The road to success: Alanya’s topchef Mutlu Şevket Yılmaz

He can be considered as one of the best chefs in Turkey: Mutlu Şevket Yılmaz, owner of Seasons Restaurant in Oba, Alanya. Mutlu is the winner of the prestigious cooking competition Bocuse d’Or Turkey 2015 and attended the even more reputable European final of Bocuse d’Or in 2016. Next week he will compete in the final of Bocuse d’Or Turkey 2017. Chef Mutlu tells in this interview about his life and how his determination made him to become an Award winning chef. 

Bocuse d'Or Turkey winner Chef Mutlu Şevket Yılmaz from Alanya

Mutlu Şevket Yılmaz:

“Do you want a heroic story or the true story of how I became a chef? The truth is that I wasn’t a good student. I soon realised I wouldn’t be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that, so I had to find another profession. Some profession where I could work with my hands. I was born in Ankara, but when I was seven I moved to Antalya with my parents. I decided to go into the tourism sector and applied for the Antalya Anadolu Otelcilik ve Turizm Merkezi, the Vocational School for Hotel and Tourism.”

A career as a chef

“During those studies I did an internship at a hotel in Kemer. I started as ‘kommi’, the lowest status among waiters. I was constantly carrying around chairs and tables. In the meantime, I was always watching the chefs who were outside smoking a cigarette and talking. I thought: that is where I belong. Carrying all day is not what I’m supposed to do. I want a career in the kitchen as a chef.”

“You have to imagine that until that moment -seriously- I did not even know how to reheat food. One time, when my parents left the city, my mother had food ready for me. You only have to reheat it, she said, but at night I had to call a friend to help me out. Anyway, I started working in the kitchen in the hotel in Kemer.”

Famous Sushi chef

“When I finished vocational school, I studied management for four years at Akdeniz University in Antalya. In addition I had a job in the kitchen of the Hill Side Su Hotel in Antalya. This hotel was fantastic and was just named best Design Hotel in Europe. The kitchen was run by a young chef called Ercan and the Sushi section was particularly popular. It was run by a famous sushi chef, Kaison, and famous movie stars and singers would fly in from Istanbul especially to enjoy his receipts.”

Teach myself

“But my work there was anything but glamorous. I was only concerned with carrying, peeling and refilling the stock. I wanted to be part of the sushi team but that was almost impossible. One day I told chef Ercan: – I want to be part of the sushi team or I’ll quit! He let me try. For the next two years I was only involved with washing and cooking the rice, cleaning and carrying the fish. For one and a half years, Sushi chef Kaison did not speak to me other than was strictly necessary. After two years I slowly got more and more tasks to do. Kaison didn’t train me or explain the procedures to me. I realised that I had to teach myself how to make sushi or I would always remain the fish-carrier. From that moment I never left Kaison’s side and when he was sleeping, I practiced slicing the fish. I cut my fingers a lot and I had to throw away a lot of fish. However I mastered this craft and after four years, the chef sometimes didn’t even come to the kitchen anymore. He would leave it all to me.”

An accomplished chef

“At one point I decided it was time to leave the hotel but Kaison didn’t want me to leave so I stayed – despite having many good offers. This happened a few times, until I got an offer from Alanya. I didn’t want to go to Alanya and decided to ask for so much salary that they would reject me – they didn’t. When I told Chef Kaison he said: “Now you can go.” He gave me a special knife of his own, something that nobody else has ever had.”

“I started as a Sushi chef in a restaurant in Alanya. When my two year contract there was finished, I decided I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to be solely a Sushi chef anymore. At this stage everybody had started to call me Sushi Mutlu and I knew I had to do something else. I was, after all, an accomplished chef and could do more than just sushi.”

Training at the Paul Bocuse Institute

“When I was working as a chef at a luxury resort in Alanya, I was accepted for a two-week training course at the Paul Bocuse Institute in France. I was trained in authentic French cuisine. We worked from eight o’ clock in the morning until 8 o’ clock in the evening in the kitchen and I loved it. For two weeks I worked and ate in Paul Bocuse’s three Michelin star restaurant.”

Improve Alanya’s culinary image

“Once back working in someone else’s kitchen, I decided I wanted to open my own restaurant. This would be the only way for me to develop myself in the direction I wanted. On June 15, 2013, I opened Seasons in Oba. My ambition is to improve the culinary image of Alanya. Outside Alanya – as I know from experience- people think there are no quality restaurants here and only mediocre food. There are great chefs in Alanya who follow trends and who own restaurants that can compete with well-known restaurants in, for example, Istanbul or Izmir. I want to promote this.”

Bocuse d’Or Turkey

“During recent years I have successfully entered several national and international cooking competitions. The most prestigious of all was Bocuse d’Or. In 2015 I won the Bocuse d’Or Turkey which gave me the chance to compete in the European competition of Bocuse d’Or 2016. Unfortunately there I did not perform well enough to enter the worldwide Bocuse d’Or competition. This takes place every two years in January in Lyon, France. However, this year I will try again. Next week we will enter the Bocuse d’Or Turkey final. If I win there, I will go to the final of Bocuse d’Or Europe in 2018.”

These links give more information about the importance and status of Bocuse d’Or and about the upcoming  competion Bocuse d’Or Turkey.

About Bocuse d’Or Turkey 2017 competition

The History of Bocuse d’Or

 

 

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