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SOMER SİVRİOĞLU: Perfection is the journey, not the destination

Award-winning chef Somer Sivrioğlu, also one of the beloved members of the jury at MasterChef Turkey, defines culinary perfection as the harmonious combination of five flavours. Sivrioğlu answered our questions about the gastronomy world, where attention to detail, patience, and fine workmanship are critical.


As a chef, how would you define perfection?

Perfection is not a destination, but a journey. If we think of perfection in terms of perfectionism, then it becomes impossible to be perfect all the time. Because culinary arts is such a multidirectional arena, you’re bound to run into some mishaps or tiny mistakes. What matters is to pursue your goal in the most perfect way possible and to maintain that level of goodness. These are the moments we’re closest to attaining perfection.

You’ve made it to the top of your profession and have gained a worldwide reputation. What do you think are key elements of your success?

Whether I’ve made it to the top of my profession is a relative observation. I’m managing a Turkish restaurant in Australia. I also have a new project to open a Turkish restaurant in Turkey and to expand across the world. In this regard, it’s crucial to adapt to the country you’re entering and to understand their culture and the expectations of customers. Meanwhile, you should also not make any compromises on your principles. My key principle is to manage a business while retaining my Turkish identity wherever that restaurant may be in the world. I understand why Turkish cuisine is known as “Mediterranean” in the U.S., in some Western district/coasts in particular; but I don’t think I understand other categorizations. I believe that if you’re hesitant on reflecting your own identity, then you cannot make it that far with that. So, for me, it’s essential to say no to businesses in cultures which won’t enable me to open a Turkish restaurant. I always try to preserve the Turkish and Anatolian identity and to open restaurants under their influence; these are my principles while working abroad.

How would you define a perfect meal?

A perfect meal should cater to all of the five senses and should harmoniously combine all five flavours. Whether it’s contrasts or similarities, it should be a harmonious use of spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and umami. This is one of the key elements that make a meal perfect. Image is also important. The scent of the meal, along with the freshness of it all, is also significant. In some meals, even hearing (the fizzles, etc.) or touch can be important. In short, my understanding of a perfect meal are creative recipes which cater to all five senses and advance them while holding a centre.

What would be your perfect assistant while cooking?

I’d say my knives because a sharp knife is crucial for the chef. It’s important not only for cooking or cutting, but also for preventing accidents. Most of the cutting accidents in the kitchen are caused by blunt knives. So, I think having sharp and quality knives are important. I think that new-generation Turkish chefs should stop before getting a knife tattoo and instead spend that money to get themselves a higher quality knife.

What would you suggest to chefs or prospective chefs who always aim to be better or perfect in the kitchen?

My advice would be “be patient.” Patience and endurance are so important. On one hand, we can never sit still because everything’s under our hand in the new world. If you’re improving yourself or learning new things in the kitchen, it’s important to have patience. If you’re stuck and repeating yourself, then it means it’s time for you to start improving yourself. It’s crucial to learn a new language because if we’re going to advance Turkish cuisine, we need to do it on an international scale. So, it’s crucial to learn how to speak English very well. After that, you should look for internship opportunities at the best restaurants abroad. Even an intern without any pay would learn about different cuisines and have the chance to improve their cultural knowledge.

We’ve been talking about perfection so far. Would you like to share some of your flaws as well?

I’d say concentrating because, especially recently, I’ve been multitasking a number of things. So, I feel a bit lost when I sit down and try to focus on a single thing. Time is really the most precious thing to me right now because 24 hours isn’t enough for what I want to do. I think I’d like to be better at concentrating and time management.


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