The aim of Topik is to present ‘food without borders’, creating a space to explore and taste the foods of many different minority cultures as well as more well known Turkish dishes.

Topik meze dish – at Armenian Supper Club @e5bakehouse photo by Sebnem Ugural

The name ‘Topik’ comes from an Istanbul Armenian meze dish, traditionally eaten at Easter, Christmas and on New Year’s eve. Unlike other mezes, Topik takes a long time to prepare, so it is rarely found in the meze and Raki taverns (called Meyhane) and lokanta (restaurants) of Istanbul, instead it is normally served at family gatherings. Even though I was born and raised in Turkey, it was not until I was 22, as a guest at my Armenian friend’s Easter meal, that I came across the meze dish ‘Topik’. I subsequently realised that there is a hidden world of foods, from various minorities living in Istanbul and modern day Turkey, which originate from the old, multi-cultural Anatolia and Istanbul. As ‘Topik’ was my own personal doorway to the forgotten and displaced foods of Turkey, I thought it apt to name my project after it, hopefully opening this same doorway to others.

Who is in the kitchen?

Irem is here – as a founder, chef and researcher at Topik London.

Exhibition: dis/placed, Shoreditch Town Hall

I am a former news reporter, and currently work as a London-based chef. I have worked in the field of human rights and refugee organisations on joint projects many years both in Istanbul and in the UK. While I was doing my Masters degree in Cultural and Critical Studies at Birkbeck University of London, my work started focusing on diverse culinary history of Turkey, mainly the famous cuisine of Istanbul. Therefor, I have built my project Topik ‘food wihout borders’ to explore and share the foods of many different minority cultures as well as more well known regional Turkish dishes. Finally I shifted my theoretical work into a practise and started working in kitchen three years ago – I had a chance to work with many talented chefs, cooks from all around the world, then I did an inspiring work-experience at Ottolenghi Spitalfields just before joining the great team at e5 Bakehouse, East London’s organic artisan bakery.

Besides I organise my “7 Hills of Istanbul” super club series every season in various venues in London. Each menu I create based on diverse culinary heritage of Istanbul and Anatolia, including Jewish, Istanbul Greeks, Armenian, Kurdish, Arabic, Circassian cuisines, which, perhaps unrecognised or hidden, make up modern day Turkey and its cuisine.

Seasonal cooking is always central to the Topik’s dinning table, so are local and fresh British produces. Whatever supper themes are different, always expect pure Istanbul and Anatolian flavours on your Topik London dining tables with fine ingredients!