When Beyti Güler and his father opened a small restaurant in 1945, little did they know it would revolutionise Turkish cuisine.
By
Camellia Ling Aebischer

12 Jul 2019 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2019 - 6:10 PM

Beyti Güler is one of few people who can happily say he is the namesake of a popular Turkish dish – the Beyti kebab. It was created in The Güler family restaurant in Küçükçekmece (now Istanbul) and stemmed from his father’s desire to change pace from a small bakery in 1945, so he and Beyti opened a 16-seater grilled meats restaurant.

The original restaurant grew rapidly in popularity as it served doner kebab (sliced rotisserie-style grilled meat), which was a rarity at the time.

As the story goes, on a trip to Switzerland, Beyti Güler met a butcher named Möller, who inspired him to experiment with the restaurant’s meat offering. This led to the development of the Beyti kebab: a lamb loin wrapped neatly in a layer of lamb fat and grilled over charcoal on skewers.

Interestingly, this is not the kebab that has come to fame today under the Beyti name – instead, it’s an adaptation that takes hand-chopped lamb, minced with garlic and parsley, which is skewered and grilled over charcoal. The kebab is then wrapped in thin lavash bread, and grilled further to warm before being sliced into bite-sized pieces and carefully displayed on a plate with a tomato paste-based Iskendae sauce and strained yoghurt. The resemblance is uncanny.

Beyti then ended up with two kebab dishes bearing his name – the original grilled lamb, and the popularised wrapped version now sold abundantly by street food vendors across Istanbul and the world. At Efendy restaurant in Balmain, NSW chef Somer Sivrioglu puts the same amount of care into his Beyti kebap as the chefs at Beyti’s namesake restaurant (where he now seats some 500 guests).

Efendy serves a number of kebab dishes, including the traditional Adana kebab which uses red peppers chopped into the lamb meat and fat, before being grilled and served with tomato-soaked bread with accompaniments like sumac onions, strained yoghurt and parsley.

“Adana kebab is only one of the styles in Turkey, but it’s one of the most internationally-renowned,” he explains.

Sivrioglu says that while Turkey is known for its grilled meat dishes, many homemade meals centre on vegetables and grain. “Everyone knows about the meats – no one knows that it’s a vegan and vegetarian paradise.”

This means kebab has carved its own niche as a dining out experience.

“In Turkey we mostly go out to eat kebabs because most other foods our mum's can cook better at home"

“Many families started humble kebab shops and now the second generations are open to trying something new and more refined,” says Sivrioglu.

“In Turkey, we mostly go out to eat kebabs because most other foods our mum's can cook better at home – but for the kebab, you need a barbecue, so we go to a restaurant. For a typical Turkish person, going out to eat a kebab is a special occasion.”

Beyti’s humble family meat restaurant - where many Turkish diners enjoyed a special occasion meal - ran well for some 20 years before an article, published in the New York Herald Tribune, catapulted it into international fame.

The article, titled There’s a Kebab in my Tapestry details Beyti’s culinary developments and authority on kebab making, which at the time was thought to have been a practise that Turkey ‘borrowed’ from Germany. The revelation of this strong Turkish tradition sent tourists flocking to Istanbul, and in 1983 (after four years of construction) Beyti opened a new, substantially larger location in Florya - an upscale residential neighbourhood close to Atatürk International Airport.

The 500-pax restaurant is still run today by Beyti and his two sons Cüneyt and Ahmet and features a terrace and 11 separate dining rooms. He still spends each day at the restaurant and doesn't shy away from customer selfie.

We're still riding the World Kebab Day train (it's more like World Kebab Week over ehre at HQ). Feeling hungry? See our favourite kebab recipe list here.

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