30 Years of Culinary Excellence: Turkish Kitchen's Iconic Legacy

Ilgar Peker. Photo by Koray Kasap Ilgar Peker. Photo by Koray Kasap

Turkish Kitchen, the oldest fine dining Turkish restaurant etched in the memory of New York. After its establishment in 1992 by Chef Orhan Yeğen, it was acquired by businessman Ilgar Peker and his partner in 1993. Celebrating its 30th year this year, Turkish Kitchen is one of the iconic Turkish establishments in New York known by many customers from the east to the west of America.
"When I took over this place, I sat here for the last time comfortably having dinner. From that point on, my real work began," he said. "And just as I said, I never had the thought of sitting here in the evening, away from work, and having a meal."

Peker is a true workaholic and a boss known for his meticulousness in his work. The secret behind the continuity of the same service and flavor for 30 years in the restaurant lies in this consistency. He has been working with the same chef for 30 years. The manager, Uğur, who is the face of the restaurant, is also one of the names who has been working with Peker for many years.

Located in the Murray Hill neighborhood, Turkish Kitchen managed to enter the lists of pioneering evaluation companies in the restaurant industry like Michelin consecutively in 2014 and 2015. The Michelin Star review states: "Turkish Kitchen showcases all the classics but excels in the preparation of grilled meats. Indulge in yoğurtlu karışık, a dish of moist and smoky char-grilled lamb, chicken and spicy kebabs on a cooling bed of garlic-scented yogurt and pita bread. Pillowy beef dumplings also wade in a pool of that signature sauce topped with paprika-infused oil as well as a dusting of sumac, oregano and mint. A wide selection of Turkish wines makes a fine accompaniment to a hearty meal."

Turkish Kitchen achieved the success of being the first Turkish restaurant in New York to generate nearly 5 million dollars in revenue during a period. It broke its own record by hosting 460 customers on a Saturday. In addition to New York City, it provided catering services at many private events in the Hamptons where wealthy people's mansions are located. It served meals to tens of thousands of Turkish Americans during the Turkish Day Parade in 2001 and 2002. It gained recognition for its brunch buffets held on Sundays. Turkish Kitchen also organized live Turkish fasıl music nights on Tuesday evenings at one point.
Images of dancing to Turkish music on the tables during the years when famous actress Sharon Stone was very popular were reflected in the New York press. The popularity of the venue increased even more. Opening a branch of Turkish Kitchen in Grand Central train station, one of New York's landmarks, was also discussed in 1998. However, Ilgar gave up due to the lengthy permit and construction procedures.
After 30 years, the business traffic at Turkish Kitchen is a bit lighter these days. The restaurant is only open for dinner and has a minimal number of staff. "The first two years were very challenging, but we continued to grow by 10% every year thereafter," says Peker. One of the most important factors for its long-lasting presence at Turkish Kitchen is having ongoing and income-generating other businesses. Peker ventured into the fuel station business, and he owns gas stations and properties in the Long Island region.

His friend Ahmet Yıldızel, with whom he has been a partner in every business for 30 years, also holds an important place in Peker's life. They have a relationship that does not question each other's intentions and is based on 100% trust. Peker, who has also been a participant in Iron Man races for many years and has participated in Iron Man races held in many different countries, engages in sports activities that take hours, such as swimming around Manhattan Island and swimming between boroughs. Photos by Koray Kasap 

Last modified onMonday, 14 August 2023 00:25