Here to Stay
    Category: Forbes Life By : Rachel Will Read : 1423 Date : Friday, January 16, 2015 - 18:07:34

    Courtesy of Turkuaz

    Jalan Gunawarman may boom and bust with Jakarta’s latest concept restaurants and cutting edge cafes, but Turkuaz restaurant has maintained a popularity since its opening in 2011. Head chef and proprietor Sezai Zorlu, 40, attributes his success to a simple mantra of taking no shortcuts in the kitchen and using authentic ingredients. “Our food doesn’t wait for our guests, our guests wait for our food,” he says.

    Born in a town called Iskenderun in the southeast of Turkey, Sezai moved to Singapore in 1995 to pursue his dream of being a chef by working with his father in his four Turkish restaurants. He later found his way to Indonesia in 1999 through other culinary projects before opening Turkuaz with his wife and restaurant proprietor, Yanti Subianto Zorlu, 39, under the company name PT Turkindo Sejahtera. With $3 million in start-up capital, the duo was the first high-end restaurant to recognize the commercial success of Jalan Gunawarman.

    “I’m not like other foreigner chefs who are here for two to three years,” says Sezai, who has worked in Indonesia for 15 years, “I am here to stay, I am here to make a difference in people’s lives because my industry does not require a diploma, it requires will and discipline.”

    Sezai says it took 11 months for the restaurant to become profitable and earned the principal investment back. He has even turned down an offer to sell the restaurant for the sum of $4 million. Based on an average spend of Rp 400,000 per person and an average of 1,040 customers per week, Forbes Indonesia estimates that Turkuaz restaurant had $2 million in revenue per year.

    Turkuaz, meaning turquoise in Turkish, is the driving motif in the design of the restaurant. Walls are painted in a rich blue color, while imported chandeliers and tiles from Turkey add sparkle. A large painting of Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, greets guests in the lobby.

    The design elements aren’t the only imported items in Turkuaz. Sezai prides himself on 80% of his ingredients coming from Turkey to maintain authenticity in his grandmother’s recipes. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, the lamb shank, still cooks for 12 hours in a custom wood oven made in a Turkish design fuelled with coffee and rambutan wood from Java. The bread served with the popular meze platter still takes a full seven minutes to bake after the customer orders it. The restaurant also rents a house in Bali to dry their own chilies for authentic chili pastes and flakes.