Sezai Erdogan is an Executive Chef at Çirağan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul.
How did you decide that you wanted to become a chef?
When I was in high school it was my dream to become a Chef in my professional career. Firstly, I learned internal cooking lessons from my grandfather and grandmother who were the masters in our family. It was not a family job, but I am sure I had these roots from my grandparents.
Is there any chef that inspires you most?
I have had the chance to work with world-famous, Michelin-starred chefs including Alain Ducasse, Roger Verge, Michel Troisgros and Marc Meneau during a rotating 2-month schedule of guest chefs. I can say that I have also had different inspirations from different chefs and cuisines of the world.
What is your favourite Turkish dish?
There are a lot of alternatives when we look at rich Turkish cuisine. Just to highlight one, I can say the leek cooked in olive oil is one of my favourite ones. This is a traditional Turkish winter starter dish, made from leek, rice, garlic and carrot, slowly cooked in olive oil.
What is one ingredient that you use a lot in your cooking?
I usually use mastic in my cooking style. I love using it as it makes a nice harmony. In the meantime, mastic is a very unique Turkish spice, collected from pine trees. It goes very well with beef stew and poached fish dishes and milky dessert such as special Turkish “Muhallebi” and so on.
Do you have your signature dish?
I can go for “Sardine wrapped in wine leaves” dish. This is my favourite dish that I can cook very well. I prefer to use sardines from Aegean Sea which need to be wrapped with butter, tomato and garlic. It is simply cooked on charcoal grill. It is very light and refreshing dish especially for the summer time. This dish has been served to many TOP VIP guests in the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul cuisine and many other international hotels that I worked in like The Plaza, New York and The Peninsula Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.