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On The Silk Route With Chef Fatih Tutak

On The Silk Route With Chef Fatih Tutak

Anne Kurian
  • Bringing together his experiences and influences, globally acclaimed Chef Fatih Tutak now helms one of the finest culinary establishments in Istanbul, GALLADA Restaurant & Topside Bar. He chats about all things food and more in this engaging interview...

An epitome of culinary excellence and luxury, GALLADA Restaurant and Topside Bar at The Peninsula Istanbul is one of the finest restaurants in Turkey. Overlooking the Bosporus, the stylish restaurant and bar is headed by internationally acclaimed Chef Fatih Tutak. Chef Fatih, who serves as the Chef Director, opened the restaurant in collaboration with The Peninsula Istanbul. GALLADA Restaurant and Topside Bar celebrates the fusion of Turkish and Asian flavours serving as a culinary tribute to the Silk Road. 

Turkish-born Fatih is Chef Patron of the renowned TURK Faith Tutak, the first Turkish restaurant to be awarded two stars by the Michelin Guide. Chef Fatih’s experience spans from Turkey through China to Southeast Asia, and back. 

In this engaging interview, Chef Fatih Tutak talks about his illustrious culinary journey, GALLADA Restaurant and Topside Bar, his mother and more…

Please tell us about your inspiration for the culinary creativity at GALLADA and  Topside Bar.

The inspiration for GALLADA came from my experiences in Asia, where I have been working for quite some time from China’s great port cities of Qingdao and Beijing to Singapore, and then Tokyo, Hong Kong, and so on, as well as from my exploration of Türkiye’s history. In researching the traditions of my homeland, we find the historical and cultural connections to the Silk Road trade routes that reach far into Asia. Those roads have a common end: Istanbul, one of the biggest ports at the time. We want to take our guests on a gastronomic journey from Istanbul through the culinary complexities of the Silk Road, touching on India, China, Malaysia, and beyond. It’s a fascinating experience, rich in flavours, techniques and tales. My cuisine is about protecting and projecting into the future Turkish identity and challenging our creativity. By collaborating with The Peninsula Istanbul, we are taking this concept further, extending it while bringing together different cultures in a fascinating exploration of Asia.

When did you realise the culinary world is where your passion lies? Please tell us about your early years.

Since I was a child, I have known I wanted to be a chef. I have many strong food memories that contributed to this passion, mostly from my mother’s cooking. Her manti was always my favourite, and I remember coming home from school one day and being hit by this incredible smell, I went straight to the pot to taste it, and that’s when I knew I would be a chef. It was my mother’s care for cooking that inspired me: I wanted to connect with people through food like she did. 

Bringing together Turkish and Asian flavours is not something we hear about often. How have guests of the restaurant received this cultural culinary journey?

We want to give our guests at GALLADA a genuine sense of adventure through food, taking them with us on a journey of exploration along the Silk Road. Also, the terrace where the tables are set offers a fascinating view over the Bosphorus Strait, immersing the diners in a fantastic atmosphere. We have had great feedback, and in early December, we were honoured to be awarded two hats as a “Chef’s Table” restaurant, with Topside Bar obtaining one hat as a “Gourmand Bar” in the highly-acclaimed Gault & Millau guide. We were also included in the 2024 Michelin Guide recommendations – we are very proud of the team for already achieving such international recognition.

Some of your dishes have unusual combinations of ingredients that one would not often see together. How do you come up with such recipes?

I enjoy being challenged and understanding ingredients’ full potential or how to bring together different techniques for a new dish. You could almost always recognise a Turkish recipe in many of the dishes on our menu, but then we revise it through methods and distinct flavour profiles from the Silk Road. For example, in the Wood-fired monkfish, black paste and yoghurt, I take a fish that in Türkiye is traditionally cooked in a tomato paste and instead elevate it with Silk Road flavours and the techniques of Chinese stewed delicacies. We cover the whole fish in a black garlic paste made of squid ink and aromatics, infusing it with flavours that completely transform the dish. 

What inspires you when creating new menus?

Creating a strong gastronomic experience requires careful consideration of history, culture and technique. At GALLADA, we used the Silk Road trading routes as an inspiring starting point. We are lucky in Türkiye to have an abundance of quality and vibrant vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers that add colour and flavour to the dishes. Then we have earthy and satisfying meat, from lamb to beef and poultry. Finally, layers of flavour are further enhanced with herbs and spices, bringing the dish together and giving it its own identity. What sets GALLADA apart is how we integrate all these elements to create a narrative on the dish that pays homage to tradition but also offers a completely new experience. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I want to create incredible memories for my guests; that is why I am a chef. I love to experiment and push the boundaries of how people perceive Turkish cuisine. In aiming to improve ourselves every day, we hope to give people an unforgettable food experience like the ones I have had. 

Being awarded and maintaining 2 Michelin stars is not easy. What would you attribute the Michelin recognition to?

To achieve such an incredible award is down to the work of my team and the great effort they put in every day. We all believe in the shared project of pioneering Turkish cuisine and elevating it onto the global stage so it can now receive the attention it deserves. 

What are your future plans for GALLADA and Topside Bar?

GALLADA and Topside Bar aim to protect and pioneer Turkish gastronomic identity. By collaborating with The Peninsula Istanbul, we can push this concept further. Türkiye will always be my core source of inspiration and where my heart is; however, it is also my dream to open a restaurant in London one day.

What are some of your favourite dishes from your childhood?

As mentioned earlier, many childhood memories have inspired my culinary journey, particularly those involving my mom. Beyond the traditional dish of manti, the Iron-dough dessert found at GALLADA also holds a special place in my heart, reminding me of my mother. Including it on the menu is a tribute to a cherished memory. Both my special manti and the Iron Dough dessert are dedicated to her, encapsulating the essence of her culinary love and expertise. I cherished all of my mother’s dishes as they were infused with not only skill but also love. She was the one who taught me the art of balancing flavours and creating harmony on a plate.

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