Dear Readers of The San Francisco Chronicle

June 11th, 2008  | Category: Memoir/Meme/Misc.

Mung Bean Salad and Borek

Remember me? The Turkish guy that landed at the San Francisco International Airport on a foggy Fall morning ten years ago? Yes, the one that turned heads at Crissy Fields every Sunday on top of his rollerblades.

I am sure we’ve met in one way or another. We might have brushed up against each other in a coffee house somewhere downtown, maybe flirted across tables in a restaurant in North Beach, or even made out in the silent streets of the Marina (call me). If you don’t belong to the lucky bunch, let me introduce myself.

I am assuming you’ve read this already. My name is Cenk (pronounced Jenk). I am a 31-year old food blogger, novice photographer, seasoned home baker and a shameless chocoholic from İstanbul, Turkey. I started this blog to share my kitchen adventures with friends and it got bigger in more ways than I’ve imagined.

I’ve made some wonderful new friends along the way and look forward to many more. Now, on a day like this, when my recipes and photos are published in a newspaper I’ve left several coffee stains on back when, I would like to welcome you all and give you a big hug.

Bulgur Pilaf

Dearest Janet Fletcher provided me with this opportunity to connect with you all again. Ten years ago, I recall me and my mom anxiously waiting by the phone and harassing DHL people about my student visa, which was incredibly late. One more day and it would have been nearly impossible for me to study at The University of San Francisco. But the paper made it on the day before, and the consulate officials were too kind to speed up the process for me so that I can begin a journey I would never forget.


My first day in the city was nothing but trouble (read more about it here). But as the months passed by, I started loving the foggy weather, discovered super friendly coffee shops and delicious restaurants and made wonderful friends, who all provided me an opportunity to take root in the amazing SF.

Cenk SF 2

Then I drove along Highway 1, spent amazing weekends at the Big Sur and Carmel and started calling California my second home. One day, I found myself running to the bus stop after work and decided that it was time to move back. I hated my job (try cold-calling 100 technology editors back to back, telling them how ground breaking your client’s broadband signal processors are and you’ll understand what I mean) but loved the people I worked with. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough reason for the immigration department.

Cenk SF

I moved back about 5 years ago and not a single day had passed without missing San Francisco and my friends. I still cruise Craigslist ads for rentals – just in case immigration officials change their minds. In the meantime, I wear my SF sweater, stare at my Golden Gate poster for hours and look forward to my next visit.

San Francisco Chronicle Cover 1

San Francisco Chronicle Cover 2

When Janet mentioned her article idea, I couldn’t sleep for days. I lost 10 pounds in a week! But don’t worry, I gained them all back while testing out the recipes before she arrived. We talked about the menu for weeks and I finally decided on the dishes she mentions in her article. Hope you like them. I will be writing more about them in the coming days.

Semolina Halva

A huge THANK YOU to Janet for making this connection possible. It was truly an honor to be cooking for her.

If you’d like to get to know me better, below are links to some posts that will speed up the process. Actually, I should direct you to the About page, but I’m really not good at talking about myself.

First things first. If you haven’t clicked on the link above, here it is again: My first day in San Francisco.

A post I wrote when I was feeling homesick. How I missed the bagels in San Francisco.


I made them at home this time.

Discover İstanbul’s hidden treasure, a special food market and learn more about The Nutella Fountain. Only in İstanbul.

İstanbul is home to many culinary wonders. Baylan is one of them. Çiya is another.

Talking about wonders… Here’s a special winter drink that makes your boobs grow bigger. Way cheaper than a boob job and definitely tastier.

You might want to take a peek at our New Year’s Eve dinner party. I baked the Brioche Tart That Made Julia Child Cry and a Chocolate Chestnut Buche de Noel.

I am known for my Monday Morning Syndrome cakes. Here’s my favorite.

I am obsessed with Brioche, Chocolate Brioche (of course) and anything that has been published by Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz.

If I had to choose one thing only, I’ll gladly eat ice cream for the rest of my life.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

My favorite is Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.

I am known to eat a whole pot of pasta in one sitting and can bake eclairs shaped like swans.

Oh, and here’s Ralph, my friend’s dog. He is a 12-year old Golden Retriever. I see him very often (so will you throughout the blog) at a magical place we call The Mansion.


Why magical? OK, maybe there isn’t a Nutella fountain in the middle of the garden (yet), but there is 24-hours food service, an endless supply of desserts by Cafe Fernando and the funniest and craziest group of people that get together so very often.

That’s me and Cafe Fernando in a nutshell, folks.

Again, a huge hug to all of you. Drop me a line to say hi, will you?



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  1. 1 - steamy kitchen on June 11th, 2008

    Congrats – one day I’ll pop on over, knock on your door and just give you a big hug.

    um. ok. I sounded a little stalker-ish, but hey, I’m proud of u!

  2. 2 - Amanda on June 11th, 2008

    congrats on everything! reading about your adventures both in SF and Turkey has been fascinating. Keep on trucking with the fabulous recipes and maybe send some samples to immigration! a little bribery never hurt 🙂

  3. 3 - Suganya on June 11th, 2008

    Its certainly a dream come true. Kudos, Cenk.

  4. 4 - Silvia on June 11th, 2008

    Wow these photos are great and your story is absoloutely moving! Thanks for sharing and congrats for the published photos!
    It’s a big goal for you

  5. 5 - Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy on June 11th, 2008

    Ciao Cenk – congrats on the article! 🙂

  6. 6 - Cenk on June 11th, 2008

    Jaden – My arms will be wide open! Thank you!

    Amanda – Thank you! Maybe I should do that. I don’t think anyone will say no to Korova Cookies.

    Suganya, Silvia, Sara – Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the article and photos.

  7. 7 - Marona on June 11th, 2008

    Hi! 🙂 Congratulations! Great job!

  8. 8 - Erina on June 11th, 2008

    I don’t know which one I like the most, your photos that are starting to have an identity to them, or your writing.
    Congratulations, Cenk!
    By the way, I can’t believe you’re still single with all this talent and sublime dishes!
    What does it take to be part of the third lucky bunch?

  9. 9 - Szerelem on June 11th, 2008

    What a lovely post Cenk! That is always the case but this one is special. Congrats on everything and thank you for this lovely blog which delights us always 🙂

  10. 10 - Judith Faucette on June 11th, 2008

    Congrats! I love reading your blog and wish you all the success in the world 🙂

    And funnily enough, if I think of two places I’d really like to be right now, İstanbul and San Francisco are both on that list.

  11. 11 - sam on June 11th, 2008

    congratulations Cenk – I hadn’t checked your blog in a while and its great to see how well it is doing! Kudos to you.

  12. 12 - burcu on June 11th, 2008

    Congratulations, Cenk! Very touching post and a great piece on SFGate. “For here or to go” questions sounds familiar to me from my first day in the states, too.

    Btw, I loved the piyaz bowl and the plate you served cigarette pastry, just beautiful!

  13. 13 - mz on June 11th, 2008

    Hakkinda cikan bunca yazidan sonra “immigration”dakiler de bir sey diyemez herhalde, degil mi? Hadi sen San Francisco’ya geri don, biz de arada bir seni ziyaret edelim! 🙂

  14. 14 - inga on June 11th, 2008

    I loved this story, but more importantly, I love your dog. He is so cute!

  15. 15 - hatiç on June 11th, 2008

    Thank God you’re back in Istanbul.Hope to see you in Baylan one day or meet for a breakfast at Leyla and eat an Istanbul:))

  16. 16 - hatiç on June 11th, 2008

    ooops,congratulations by the way, nice article.

  17. 17 - Chiara on June 11th, 2008

    Wonderful Cenk, I am following you faithfully and I am very proud (and hungry)… Bravo!

  18. 18 - S on June 11th, 2008

    Cenk, congratulations on the much-deserved recognition!! As always, the pictures you took were gorgeous.

  19. 19 - chloe on June 11th, 2008

    congratulations. you deserve it. your food, photos and writing are superb.

  20. 20 - Aysegul on June 11th, 2008

    Bravo Cenk! I admire the ambition and incredible cooking! I love the pictures & the ideas & most of all your personality SHINE’s through!

    Keep them coming! .. wishing you all the best..


  21. 21 - evolvingtastes on June 11th, 2008

    A hug back to you too. I enjoyed reading the post, the links, the article, and I look forward to trying out some of the recipes.

  22. 22 - Hillary on June 11th, 2008

    Congrats on the article Cenk! How very very exciting. I would love to try your food one day.

  23. 23 - cindy on June 11th, 2008

    Wow–I’m so glad to find your blog! I was in Istanbul several decades ago as a college student on the Semester at Sea program and fell in love with it. I loved the beautiful architecture, the friendly people, but most of all the amazing food. I dream of going back some day, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy it vicariously through your lovely blog. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes.

    I’m a SF-area blogger who writes about skiing, my kid, organizing my house, and food with a focus on local healthy eating and an attitude that if I can cook it, so can you. Stop by to visit sometime!

  24. 24 - helen on June 11th, 2008

    This is all so exciting! I’m on SFGate every Wednesday and was so pleasantly surprised to see the feature on you. Congrats!

  25. 25 - peg on June 11th, 2008

    Great blog on bridging the Istanbul-SF food scene. I’m a SF foodie taking my first trip to Istanbul this fall. Can’t wait! Your food photos are enticing!

  26. 26 - Alev on June 11th, 2008

    Hi Cenk,

    Hello from another Turk living and cooking in SF!

    As I was reading your blog, I was amazed that we use the same books and recipes. I have practically made all the recipes in Peter Reinhart’s and Julia Child/Dorie Greenspan’s book.

    The tomato season is getting started here and the Farmers Market is beautiful, but unfortunately there is no boza!

    Please keep cooking and writing! I hope you can make it back here one day.

  27. 27 - Lyn on June 11th, 2008

    Congrats Cenk (: Nice article. Thank you!

  28. 28 - Si Clare on June 11th, 2008

    I’m so glad to have discovered you! I’m still a little shell-shocked that there are so many people out there who love to cook and eat like i do, and who will share their recipes with complete strangers… i’ll be haunting your site from now on, scribbling madly.

    (someday i’ll make my way to Istanbul and you’ll spot an odd woman lurking outside that Mansion, leaving nose prints on the windows like a stray dog, and that will be me! apparently you have a team of potential stalkers out here in SF… *laugh*)

    also, i love your photographs!
    thanks again, Cenk!

  29. 29 - Henry on June 12th, 2008

    Nice to meet you (again), Cenk. I say again, because in an older post I called you Fernando (an spanish name), thinking it was your first name. The first time I saw your amazing pictures was on Later I discovered your blog, and finally, I suscribed to the emails updates.

    Have to say that I’m not in SF (Actually I live in Colombia), but anyway… congratulations, Cenk. Keep doing that good work. I’ve found your blog vibrating, fresh and inspirational.

  30. 30 - sara on June 12th, 2008

    Mister Cenk,

    Congratulations and great food blog….it religous of me to always check on your blog for newbies…all the sumptuous and scruptious foodies you always whip up and serve to us cafe fernando junkies are always a feast to my eyes and the places you visit and takes shots off are some amazing!

  31. 31 - kresge86 on June 12th, 2008

    Hello from San Francisco! I just learned of your blog through the SF Gate article this morning. What a great find! Your photos are wonderful, and your recipes may even inspire me to try cooking instead of eating out all the time. I live in the Richmond District, on Fulton, and have a view of the Marin Headlands from my back door. San Francisco is nice, but I loved being a tourist in Turkey. I found it to be beautiful and I love the Turkish cuisine. Yummy.

  32. 32 - MariannaF on June 12th, 2008

    Wow Cenk congrats!! I really loved reading this post and the SF chronicle!! You are so incredibly talented and you deserve such recognition! Thanks for always providing us such great visual edible pleasures and words! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- the only thing I need to do now is visit Turkey!

  33. 33 - The Mansion on June 12th, 2008

    Well Done Cenk ….

    Mansion is so proud of you and we congratulate u with a BIG HUG ….

  34. 34 - Cathryn on June 12th, 2008

    Love your writing. Love your photographs. You are an inspiration 🙂

  35. 35 - baking fairy on June 12th, 2008

    Canim birtanem, bu ne muhtesem bir yazi, I am sooooo proud of you. see you at Martha Stewart!!!

  36. 36 - tangobaby on June 12th, 2008

    Hi Cenk,

    Just another visitor here courtesy of SF Gate. As a future visitor to Turkey (one of my fondest dreams) and as a foodie, I am looking forward to checking in with you regularly.

    In fact, I’ll be adding you to my blogroll so that I can find you easily and hope that my other visitors will, too.

    All the best!

  37. 37 - Mary on June 12th, 2008


    You’ve put Istanbul on the map of my heart with your insights, observations, incredible recipes and humor. Congratulations on the recognition in the SF Chronicle.

  38. 38 - Ghille on June 12th, 2008

    Congratulations richly deserve the attention! I have enjoyed all the photos and recipes you have shared with us to the utmost!

    This is only the beginning!!

    Hugs to you friend!

  39. 39 - Alan on June 12th, 2008


    Well, I think you should come back or send somebody
    back to start several Turkish restaurants here.
    Does San Francisco have any Turkish restaurants today? 25 years agao or so there was one called “Ararat” on Clement street, but today I can’t seem
    to find one. This is bad news, ’cause the oldest
    cultures have the best food and of course
    the culture in your part of the world goes way back , well certainly way before 1849 and the
    gold rush!



  40. 40 - Chuck on June 12th, 2008

    Greetings from San Francisco. I learned about the SFGate article via twitter. Anyway, congrats on the article! Looking forward to surfing your archive and searching for more pictures of Ralph.

  41. 41 - Siri on June 13th, 2008

    A first timer here at ur blog Cenk.. I was here for ur brownie recipe and absolutely loved it!..

    Great article and Congrats. Can I give u hug too!!:)


  42. 42 - kresge86 on June 13th, 2008

    Alan – I agree with you. There are a couple of Turkish restaurants in SF – Troya on Clement, and A La Turca in the Tenderloin. They’re both good, but nowhere near as good as the food I had in Turkey.

  43. 43 - Camille on June 13th, 2008

    What a great blog! I am an American from SF living in Istanbul and caught the article about your site in my newsfeed today. Your photos are beautiful and make me want to take some time off to start baking. I will definitely be bookmarking your site!

  44. 44 - Kate on June 13th, 2008

    Hey jenk … i like that more than cenk 🙂
    heres a big warm hug frm me too and congratulations. U are a grat baker and a fantasic photographer as well. Hers wishing you all the very best for the future, as you’re destined to make it big. Good Luck !

  45. 45 - joey on June 13th, 2008

    Bravo! Bravo! (I’m giving you a standing ovation now) 🙂 🙂 All the accolades are well-deserved! You have a fabulous blog with delicious looking and sounding food…which you are generous enough to share with us all 🙂 I look forward to more of Cafe Fernando and your wonderful posts!

    I am also looking forward to learning more about the dishes pictured here…they all look amazingly good!

    A hug back! 🙂

  46. 46 - Patricia Scarpin on June 13th, 2008

    You are a truly talented, generous, down to earth blogger and deserve all the success coming your way.
    Congratulations, Cenk!

  47. 47 - Sarah on June 13th, 2008

    Beautiful serving pieces, lovely photos. Glad more people get to see what you can do. Will you post some of the other 2000 photos somewhere? I’d love to see the dishware didn’t make the cut.

    Give Ralph a big hug and a “Good boy!” for me. SJ

  48. 48 - Cenk on June 13th, 2008

    Thank you all for your kind comments and support.

    Erina – Thank you! I might have to think about that last question. Give me some time 😉

    Burcu – Thanks! I became obsessed with that plate after a while. Luckily, after reading the article, my friend gave it to me as a gift!!

    mz – Keşke! diyorum hep ama oradayken de insan burayı özlüyor.

    Si Clare – That is the sweetest comment. Stalkers are always welcomed at The Mansion!

    MariannaF – Come to Turkey already!

    The Mansion – That means a lot Big Bird! Thank you.

    Baking Fairy – No, I am proud of YOU!

    Alan – I enjoy writing and photographing so much. Opening a restaurant is very hard work and requires one’s full energy. If I do that, I’d have no time to share my kitchen adventures with you guys… I can’t do that to you 🙂

    Sarah – I am planning to write a post for each dish, so I’ll make sure to include the pictures that didn’t make the cut.

  49. 49 - Cleva on June 13th, 2008

    Merhaba Cenk,

    I read some comment in the SF Chronicle article that you are able to find condensed milk at a shop in Istanbul. Would you please share the address? There’s a friend for whom I must make some fudge 🙂

    I’m a Bay Area transplant in Istanbul. The variety of different foods from all over the world was dazzling back home, but I can always find something heavenly in each corner of Istanbul–Ciya, Baylan, Sahan, VIP Iskembe Salonu, the Kanlica cayhane, the Beylerbeyi kokorec guys, Koco (Moda), Aquarius (Sariyer), Antep Lokantasi (Atasehir), head the list. Are there other places you’d recommend? And other special “pazar”‘s besides the Kasimpasa Kastamonu one?

    Thanks for the maintaining this wonderful blog, and sharing the stories and photos!

  50. 50 - Berit on June 13th, 2008

    Cenk!!! We just get back in touch and then I see you in the SF Chron! You never fail to amaze me, and what a lovely article. Proud to say I know you.

  51. 51 - Meeta on June 13th, 2008

    Cenk – perfect! I’ll be joining Jaden and giving you a hug too. Well done!

  52. 52 - Cenk on June 13th, 2008

    Dearest Berit – How much I missed you and our breaks! Wasn’t moving our cars every two hours fun? It is so nice to get back in touch. Thank you so much for your kind comment.

  53. 53 - Cenk on June 14th, 2008

    Cleva – Here’s the URL for the shop. You might want to call them first to see if they have it in stock (I usually buy the whole shelf. And I must warn you, I’m out of stock right now!). I have to add Hünkar, Mabeyin and Beyti to that list. Also, there are many fish restaurants that I wouldn’t want to live without such as İskele and Sabahattin Balıkçısı. I tried to visit some major food markets before Janet arrived and unfortunately none other than Kasımpaşa market excited me. If I stumble upon another good one, I’ll definitely share the details on my blog. Thanks for your kind note! Cheers.

  54. 54 - Tony on June 15th, 2008

    is that a ground beef mixture inside those eggplants? Your photos are all so mouth-watering. I’m sometimes hesitant to cook Middle Eastern food because of it’s normally dark colors and extremely rustic appearance, but your photographs are really inspiring – definitely not a novice : )

  55. 55 - Cenk on June 15th, 2008

    Thank you Tony! Yes, that is a ground beef mixture. I’ll be posting the recipes next week, so please stay tuned.

  56. 56 - Dolly on June 16th, 2008

    essek sipasii!

  57. 57 - carina on June 16th, 2008

    hello there! i’m a frequent lurker of your wonderful site. i’m love your photos. i really do. and someday, i would love to go to turkey.

    congratulations for finding what you really love to do.

    carina (philippines)

  58. 58 - Mansi on June 18th, 2008

    you are truly an inspiration Cenk! congrats on all that you’ve achieved, your recipes and photos are all amazing and you truly deserve it!!:)

    please accept a “virtual” hug from a fellow food-blogger in SFO!:)

  59. 59 - [eatingclub vancouver] js on June 18th, 2008


    I’m wandering around your blog and quite enjoying the experience. Thank you for sharing your recipes and experiences.

  60. 60 - sandra on June 18th, 2008

    Great job Cenk!!
    I’m fallin in love with your photos recipe , foodblog!
    I love turkish food..

  61. 61 - FlaNBoyant Eats on June 22nd, 2008

    This may be my first comment, but I’ve visited often. I loved the post. I recently met a really nice family from Istanbul and they spoke wonders of your home.

    Congrats on the piece. Nice work.

  62. 62 - Diane on June 23rd, 2008

    Whoops, I pressed the wrong key. To continue, pilaf, salad, and halvah. The last ws not a success because I thought it should be like the one with sesame seeds and i added to much sugar. But I tried
    again tonight after an Indian menu and it was great.
    Keep it up. We love it!~!!

  63. 63 - Tamami on June 25th, 2008

    congratulations Cenk!

  64. 64 - Melissa on July 6th, 2008


    I’m a Bay Area foodie, heading to Turkey in fall. I’ll be starting in Istanbul and would be glad to bring you any foods that you are desperately missing. Just send me an email with your wish list and i’ll be happy to deliver to you in early september.

    Wonderful site, great article. Congratulations.


  65. 65 - Cenk on July 6th, 2008

    Melissa – Thank you for your generous offer. That is very kind of you. I plan to visit SF in September and hope to stuff my luggage with everything I miss! Hope you have a great time in ?stanbul.

  66. 66 - pixen on July 14th, 2008

    Hi Cenk,

    I just back from Singapore, and so much happening in your journey! Wonderful picts and recipes. I really need time to try them out 🙂 Also, your adventures really touched my heart… thank you for sharing. You deserved recognition due to you! Keep up the great work. When I’m in Istanbul, you will be my guide… i mean all the clues and the tips you posted here..:-P But I don’t mind having you as guide provided you’ve spare time. Congratulations again!


  67. 67 - autumblack on August 14th, 2008

    OMG you’re awesome!!! ^-^

  68. 68 - New York Muhtari on September 5th, 2008

    woooowwww truly inspiring story wt amazing photography. Congrats, Cenk!!

  69. 69 - mark on November 18th, 2008

    gorgeous and can cook. fantastic!

  70. 70 - lola on July 14th, 2009

    aww wow i love following your story, such amazing food too. its great how much variety you can get in San Franciscan cuisine, i was just reading about this big burger bonanza thing that’s going down- totally different but real cool, think you might like it:


  71. 71 - Cenk on July 16th, 2009

    lola – Thanks a lot for the link!

  72. 72 - ruthie on October 22nd, 2009

    Hola Cenk!
    I discovered your blog today ( I don’t know why I didn’t before!) and I know I’ll be coming back for more. I too lived in the States for some years and could share funny stories of a spaniard’s first day in New York hahaha
    Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a line to say Congrats! and let you know that I’m totally smitten with Ralph. What an amazing dog!! you look great in pictures too!
    All the best from Spain

  73. 73 - Chelsi on February 12th, 2011

    I love your recipes, they are beautiful and delicious. I will be making your devil’s food cake for Valentine’s day for me and my friends. I completely sympathize with your love for San Francisco. I’ve spent countless days just wandering up and down Chestnut Street and hanging out down by the Palace. I wish I could still live there. It’s enchanting.

    It’s nice to see such a handsome man with such a passion for food!

  74. 74 - Scarlet on February 13th, 2012

    Hello Cenk,
    The world is indeed small and with the internet, its only growing smaller. I too lived in the Bay area for a while; Walnut Creek to be precise. I stumbled upon your blog and it brought back nostalgia filled memories. I must say, I find your recipes very interesting or perhaps its the way you’ve photographed everything that makes it all the more alluring.

    Keep writing and we’ll keep reading 🙂

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