Sunday, July 12, 2015

Big Chefs Cafe & Brasserie: 100% Turkish!

Dear readers,

Yup! Just like I wrote in my heading - Big Chefs is 100% Turkish although the name isn't! Moreover, it was founded by Gamze Cizreli, a self-starter ambitious woman - in our state capitol Ankara in 2007. 

Big Chefs Menu
It didn't take long for the popularity of this casual eatery to be noticed and after becoming partners with Saruhan Tan, the co-owners opened their first branch in the upscale neighborhood Etiler in Istanbul in 2009. Today, they have over 20 branches in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities in Turkey. Furthermore, they opened their first branch abroad in Dubai at JBR - The Beach in late 2014. 

Big Chefs -Etiler, Istanbul
I actually remember the first time I went to Big Chefs and who I went with in 2009 because I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the menu! My first thought was "how can they handle preparing and stocking all these different types of products?". Well, obviously they knew what they were doing! 

Unfortunately until earlier this year, I hadn't had a chance to go back to Big Chefs since my first visit - there are just so many places to go to in Istanbul that it's hard to keep up! In fact, I had breakfast at the Etiler branch this morning and took the above photo.

Big Chefs Etiler is in walking distance my new place in Ulus where I moved to in March of this year, so I have been to this branch a few times since - especially during my morning walks with Luka, my adorable nearly 5 year-old Maltese dog 

Then, about a week ago, I received an invitation from Big Chefs's PR company (InHouse Iletişim) to have dinner with the owners of Big Chefs and other journalists at Big Chefs in Tarabya, which is located on the Bosphorus waterfront. The purpose was to introduce the newly opened Big Chefs Tarabya Beach. 

Big Chefs Tarabya Beach Club (lower level)
You can pretty much say that Big Chefs Tarabya is their flagship branch in Istanbul because it is huge with indoor and outdoor seating area for 400 and now with a multi-level beach club!

Big Chefs Tarabya Beach Club (upper level)
The beach club can hold up to 100 sunseekers and there are several outdoor showers, towel service and lockers. The Beach is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm with an entrance fee of 75 TL during the week and 100 TL on the weekends (complimentary for children up to the age of 6). There is no swimming pool, however, you can swim in the Bosphorus because it is not very deep by the Beach and more importantly, the water is clean. 

As I mentioned earlier, this is the largest Big Chefs in Istanbul and our table was set right next to the bar and beach section waiting for all the guests to come to enjoy a leisurely dinner and good conversation...
Big Chefs Tarabya
We had a smorgasbord of delights - starting with a variety of cheeses, meats, jams, olives, etc. while the owners filled us in on their future plans...
Big Chefs Tarabya
which include opening more branches abroad. A second branch will be opened in Dubai and two in Saudi Arabia in 2016 and potential sites are being considered in Asia, Europe and even the USA as well as other cities in Turkey. The owners are very confident in their brand and with their energy and positive attitude, I'm sure they will reach their goals and targets!

Although it is now very hot in Istanbul, when you sit by the Bosphorus at night you are usually very lucky because there is usually a lovely breeze. In fact, it even got a bit chilly so a cup of lentil soup really hit the spot - and it was excellent! The soft cheese and chard leaves was a nice touch!

Lentil soup @ Big Chefs Tarabya
Although our dinner was held on a Tuesday night, Big Chefs Tarabya was packed with diners!

Big Chefs Tarabya

spilling into the indoor section which also houses their open kitchen...

Big Chefs Tarabya
and there is also a lovely lounge area where you can sit, have a cocktail while you are waiting for your table...

Big Chefs Tarabya
For our main course, we were each asked to make our own selection. As I mentioned earlier, the menu is quite big at Big Chefs (breakfast treats, appetizers, salads, burgers, wraps, pizza, pasta, noodles, mains, desserts, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages)! The other thing I like about this casual cafe & brasserie's menu is that photos of many of the dishes served are included and the quality of the photographs are excellent. 

I opted to select the "Beef Tenderloin slices served on a bed of arugula and topped with Parmesan cheese", served with a side of French Fries (which I had previously eaten at at their Etiler branch and loved).

"Beef Tenderloin slices" @Big Chefs Tarabya
The meat was cooked just the way I like it... medium rare.

Finally, it was time for dessert, but unfortunately I have no pictures to share because it was too dark and the photos came out bad. But, take my word for it when I say that the blueberry cheesecake and chocolate layer cake were very good! 

It was a lovely evening! It was a pleasure meeting Ms. Cizreli and Mr. Tan. It was also a night of catching up with old acquaintances and making some new acquaintances.

So... I say, visit the nearest Big Chefs to where you are for a relaxing, casual breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends or family in a delightful setting. Or... go to the Big Chefs Tarabya Beach and soak up some rays!

Gamze Cizreli (standing), Saruhan Tan (far left) 

Stay well,

Side bar:Mr. Tan is a businessman and his family is the owner of YKM Giyim, a well-known retailer in Turkey and this is his first venture into the restaurant industry. He also still retains his role as Chairman of the Board at YKM Tourism and Travel Agency. 

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