Sena Tunçel – pastry chef at Swissôtel in Istanbul
Sena Tunçel is a pastry chef at Swissôtel in Istanbul. Would you like to know more about the exciting city of Istanbul? Then read here.
You currently work as a Pastry chef at Swissôtel in The Bosphorus, in Istanbul Turkey. Tell us about how you got started as a chef. Why did you decide on cooking professionally?
I was 15 when I desired to study Gastronomy and Culinary Arts. During my studies I worked in several kitchens and on my off time, I traveled a lot , experienced different cultures and tried to taste as much as I could. When I realized that food is a powerful way of communication and it’s possible to express yourself through your creations, I decided to continue to my career in the kitchen.
What is the best part of being a chef?
The best part of being a chef is the way it makes you feel alive. You are playing with 4 elements when you are doing your job, you touch, smell, feel, hear and so on, in order to make all of these come together you have to stay in the moment.
Which ingredients have a formative influence on Anatolian cuisine?
Anatolia hosted lots of nomadic cultures. When we look at food cultures of nomadic communs, preserved ingredients have a large influence. Nowadays, I see that usage of these ingredients like pickled vegetables and herbs, fermented dairy products like ‘tarhana’, ‘yogurt’, ‘kefir’, cheese and dried meats with modern techniques and presentations, has brought a new impulse to our culinary history.
Apart from TV, there are lots of other channels such as YouTube… to present work. Would these be options for you as well?
It was a good experience for me , I found out that it isn’t as easy as it seems. This kind of show require lots of effort and concentration if you want to make it both a fun and instructive project.
How would you describe the soul of Turkish pastry best?
I can say that one of the most important things about Turkish pastry is sharing. Generally, in Anatolia , desserts are made in big portions, mostly tray baked and divided into several pieces for sharing.
Istanbul is culinary hotspot with so many different influences and a great combination between the traditional and modern. Another important region for Turkey is Anatolia. How would you describe Anatolia from a culinary point of view?
I agree with you. Istanbul is a city where immigration from Anatolia has been steady for over years. Thus, people brought their food culture to Istanbul, they maintained their eating habits in their homes and they opened restaurants which allow us to experience their way of eating.
In addition to that, with the help of technology and transportation, today we can reach local Anatolian ingredients , and use them in our kitchens. Thats why, we can use these ingredients with modern techniques and serve them to our guests. However, it’s important to know the ingredients and stories behind them and tell that history to the guests, adding to the experience with what they are eating.
How can traditional Anatolian cuisine be adapted to modern life?
With a lot of focus pieces on Anatolia and good marketing strategies.
Which ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques reflect the soul of Anatolia best?
I think foods cooked on an open fire reflect the soul of Anatolia best.
Can you share one of your latest creations with us?
For the tv show, I researched forgotten Turkish desserts and review lots of books, I found a dessert called ‘ Süngeriye’ within the first Turkish cookbook called Melceü’t –Tabbâhin, it means ‘Refuge of cooks’ written in 1844. Süngeriye is made by mixing beaten egg white and cornstarch , cooked on the top of steamed milk then soaked in thickened syrup. I made a white chocolate cracked egg, filled it with pastry cream and then süngeriye, I put apricot compote on the top. I used ‘kadayıf’ for bird’s nest.
What motto do you have for your work as a chef?
No pain no gain ☺
What situations have helped you the most in your development as a chef?
My educational background and hopefully chefs that I worked with and their support.
What do you do if you want to treat yourself to something special to eat?
I go to a newly opened pastry shop or cocktail bar and taste different offers.
There are lots of trends in the international culinary world. What are the real important developments you see and would like to become more important?
The trend of using of local ingredients in restaurants is one of the best trend nowadays. It helps protect unique cultures and reduce the carbon footprint in general.
Did your career as a chef change you as a person and if so, how?
To be a chef made me more meticulous, punctual and elaborate.
Any place in the world you would like to work as chef one day?
I would like to work as chef in Australia one day.
If you would have the time to write a cookbook, what would it be about?
I would like to categorize all pastry items according to their chemical structure and explain classic pastries and their variations with these formulas.
Thank you so much Sena.
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