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Rene Women Interviews 0002: Ayse Dilek

I get a sense, as the effortlessly-elegant chef Ayse Dilek slides into our table at Journey Cafe that she’s going to play her business off in a casual, it’s-not-so-special way. And she sort of did, because if you know her she’s a human who is both easy-going and absolutely committed. She owns the Istanbul-based catering production company called Food Project. She’s much more of a producer than a caterer, truly making the fashion world come to live in food form– cut candy gems, galactic macarons, food that is ‘almost’ too art-like to eat. But that’s the thing– it all tastes amazing, too. Her clients include fashion houses Gucci and Chanel, because she and her team can really make anything happen– not just in flavor but in their concept, too. But before you get too many ideas about what it’s like to work with brands like this, let me shed some light on where her kitchen space was for the most recent Chanel show in Istanbul– under the stairs, without a proper kitchen, out of the way so that the fashion and hospitality could take center stage for guests, literally. It was such a pleasure getting to know Ayse. Our conversation (with our mutual friend Rana from Rene Homes) ranged from hustle culture (seems like the norm in Turkey) to keeping it absolutely simple and no-fuss at home.

Get to know Ayse below:

Stef: Where do you live?
Ayse: Here, in Cihangir with my 3 cats (Bebe, Bonbon and Ufaks) in an old house that everyone thinks is too big for me. But I love big, open spaces. I like a space with just one piece in it. And also because I have three cats, it’s like a tv show or movie all the time. They really do live in a world of their own.

S: What are some of your favorite places to eat around here?

A: Cuma and Cuma Salon, and here at Journey.

S: When did you begin your business?
A: In 2012. I began my work in the culinary field first in London. It was good training. Then I came back here to begin the Food Project.

S: Since you’re a caterer, what sort of fantasy dinner party would you hold? Where would it be? Who would you invite? What would you serve?
A: Well, maybe my answer is a little bit boring but I would just like those people I know, those people I’m very close with, my inner circle. And just beyond that. I want to be with people I know or mostly know. I’m not interested in getting to know celebrities or anyone that’s famous. I really would like to spend time with people I already love. I would try to find some place with giant rocks, so that the long table can stand out and be seen. I don’t know what I would serve but what I love to do is find a way to make the food playful. I love the thin line between edible and inedible, between art and food. I know it’s fashionable now, but I’ve been thinking this way my entire career. I love tastes and textures and the surprise element.

S: When you’re not at work, what do you make for yourself at home?
A: Since childhood I’ve been eating it– Mantı Makarna. Fake mantı because it’s really so hard to make. It’s comfort food for me. It’s simple and basic. I also like clean and simple braised meat. I’ll cook it for hours and not even include an onion. I do all this complicated and creative stuff at work, and at home it’s the opposite.

S: What is the favorite room you have in your home?
A: I love my living room. It’s like a garden. I don’t have a garden but outside my big window is a wall of ivy. And I filled the room with plants.

S: You’ve been in business for 11 years now. What is your biggest lesson?

A: You can solve anything. Don’t get stressed. The answer will come to you. And you also need a good team. That took me a long time to get.

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