14 May 2013


Interpreter of Food History (for Vertu
BORN in Finland to a Turkish architect father and Finnish-Swedish sculptor mother, Mehmet Gürs describes his family as “hardcore foodie”. “I’d spend Christmas hunting, fishing and smoking produce” he says, English impeccable. “And I remember learning to pick perfectly ripe figs at my grandfather’s by the Black Sea.” 

Like his father and sister, Gürs considered becoming an architect, but opted instead to study medicine. “However, at the last minute, I pulled out of medical school, much to my grandmother’s unhappiness.” Gürs subsequently ventured to the US to study food and beverage management. Eight years on, he began to cook professionally in Istanbul. 
Despite eschewing architecture, design remains in Gürs’ DNA. “I sketch a lot, from dishes to the plans for my summer house. Architects look at life in a structured way and food’s similar. It has to look and taste good, and have a function.” 
At 44, Gürs has the energy of someone half that age. “But I’m not a workaholic,” he insists. “Nor am I a party guy; I’m more into the woods than the city – and I love the beach.” A surfer since 16, Gürs likens the sourcing of ingredients to “searching for the perfect wave”. “I read a lot into my relationship with wave and water. I can sit on a board for hours almost meditating.” 
Gürs employs food ‘anthropologist’, Tangör Tan. “Tangör was an agricultural engineer. But he preferred food to playing with animals! He was the first Turkish student to attend Slow Food’s university.” Working with 250 artisan suppliers, Tan and Gürs revive and update ancient techniques and traditions. “For example, via freeze mashing and use of a Thermomix, we turn a traditional food of dried wheat fermented with yoghurt into a smooth, potato-like purée.
Gürs believes bringing old techniques into the “new kitchens of the city” is the best way to preservation. But some traditionalists disagree. “So I give them the example of the first person who dared to separate the yolk from an egg white - which goes against God - to create a soufflé...”
Resulting dishes are served at Gürs restaurant, Mikla, designed by Istanbul architect, Mahmut Anlar. “Anlar takes a sexy approach, blending contemporary plastics with 1940s zebra pattern lounge chairs. Our bar stools are the same as the kitchen stools in my childhood home which I sat on every morning. I didn’t pick them – Anlar did, by chance! Obviously he read me well.”
Although regarded as a celebrity chef, Gürs claims to be a private person. “I’m called a celebrity, but really I’m known mostly by those interested in food. You see some chefs, especially in the UK, who are like rock stars. But that sort of status gets in the way of how people treat their staff.”
For Vertu