« Hi Arthur! Our very first question is can you introduce yourself a bit?
Well it is pretty simple. I am 27 now, but I started cooking when I was 23. Sounds a bit late, I know, to become a chef I mean. Now, I have the experience. I used to study bussiness then I quit to follow my dream. I started out as a footboy in a restaurant called Ateliér. You know, cullinary school lasted like six months and it was quite expensive. They tell you that when you’re finished, you’ll become a chef but it was not like that obviously. There is a long way to become a real chef. From footboy to sous-chef and it goes on... and believe my my first sous-chef was a real bitch. Sometimes I remember working 18 hours a day. Man, it was crazy. I even thought about giving up, many times. It was so hard. Maybe 300 people quit when I was there. They said they were taking a break and bam, they were gone. But I thrived and somehow managed and became the chef that I had always wanted to be. At the end, I was proud of myself, so were my friends and family.
As now being the executive chef of La Boom, how do you find the balance between stress and being organized all the time at such an early age?
It was so hard working in my earlier restaurants that I had to learn how to figure things out. Even though I would never wanna go back to those times, I am really grateful that I learnt everything the hard way. I had great teachers. I loved to watch and learn. The pressure of a restaurant is something very different, the stress level is so high. But I was so driven, I had this mentality that no one was able to beat me. I was fearless and I took many risks on the way. And sometimes, even I had everything in control, I ask myself why I ended up being a chef. People say you must be crazy to be one and they are right.
Interview : Matt Goktug Sari
Photos : Armagan Aygencer
What is the hardest part of being a chef in La Boom? The hardest part is not being the chef of La Boom, it is working in Turkey. You guys love to postpone things and I always hear “no problem chef, tomorrow, no problem we can do it tomorrow” and this tomorrow never happens. People working in kitchen are generally uneducated and they have a hard time understanding me. At the beginning it was okay but then it became a serious issue. This is totally strange to me. Almost every day we have a problem. Also there is the boss... he can usually get mad at me for a reason. One day he sent me to Four Seasons and said he wanted some stuff they cooked in La Boom as well. This is a bit restraining and to me outrageous. And, of course there are the suppliers. They sometimes do and say crazy things. What should I do? Should I go to Carrefour? Well, I sometimes do. (he chuckles)
What do you like the most about Istanbul?
There are many things that I like but the best thing is the view of Bosphorus. I feel so lucky to get to see it everyday. My flat has this amazing view of the bridge. Every night I fall asleep watching that. First I stayed in Maslak then moved to Levent, to a hotel. I kinda don’t like places where other people don’t make my bed every day. But finally I have my own flat after spending four months in hotels. I still don’t make my bed though. I am completely enjoying myself and living the life, enjoying every second.
This is an interesting question to ask an executive chef yet I’m gonna shoot. What is your favorite ingredient? (In Turkish) Frenk soğan (chives). I use a lot of that. Also I use “pul biber” (a kind of pepper). (he laughs) Sea salt is also a great addition to every dish I prepare. ».
Finally, how is your relationship with the customers? Do you visit tables, or do they ever call you to their tables to thanks or show gratitude?
Well I mostly visit foreign customers. But with Turkish, I only visit La Boom’s regular customers. I have made many friend out of this too. Almost all regular customers told me that La Boom’s food, before was awful and they want to congratulate me on reviving the place. I am not trying to sound cocky but to them, they think I saved this place. I made some arrangements.