The Funds Spent by the AKP on "Turkish Cuisine"
The Michelin Guide, the world's most popular restaurant guide, has announced its Istanbul selection. A total of 53 restaurants are listed in various categories, with TURK Fatih Tutak being the only restaurant to receive two stars, while Araka, Mikla, Neolokal and Nicole restaurants were honored with one Michelin star at a ceremony attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.
Minister Ersoy, who had earlier shared with the public that a Michelin Guide for Istanbul would be released, stated, "Our publicity has borne fruit and we have attracted the attention of the Michelin Guide, which has chosen us as its 38th destination. On October 11, they will announce the restaurants they have selected. They have their own anonymous inspectors who have already started their ratings. Michelin stars are awarded for the restaurant, but not just for the chef, and the guide creates a pleasant and healthy environment for competition. As you know, "The World's 50 Best Restaurants" list has also included Turkey in its selections. These are the steps we are taking rapidly in the branding of Istanbul. We are now in discussion with Michelin on our other cities."
Michelin officials also announced that they had been preparing a guide for Istanbul in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The fact that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was involved in this whole process has led the public in Turkey to question the funds that the government spends on matters related to "Turkish cuisine."
For instance, foodie Mehmet Yalcin wrote that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism paid 600,000 euros to the Michelin company for the expenses incurred for this guide.
In another instance, last year a book titled Turkish Cuisine with Centennial Recipes was published on the initiative of Emine Erdogan, the wife of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While the book was discussed in sarcastic terms on social media, the financial resources spent on the book disturbed many citizens in Turkey, as the country is going through an economic crisis.
Although the authorship and editorial team of the book consisted of chefs, the fact that Emine Erdogan wrote the book's foreword and actively participated in its promotion was questioned by the public. On the cover of the book, the names of the authors are not mentioned, but the names of the editors appear instead. One Ofset Filmcilik received 275 thousand TL for printing the book and another Pera Etkinlik received 700 thousand TL for its promotion. The amount paid to the editors for the production of the book is not known.
Speaking at the launch of the book, Emine Erdogan mentioned that esteemed chefs and academics had done meticulous work and dedicated great efforts to ensure that our rich culinary culture will find the place it deserves.
Expressing her gratitude to all those involved in the preparation of this distinguished publication, as well as to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for carrying out the project and the Turkish Tourism Development and Promotion Agency (TGA) for its support, Emine Erdogan hoped that the book would reach important libraries and gastronomic shelves around the world and serve as a new bridge in the field of cultural diplomacy.
Emine Erdogan has made great efforts to publicize the book and has promoted it at many events. For example, Emine Erdogan attended the launching event of the Serbian translation of the book, where Tamara Vucic, the wife of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, was also present, and expressed her delight at being able to promote the book together. She expressed her gratitude for the Yunus Emre Institute as well as the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Turkish Tourism Development and Promotion Agency for their support.
In her speech, Emine Erdogan described the cuisine as a mirror that reflects the national identity and culture. Stating that human beings have developed many norms, traditions and customs regarding food, which is their basic need, since the first day of history, Emine Erdogan explained that these traditions have developed into the unifying force of a society as well as its distinguishing features from other societies.
In a program broadcast live in Greece, viewers were introduced to a book sent as a gift by Emine Erdogan and the recipes it contains for sardines in vine leaves and kadayif pastry. The presenter of the program, Dimitris Ikonomu, thanked Mrs. Erdogan for her kindness in sending the book by the way of the Turkish Embassy.
At another event, Emine Erdogan gave Malaysian Queen Tunku Azizah a tour of the Presidential National Library. Afterwards, Erdogan presented her with the Malay translation of Masnavi and the book Turkish Cuisine with Centennial Recipes produced under her auspices and translated into English.
In another event for the promotion of Turkish cuisine, this time held at the Embassy in Havana as part of the Turkish Cuisine Week organized under the patronage of Emine Erdogan, Ambassador Vehbi Esgel Etensel presented the book Turkish Cuisine with Centennial Recipes at the opening of the event.
Emine Erdogan's interest in gastronomy is not limited to this book. She attended a Turkish cuisine cooking workshop at the "Balikesir Gastronomy Festival" held as part of the May 21-27 Turkish Cuisine Week, an event organized under the auspices of the Presidency and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
After the opening ceremony of the Turkish Cuisine Week and festival in Edremit district, Emine Erdogan went to the kitchen set up in the garden of the former olive oil factory and cooked with famous chefs and local women using healthy, traditional and waste-free recipes.
Again, within the scope of the Turkish Cuisine Week, an event titled "Turkish Cuisine with Centennial Recipes" took place in Moscow. At the "Turkish Street Delicacies in Moscow" event held in the capital's historical park VDNH, Muscovites were served different Turkish dishes and desserts. The event was publicized on the Facebook page of the Embassy of Turkey in Moscow as follows:
We organized an event titled "Turkish Street Delicacies in Moscow" in the VDNKH, the largest park in Moscow, as part of the Turkish Cuisine Week from May 21 to 27, announced under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey and inspired by the book Turkish Cuisine with Centennial Recipes, which was produced on the initiative of Mrs. Emine Erdogan. We offered samples of street delicacies, which are an integral part of Turkish cuisine, along with Turkish desserts, lemonade and Turkish coffee for Muscovites to try at our stand.
Emine Erdogan tweeted on the Michelin Guide’s Istanbul selection. Erdogan said, “The fact that 53 Turkish restaurants were included in the #MichelinGuide that is a reference for the world is without a doubt a universal window into our cuisine. I also congratulate our Chef Fatih Tutak who achieved a first by receiving two Michelin Stars. For a chef who is one of the authors of our book on #TurkishCuisine including century-old recipes to be included in a guide with international recognition is of course a source of pride. I believe that this step will act as a bridge toward many beginnings in the process of our country becoming a center of gastronomy.”
Public institutions promoting local and cultural food is a common practice across the world. However, it is difficult to say that this is done in an institutionalized way in the Turkish context. Emine Erdogan, President Erdogan's wife, unofficially takes the initiative, but the transparency of the money spent and the promotion is a matter of debate. Thus, public funds are appropriated for Emine Erdogan's hobbies under the innocuous title of cultural promotion.
As such, Turkey's culinary promotion becomes an example of the lack of transparency in a country that is increasingly suffering from it.