Chef’s dish of Turkish delight

Skills for Chefs - director David McKeown (right) with guest chef Cem Erol and members of the team
Skills for Chefs - director David McKeown (right) with guest chef Cem Erol and members of the team

A highlight of last week’s 17th annual Skills for Chefs conference was put under threat when four Turkish chefs were left without UK entry visas.

But executive guest chef Cem Erol saved the day – thanks to Facebook.

Cem, chief instructor at MSA, the culinary arts academy of Istanbul, put out an appeal to former graduates to help him prepare the four-course meal for 150 guests.

Within two hours he had his team – with former students travelling from London, Edinburgh and even Turkey to join him.

They met for the first time as a team in the kitchen at The Edge, Sheffield University’s social centre in Endcliffe Village.

And, despite never having worked together before, they produced an impressive feast.

The meal was designed to showcase not only traditional Turkish foods, but also some of the nation’s more innovative culinary treats.

So the guests, who included a range of professionals, top chefs and front-of-house experts from across the UK, tucked into a feast that did the team proud.

It started withcold mezze: hummus, smoked veal and traditional şakşuka – with unusual salmon pastrami, smoked yogurt and black garlic powder.

Hot mezze included grilled veal tongue and cantik – bread stuffed with a minced meat mixture.

Main course was elbasan tava – a rich lamb casserole, but in this case made with lamb shank instead of the usual cubed steak – served with firik rice, like puy lentils.

And finally, a highlight of the meal was dessert, featuring crystallised pumpkin, tahini halva and delicious salep ice cream, made from powdered orchid root.

Cem and his team (pictured right) were given an ovation by guests – who chose to stay the course rather than leave early to watch the World Cup semi-final.