Often dubbed the ambassador of Turkish cuisine in Indonesia, Chef Sezai Zorlu has been a familiar face in Jakarta’s F&B industry since 1999.
His restaurants Turkuaz, located in Senopati in South Jakarta, and the recently opened Warung Turki in Kemang have instantly become favourites among food enthusiasts in the city.
Before coming to Indonesia, Chef Sezai lived in Singapore where he worked with his father - also a distinguished chef - in his four Turkish restaurants.
“I then decided to move to a new place because Singapore was getting too small for the whole family,” says the second oldest of five brothers with a laugh. “My father was the first person to open a Turkish restaurant in Singapore, and I was the first to open one in Indonesia.”
Chef Sezai’s love and passion for food already began during his childhood which he spent in Iskenderun, located in Hatay Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
“I remember helping my mother in the kitchen ever since I was eight or nine years old,” he recalls. “My grandfather was a farmer, so we had our own land, which means that in terms of ingredients, we always had everything fresh. It was a very healthy life and I learned that I have to respect the food.”
Turkuaz serves local, regional and Ottoman cuisine, whereas Warung Turki puts a greater emphasis on Chef Sezai’s village food.
“We keep it very down to earth and simple and serve what I ate when I was a child because I wanted to keep it alive for the memory of my mother and grandmother,” he explains. “Warung Turki is a place where you can feel at home even though you are actually at a restaurant.”
Chef Sezai, who still visits Turkey on a regular basis, says that in order to be successful in the highly competitive F&B industry, one must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
“You cannot expect your business to take care of you, if you don’t take care of your business, and that includes both the cooking and the service,” he says.
In Turkey, he adds, guests always receive a special treatment.
“When someone comes to stay or dine in your house, we have separate cutlery and china only to serve our guests,” he says. “We even have some dishes that we only prepare for guests.”
One of Chef Sezai’s all-time favorite dishes is Kagit Kebabi – a recipe he was willing to share with NOW! Jakarta readers as well.
“We used to work with our uncle and he would cook for us every day,” he recalls. “Once in a while, maybe once a month, he would make Kagit Kebabi for us. It is pure meat, with only a little bit of chopped vegetables to add to the flavour, and the whole point of this dish is having a piece of nice and beautiful meat in front of you. At the time, not everybody could afford to eat meat on a daily basis, so it was something very special.”
The minced meat kebab with chili and tomatoes, which is baked in the wood oven, is served with bread. Traditionally, it is wrapped in special waxed paper, but unfortunately the paper is not available in Indonesia. Thankfully, this doesn’t have any effect on the quality of the dish; it is indeed a mouthwatering and filling treat.
Kagit Kebabi is not only Chef Sezai’s favorite, but it is also highly popular among his guests at the restaurant.
“In fact, one of my friends who comes from America gave it his own name,” he says. “He calls it a Turger, a Turkish burger. He stuffs everything into the bread and then eats it like a burger.”
Wood oven baked minced meat kebab with chili and tomatoes served with bread
- 200 grams of minced lamb
- 2 pieces of chopped green chili
- 1 piece of chopped onion
- 20 grams of chopped parsley
- 1 piece of tomato, cut into 4 wedges
- 1 piece of whole green chili
- 40 grams of butter, cut in 2 cm cubes
- Black pepper and salt to taste
1. Mix well minced meat, vegetables, salt and pepper
2. Spread the mixture in a tray with 1 cm thickness (can be round or square)
3. Add the tomato, chili and nutter on top of the mixture
4. Put into oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees celcius
5. Serve it on bread