If I like to dance, I dance. I act as I feel; This is why we are more like family in the kitchen.

The story of a meal you prepared and related to a woman?

This is actually a true story, I wanted to prepare authentic mahsh as part of the menu and my friend Basili, who shares the restaurant with me, wanted to make it according to his mother’s recipe, so I remember the day we opened a Zoom call with his mother, who exhausted the language barrier between me and her, and after my friend’s translations, I perfected the recipe perfectly.

What obstacles do women face in cooking? What is your advice to them?

Working in the kitchen for men or women can be difficult in general

They are good at traditional foods and my advice to them is to stick to it; As old recipes begin to be forgotten, I think we need to keep them alive, pass them on to the next generation, and that’s in the hands of women.
I have worked a lot with talented women in the kitchen and I like their work. When they rely on local produce, create their own inherited dishes, I’m sure there are challenges they face, but I’m not sure what they are, or if they’re different from the ones men face. Working in the kitchen for men or women can be difficult in general, but when there is passion, all challenges become daily tasks.

Tabbouleh of the Middle East

Tabbouleh of the Middle East

enough for two people
Preparation time 20 minutes


And a cup of couscous
boiling water enough to cover the couscous
10 cherry red tomatoes, cut into cubes
A slice of cucumber cut into slices
Half white onion, finely chopped
5 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
A handful of finely chopped mint
Juice of one lemon and half a lemon
5 tablespoons olive oil
teaspoon salt (to taste)
3 red radishes, cut into slices
1 tablespoon raisins

How to prepare:

1 – Mix couscous with oil and salt, then add boiling water and set aside for 30 minutes.
2 – Then the other ingredients are added to the couscous after squeezing it and the mixture is left for a while in the refrigerator.
3- To serve, lettuce is used to garnish the tabulah, followed by raisins and red radish for an extra flavor mix.

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