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Yavuz Iskender Kebab: historically Turkish, contemporarily European

Journee Gastronomique de Sologne will host Turkish cuisine this year. Turkey’s traditional favorite “Iskender Kebab” will run for its irresistible taste…

This year 35th of Journee Gastronomique de Sologne will be organized. The food fest has been organized Internationally for the last 15 years. In recent years Morocco, Martinique, Italy and Spain have participated as honorary guests. The honorary guest for 2012 is Turkey. The activity will take place in historical city Romorantin-Lanthenay, 1.5 hours away from Paris, France. Having a population of 20 thousand, this city owns its popularity to Francis of  France since he was born there. The place is well known in history because it is the city where negotiations started with Suleiman the Magnificent the Ottoman Emperor. In scope of Sologne Food Fest, Sologne meals the guest country’s meal art, exbihitited. Number of  visitors varies between 15 thousand and 60 thousand.

Mayor of the city Mr. Jeanny Lorgeoux is a senator at the same time. He supports Turkey and in the past months he led the senators who moved the Armenian bill to the constitution court and had it cancelled.

Iskender Kebab is named after its inventor İskender Effendi. One of senator’s close friends is his grandson, Yavuz Iskenderoglu.

We made a short interview with Yavuz Iskenderoglu about the event and the sector. Yavuz Iskenderoglu keeps on telling from here:

The Food Fest is organized between 27 and 28 October in Romorantin. Mayor Largeoux has been in charge for over 30 years in here, he is also a senator of today’s government Every year a food fest is organized in the city, This year my Turkish supporter friend invited Turkey to the organization as guest country of honor. I will take my team to the fest in order to represent Turkey. There, we will offer our Iskender Kebab to French people. Because of food export regulations, it is going to be hard to take the products to France, but we will find a way to go there two days prior to the fest and make our arrangements. We will be taking our meat, butter and natural sauce that is produced by organic tomatoes that have seen August sun with us. In order to kill two birds with one stone, we inrtiated the negotiations between Mudania and Romorantin cities for them to be sister cities.

As everybody knows, Mudania city has a special place in history as an armistice city and historically it has a lot in common with Romorantin, so that we made them be sister cities. Thus, thanks to this event, Mudania will be introduced and our Iskender Kebab as well.

Of course it is not an easy job to organize and serve kebab to many people. But we are going to make it it wont be only meat, pitta, yoghurt and sauce we will be serving but a culture, history and traditions shaping around them. I would like to show people my smiling face, understanding and compassion during the fest so that they would understand that  this is a culture and getting close to Turks would be in favor of them rather than being afraid of  Turks. I have no other goals. I will not eam a penny from the kebabs I cooked using the ingredients I took from my country making countless efforts. Besides, those days will be the eid days in Turkey, I will have to be running my business, checking everything, but I will not be able to. I will be representing my country and meals because I love my job, my country and my Bursa. Therefore, all kinds of westem food culture covered us from head to toe, even little kids in villages know them, since this is the situation, why not introduce them our meal culture deriving from our national traditions like doner kebab?

The world may know doner, this is okay. It breaks sales records in Europe. But it has nothing to do with our Iskender Kebab. As for the sauce containing garlic, it is completely different I may say that I am not selling doner. I am the inventor of  Turkish, Bursa style Iskender Doner Kebab. I mean I am not a salesman. The Iskender Kebab I cook has a very special taste combining meat, pitta, yoghurt, butter and tomato sauce together, It is served in a plate with a special presentation. I explain life as riding a bicycle. Tricycle, bicycle and unicycle… Everyone can ride a tricycle, even my grandpa… You can ride a bicycle in case you know how to ride. Bur for unicycle, only an acrobat can ride it. If you want to make your life different, if you want to show that you are different from the others, you have to feel like riding a unicycle and you have to struggle accordingly. That’s how you make a brand out of yourself that’s when everyone knows you, that’s when you succeed. Else, you will have no difference than ordinary people. And we are going to do our best to represent our country, our values, our city and our kebab in this organization in accordance with our vision.

Yavuz Iskenderoglu is used to such organizations. In 2003, Yavuz Iskenderoglu had made an impact representing Turkey in “NATO International Fair” those days as well. Turkish General Staff had summoned a four-person team led by Yavuz Iskenderoglu to the fair that is to be opened in NATO Headquarters. Iskenderoglu answered the summons and completing the preparations, he had sent the ingredients to Italy via a military air craft Famous brands from member countries of NATO are invited to this yearly fest.

Iskender Kebab is offered to all guests including commanders in Afsouth Headquarters of NATO in Napoli, Italy.

 A short history of Yavuz Iskenderoglu – Kebapci ISKENDER:

Father and Mother sides of Mr. Yavuz Iskenderoglu have a blood tie of old. “Sabit Efendi” who was his paternal grandfather, was a well-known butcher in 1800’s , earned his nick name as “Libertine” because of his fond of sharing and entertainment. He was a beloved one in Old Istanbul City, used to sell meat on his horse, while enjoying his time.

Grand Grand Father of  Mr. Yavuz, who’s called “Iskender, Son of Mehmet” used to go to Istanbul to help his Uncle Sabit during summertimes, when he was a kid. His assignment was to cook the meat on the horse, while his uncle selis the meat on the street. During that period, he had the idea of cooking meat vertical to ground, instead of parallel. By this way he tried to stop cooked meat smell, by prevent dropping of meat water on to the fire. Although it seems childish at that moment, Sabit Efendi encouraged him in order not to break his heart.

Around 1850’s, the family was selling roasted lamb or tandoori at Mehmet Efendi Restaurant, which was a very common job in Bursa. Later in 1860’s, the business continued to grow with the support Iskender Efendi (1848-1934) gave to his father Mehmet Efendi. In such a time in the Ottoman period when meat (tandoori or roasted lamb) cooked was sold not only in specific locations but also on trays carried on head. Iskender, the son, was in search of making some changes in the job and polishing it up with the courage he got from his Uncle Sabit. His father told him to stop inventing something, not to cause any problem. Then he first told his ideas to his mother and finally, in the end, he made the proposal to his father to roast the lamb on a large vertical spit, which had been cooked parallel to a fire on the ground for centuries. To do that, he set a fire in a vertical fıreplace, removed the bones and nerves from the meat to be roasted, cooked it on a skewer by constantly spinning before the fire and served it after cutting into thin slices.

That different way of serving captured very close attention in Bursa and the food began to be named as “the spinning kebab of Iskender Efendi”. The meat was without any bones, cooked before fire set in a vertical fireplace and cut in a different way. However, the way it used to bok was still different from today; it was simpler, no forks and knives were given, thin slices of meat were placed on a pita, which was called “alaturka” then, and it was served with yoghurt, tomato paste and butter to make it a plate of flavor. From then on, the word “Iskender” has connoted that plate. In those years, the population of the Bursa city was so small and the city consisted of such a few neighborhoods as Kayhan, Tahtakale, Reyhan, Maksem and Tophane.

The people knew each other. The place where Doner Kebab was served then was a location of just 20 or 30 square meters.

After the alphabet revolution in 1926, it moved to the first restaurant with a signboard. In time, people began to refer to the food with “doner kebab” or “doner”, and the name “Mehmet oglu Iskender Efendi (Iskender Efendi, the son of Mehmet)” was what was written on the first signboard of the restaurant, which has transformed later into a business name in ourworld of commerce.

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