You may know Somer Sivrioglu as the chef behind Anason and Efendy, but he’s taken on a role outside of the conventional kitchen as a judge on MasterChef Turkey.
There are 60 MasterChef iterations across the globe in countries including the UK, Brazil, Canada and India. MasterChef Turkey is a relatively new addition to the conglomerate and has a familiar face on the judging panel — Somer Sivrioglu.
The chef has dabbled in competitive cooking shows himself, with a stint on SBS’ The Chefs’ Line, and looked at joining MasterChef Turkey as an opportunity. “I thought it would be great to have some exposure in the country of my origin, almost like [giving back] to the country that inspired me,” Sivrioglu tells Hospitality.
But there were a few considerations before he signed on the dotted line. “I questioned the validity of doing a program in another country when all my restaurants that could benefit from the exposure were 12,000km away,” he says. “Also, being away from my family for three to four months.”
While MasterChef Australia is a fixture in the competitive cooking landscape, the Turkish version was a new venture for everyone involved. The filming of the first season was slated to run for two months, but ended up taking close to four months. “It became so successful they extended it,” says Sivrioglu.
Sivrioglu says he was physically prepared for the long hours on set, but dabbled in some voice coaching before filming began. “My Turkish is good, but I had never presented in Turkish, so I had a lot of mental blocks — especially food terms.” The chef also brushed up on the traditional Turkish dishes contestants would be recreating in challenges. “I was doing a lot of research, so there was a lot of preparing involved.”
The chef has high hopes the Turkish series will follow the same path as the Australian version. “I’ve seen the success of MasterChef Australia as a chef and as a viewer and how much it has developed the general public’s interest in food. Programs like MasterChef are instrumental to the industry, but you have to be cautious to represent the true challenges of the trade.”
Sivrioglu has made it his mission to inform aspirational chefs about the realities of the industry by sharing his experiences in public forums. “I try to go to universities, symposiums and talk to people,” he says. “There’s a lot of demand for chefs in Turkey.”
After the success of season one, the show was renewed for season two and the number of applications have jumped by tens of thousands. Sivrioglu will begin filming in the coming months and can rest easy knowing Efendy and Anason are in good hands. “When I came back [after filming season one], everything was running so smoothly I felt obsolete,” he says. “It was great for my business, but terrible for my ego – they didn’t need me. I have a solid team and all of them stepped up.”