'The most I make for myself at home is a Turkish tea'
Talking food with Ismail Kacal, head chef, Besh Turkish Kitchen Sheraton MOE Hotel
Your best food-related experience.
All the times I spent watching my father and learning how to cook from him. Whenever I was off from school, he would take me along with him to work (he had his own restaurant) and would teach me the tips and tricks of how to get things done, both in the kitchen and outside it. Seeing the joy he received from cooking and providing for his guests was a true inspiration, and made me want to become a chef.
Who do you admire most in the culinary world, and why?
There are many chefs that inspire my work in the culinary world. However, the one I think I look up to the most is chef Nusret (Salt Bae). I've been following him since the beginning of his career, and always felt a connection, as we are both Turkish; also, he is an extremely hard worker and a superbly creative artist.
Your favourite culinary destination, and why?
One of my top culinary hotspots would be Istanbul, Turkey. Not only does the city have a vast historical heritage, it has a multitude of cultures and cuisines that offer tourists an experience they won't forget.
How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I usually dine out every weekend and always try a different cuisine and restaurant around town. My favourite area is the Palm Jumeirah, as it combines spectacular views together with a variety of restaurants with fabulous food for everyone to indulge in.
If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you serve them?
If I had to pick one person I could cook for, it would be His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and I would serve him one of my favourites, Hunkar Begendi (which translated into English means Sultan's Delight). It is traditional Turkish eggplant-based dish, roasted over an open flame till it's tender and succulent; the eggplant skin is then removed and the vegetable puréed to perfection and served with slow-cooked and flavoursome stewed meat.
You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
Lobster-flavoured ice cream.
One ingredient/dish you can't stand, and why.
Ginger. When I was younger, this was given to us in medicinal form for a quick remedy to a bad cold or cough. Now, every time I taste or smell it, it reminds me of that medicine.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
Since I do a lot of food tasting at work, I normally do not cook once I get home. The most I make for myself is a Turkish tea.
Favourite comfort food?
My favourite comfort food, ever since I was a little boy, has been Su Boregi, with the recipe my mom used to make for me. A traditional Turkish dish, it is a baked, spinach-filled pastry made of thin, flaky dough.
If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
Iskender Kebab, a very-well known dish in northwestern Turkey. Prepared from thinly sliced grilled lamb, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and served on pita bread with a generous slathering of melted butter and fresh yoghurt.
Where can we find you, when not in the kitchen?
On the restaurant floor, mingling with the guests and making sure everyone is enjoying their meal and having a great time.
- Staff reporter