Some Wonder Women of Istanbul

Last week, International Women’s day came and went. And while some (with the right intention) thought the gift of a single rose could embody the histories (and continuing) of female hardship, the strength of women to persevere in solidarity,* I was thinking about something else: women and food.

Besides all of the mothers, teyzes and ablas feeding consistently delicious food, I thought it appropriate to take the time and shine a little light on the professional women of Istanbul who feed us so well. Every. Time. I wanted to take the time to celebrate just a few of the women in Istanbul who have made the road a little less bumpy for the next generations.

Ece Aksoy
Ece Aksoy. Courtesy of Zero Istanbul

Ece Aksoy
This woman seems to have grown into her own legend. 9 Ece Aksoy is one of the few meyhanes in the city where a) a woman is fronting the house and b) can hold down the fort when shit hits the fan. Not to mention, you won’t find the regular dishes of tomato paste and eggplant mezes.

Aylın Yazıcoğlu
Aylın Yazıcoğlu. Courtesy of YouTube

Aylın Yazıcıoğlu
Chef of renowned – yet understated – Tomtom topped Nicole restaurant. Yazıcıoğlu’s food is nothing less than thrilling. The team uses seasonal ingredients; their menu may not change daily, but rather every six weeks instead. They use traditional ingredients in truly contemporary and never-before-seen ways. It’s thoughtful creativity on a plate.

Şemsa Denizsel
Şemsa Denizsel. Courtesy of YouTube

Şemsa Denizsel

Heading the once small Kantin, today you can find the beautiful restaurant and Denizsel’s food philosophy in Nişantaşı’s Reasurans Pasaj. The food at Kantin has beendubbed traditional, homey, and simple at its finest. However, it’s safe to say that there was nothing simple or tradition about (the delicious) shrimp curry we recently ordered. That said, the dishes are elegant, complex but still accessible.

Didem Şenol
Didem Şenol. Courtesy of KiaMore

Didem Şenol
Trained as a chef in New York and furthered her experience at a hotel outside Marmaris, Didem Şenol opened her first restaurant with the philosophies of Alice Waters in mind – Lokanta Maya. The restaurant was located in the – then – dodgy, now offensively trendy Karaköy. The restaurant’s food focused on the indigenous and seasonal Anatolian ingredients. All the while, she opened iconic Gram café in Beyoğlu. Unfortunately, the year treachery that was 2016 forced so many to close and Lokantaya Maya was one of them. Gram, too, went through a change, relocating to the very chique Kanyon shopping centre. While Gram was and still is a fantastic café, here the team can continue to explore some of their original missions when they opened Lokanta Maya in 2010.

Defne Koyrürek
Courtesy of YouTube – Table of Istanbul

Defne Koryürek
A hard woman to pigeon-hole – and all the more inspiring. Koryürek is responsible for so much (necessary) change in Istanbul. It was probably when she started as a chef that she was exposed to the city’s lacking practices. From there, she delved into the world of regional goods. That is to say, what comes from where, when, how to use it and who uses it. If it hasn’t already, in the last couple of years Defne Koryürek’s name grew synonymous with Turkey’s participation in the Slow Food movement. She is also the founder of Fikir Sahibi Damaklar (loosely translated as thoughtful tastes). Her efforts initiating the Lüfer Koruma Timi (Blue Fish Protection Team) won the respect of many. The lüfer is a fish native to Istanbul that has been grossly overfished in just the last decade. While these initiatives are quite today, Koryürek carries on spreading the word of GOOD practices through education and Istanbul’s geography. But perhaps the most compelling aspect of this woman is that she defines herself as many things: activist, chef, researcher, geographer, but first and foremost she defines herself as a mother. While so many “modern” women remain so self-conscious of their feminity, some going as far as denying it all together, Koryürek embraces it whole heartedly.

Happy (belated) International Women’s Day

*A single stemmed rose does not represent feminism, womanhood or that history. But thank you for thinking of it 🙂