We are very happy to announce that in May we’ll be offering a springtime edition of “Culinary Secrets of Gaziantep,” our three-day eating and hands-on cooking adventure in Turkey’s gastronomic mecca.
An ancient city not far from Turkey’s southern border, a meeting point between the Arab Middle East and Turkish Anatolia, Gaziantep over the centuries has developed a culinary culture that is deeply rooted in the rhythm of the agricultural lands surrounding it and that is maintained with great pride and honor by the city’s cooks and food makers. Gaziantep is also the source for many of Turkish cuisine’s iconic dishes – the city’s famous baklava is without compare and its kebabs are truly works of art, the standard by which all others are measured.
The trip is a collection of our experiences and discoveries over many trips to Gaziantep, sometimes for reporting but mostly just for the pleasure of eating. As in Istanbul and our other cities, this experience is designed to intertwine traditional culinary heritage with history and street life and to celebrate local families and purveyors who keep the old traditions alive. Over the three days, we will meet local artisans working in Gaziantep’s old city, from bakers to coffeepot makers; eat with a home cook making some of the most authentic dishes in the city; have interactive workshops where we learn to make some of Gaziantep’s most beloved dishes; and, of course, get an audience with some of the city’s high priests of baklava- and kebab-making. We won’t consider the trip finished until we’ve tasted the best and shaken the hand of the masters who make it. And since it’s spring, we’ll spend a day eating at and observing life on a farm harvesting what’s in season: saffron, almonds, keme (aka “the desert truffle”) and firik (smoked cracked wheat). We’ll also visit some local spots serving up seasonal specialties like kebabs made with fresh garlic or loquats.
Here’s what Michael Costa, head chef at the celebrated José Andrés restaurant Zaytinya in Washington, D.C., had to say about his time on last year’s trip: “Culinary Backstreets delivered above and beyond anything I could have expected. I read Culinary Backstreets because it isn’t about finding the most hyperbolic way to praise or insult a restaurant. It’s about falling in love with a place and its culinary heritage. It’s about people and stories. They curated an experience that is the benchmark by which I will judge all future culinary travel.”
The adventure, which will take place May 11-13 and 25-27, is designed for groups of up to 10. Lodging will be provided at Anadolu Evleri, a grand traditional Gaziantep home in the old city that has been converted into a charming boutique hotel. The cost is $1100/person (double room) or $1200/person (single) and includes lodging and all meals and activities, though not transportation to Gaziantep. You can read more about the upcoming trip and find booking information here . Also check out this post  on The New York Times’ “In Transit blog” about last year’s program.