Guest Chef: Ross Hutchison Takes Us To A Turkish Market
Ross Hutchison is the very first chef to be featured on Markets of New York City! I met him and his amazing wife Joanna Cybulski during my first ever book signing at Brooklyn Craft Central. They invented Bacon Marmalade (remember?), got us all addicted, and then moved to Mallorca. Ross recently traveled to Turkey and wrote this beautiful story for us about connecting with a new culture through food. ~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City
In the Friday Market in Fethiye Turkey
by Ross Hutchison, Chef
A marketplace is a playground for any chef. The feeling of being in a place that draws in so many different people is magic in itself and the essence of everyday life for many of the world’s citizens.
I have been very fortunate over the past 2 years to be an expat, living and working as a private chef in Mallorca, Spain. Coming from New York City, I had a jaded sense that a market is a tame place for trendy micro-kale and shishito pepper shoppers. Don’t get me wrong, those are incredible ingredients, but a market is at its best when there is an authentic charm reflected by the people shopping: a frenzy of families providing, sharing, and trading for the most basic of foods to feed their loved ones.
Tomatoes, Beans and Grapes in the Market
I expand my experiences once a year, by taking a chef position on a super yacht and am currently embarked on a two month eastern Mediterranean trip. I recently dedicated my one day off work to venture to the Friday Market in Fethiye, Turkey. The market is sensational: tomatoes burst with juicy flavor, mountains of grapes taste of sweet honey, piles of pomegranates are freshly picked that morning, wooden carts of late-summer corn grilled over coals, fluffy mounds of green leafy spinach, and squash, chiles, gourds, and spices decorate the labyrinth of stalls.
Apart from the food, my absolute joy comes from talking to the vendors. For me, this is a chance to give back and to relate to my better half. Chefs and farmers are exactly the same kind of people, only in a different part of the chain of food, and we depend on each other for the growth of our industries. Ultimately, we both love when someone shows interest in our craft, and once opened up, there is no end to the amount of information we will share! I usually notice vendors who are selling one or two specific types of produce. This normally means that they are dedicated to producing the best of the best.
Ibrahim selling carob pods from his family’s trees
One of these vendors was Ibrahim, and he has been selling carob pods from his family’s trees for over 10 years now (he is only 24). He told me, in his best English, that he has the best carob at the market because it is hand picked and the trees are at perfect maturity for producing the sweetest pods, a window of 15 years. Carob is a giant tree native to southern Spain and Turkey and produces long black pods used to make chocolate substitute, molasses, and a thickener called carob-bean gum. I bought a few carob from him to snack on as I walked around the market- and he was right…they were so tender and sweet. Above all, he was smiling the whole time I was talking to him, which showed his loving enthusiasm to talk about his precious produce.
I continued on through the rows of vendors, and I came across an elderly lady named Meryem, selling bouquets of dried flowers. I love looking for small interesting items that you will never find in a grocery store. This is why you go to markets, and it is these ingredients that inspire the creation of a dish!! I rarely bring a shopping list to a market, as I let the ingredients and the vendors guide me. I asked what the flowers were and after a few moments of hand signaling and pantomimes with Meryem, another woman came over and translated. If you are curious about something and genuinely show interest, people will respond in a warm and loving way to help you.
Meryam Selling Dried Ironwort Flowers for Tea
I found out that the dried pale yellow branches were a medicinal mountain herb called Ironwort and used in teas to ward off colds and flu. The woman who was translating showed me exactly how much to use, no more and no less than a finger length, and of course Meryem, being the adorable saleswoman she was, told me that I would definitely need more in each cup of tea to do the trick. I of course obliged her and purchased two bouquets. The smell of the leaves when rubbed between your fingers was incredible — with lemon, honey and hot water, I will feel protected in the approaching winter months. I also plan to infuse a syrup for a possible soda, and as a base flavor for panna cotta. There is really no end to being creative with food. You just have to constantly experiment.
Whenever I see street food at a market, the smells overwhelm my senses and I have to try what the locals are eating. My nose led me to a man named Adem who was grilling corn over coals and serving the ears plain in their husks with a dusting of salt. The flavor was real. Not overly sweet and watery, but very satisfying, like I was eating a warm bowl of stone ground yellow grits. I introduced myself and asked about the origin of his corn. He simply pointed across the market to an older man, named Berkant, rocking in his chair selling corn and pomegranates.
Berkant Selling Corn
Adem explained that Berkant was getting too old to do business, so he started selling his corn to Adem with the idea of reselling it ready-to-eat for the market shoppers. I got chills up and down my spine when I heard this because it reminded me so much of the artisan food markets I was a part of in NYC, where people help people to succeed with a shared vision and empathy for each others’ challenges and successes. Competition is amazing for small business, but even more so is support from the network to which you belong.
Market ladies making Gozleme for lunch
On my way out of the market I stopped for a lunch. The frenzy of women flipping flatbreads and crushing pomegranates was enough to get my attention. Ayla was my waitress and handed me a warm flatbread stuffed with sheep’s milk cheese and spinach with a sprinkling of sea salt, known as a Gozleme. No meal is complete in the fall in Turkey without a fresh pressed pint of pomegranate juice, and the taste was simply nothing like you have ever tasted from a bottle. Ayla let me watch the four-sister team in action and was so sweet in explaining the process to me. The flour and water dough is rolled until see-through using a technique that I would probably need a year to perfect! The bread is griddled with virgin olive oil to the char of a perfectly fired pizza crust, then stuffed and folded and served piping hot with a side of spicy pickled vegetables. There is really nothing better than eating great food in the midst of the market that inspired it.
Don’t go to a market with a shopping list and an agenda. Go there to ask questions, and follow your eyes and nose. You will be surprised at what will inspire you and perhaps have at least a small but important impact on people who love what they do, but may not always feel loved. The friendly faces I met in Fethiye opened up a little part of their world to me and allowed this visitor to see the raw power of a traditional marketplace in action.
Visit Private Chef Mallorca and follow Chef Ross on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for amazing, beautiful pictures of food, fun and inspiration around the world! All photos courtesy of Ross Hutchison – much gratitude!
Adem selling grilled corn
Varieties of olives
Fragrant Celeriac Root
I think this says something about market culture?
Piles of fresh grapes and other fruits
Colorful rice, beans and other legumes in the Fethiye Market
Market Shopper at the Friday Market in Fethiye, Turkey
Rows of seasonal gourdes
Green and Red Pomegranates
Ross’s incredible market lunch of gozleme and a glass of fresh pomegranate juice
Ross’ Creation: Turkish Peppers and Cheese
Chef Hutchinson’s Pumpkin Soup
Salad inspired by the local market in Turkey with autumn blackberries, early melon, Turkish goat curd, fall pomegranates, and freshly roasted pumpkin seeds!
The Turkish flag hangs in the Fethiye Market
Ross and Joanna, finding and creating delicious beauty everywhere they go!
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