Özgür Öztuğ, co-founder and chef of Agapia, who says one can be successful by trying different tastes and specialties freely without a rote-learning style where you stick to the recipe, owes his innovative perspective to investing in this vision.
Öztuğ blends complementing flavors and designs new specialties depending on the supplies at hand and his mood. Öztuğ underlines that the expectations of the target audience should be analyzed immediately. He is increasing the number of Agapia frequenters by tending to each customer individually.
From basketball to the dining sector
Özgür Öztuğ is the co-founder and chef of Agapia in Kadıköy, İstanbul and he is a graduate of the Department of Business Administration at Selçuk University. Öztuğ started his career as a basketball player and played in the major league; he has been familiar with the food industry since childhood. Öztuğ, who had gained experience at his father’s Sagra Special store, has been working in the dining sector since 2003. Özgür Öztuğ has served in different venues such as Il Pastarito and 360 East Moda so far and started restaurant management by means of his cousin Mehmet Emin Narttürk. Öztuğ has been working with Narttürk for 16 years in Agapia, offering a different experience focused on taste and quality to his target audience. Öztuğ, who gained experience in different cuisines like Chinese, Thai and Italian, says that he is ambitious in the world cuisine. Öztuğ, who is open for new tastes and experiments and who is solution-oriented and who always values customer satisfaction, creates taste combinations that will address the expectations of his target audience. What makes Öztuğ different is the fact that he individually tends to each one of the guests coming to Agapia. According to Öztuğ, stating that each table has a separate texture, the rule of thumb for being successful in the dining sector is to show empathy towards customers.
He uses local flavors carefully
Özgür Öztuğ, who knows his customers and analyzes what they want, invests in a business principle that will satisfy guests 100% in terms of service. With the addition of quality flavors to high-quality service, each customer is transformed into long-term frequenters. We asked Öztuğ how do they start their day in Agapia and we received the following answer: “We are working with a team of 12 people to present the full value of the money paid by our customers in Agapia. The kitchen team consists of 3 people. We take reservations. Our place can accommodate up to 130 guests. We arrive at 12.00 every day. Vegetables, fruits, and meats are always purchased fresh and daily. The preparation process of specialties and different appetizers lasts until 16.00. Our first reservations are after 18:00.”
Öztuğ underlined that attention should be paid to the local flavors but also to the dominant flavors. He has tomato and pepper paste brought from Antakya, olive oil and olive alternatives from Mudanya; cottage cheese and other local cheeses are brought from Ayvalık. Özgür Öztuğ stated that they purchase the liver they use in their highly popular liver specialties, which are identified with Agapia, from Tarihi Moda Ciğercisi (Historical Livershop of Moda).
Emphasizing that they enrich each special with different touches, Özgür Öztuğ said, “We add sesame paste into our fava dish. Green apple and pomegranate sauce are added into water crest salad served with yogurt. We add cinnamon in the tomato sauce of our eggplant special. Our Agapia specialty is also very popular. This special is also a delicious breakfast. I’m originally from Tirilye. My family lives in Bursa. We’re bringing the olive paste from there. We use black olive paste in Agapia. But the unsalted Ayvalık cottage cheese is much more intense. We add cream cheese to give consistency. We add dried tomatoes in two different ways as in pieces and paste. Finally, we add pomegranate syrup, honey, and powdered walnuts. I don’t like sticking to recipes. Therefore, I also prepare different specialties that are not on the menu depending on the seasonal vegetables. For example, our specialty, Manca, reflects this perspective. It is made with roasted spinach, grilled eggplant, and yogurt.” The most popular specialties of Agapia are our liver dish, as well as saganaki made with garlic, butter, tomato, Hatay cloth cheese, smoked Çerkez cheese, Ezine cheese, and aged kashar cheese, served in a casserole dish, shrimp with butter, fried calamari, paçanga pastry, and special appetizers. Öztuğ, who mentioned that they were working on a special application called Mezzesepeti.com, said that soon they will be sending special appetizers to hotels, restaurants and individual customers throughout İstanbul.
Leaf liver recıpe by chef Özgür Öztuğ
Ingredients: 1 fresh red pepper, 1 large onion, 1 green bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic, 250 gram veal liver, 1/2 bunch fresh dill chopped, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt.
Directions: Saute fine sliced onion, garlic cloves, and green bell pepper with butter in a pan. As the veggies become soft, add the thinly sliced veal liver into the pan. Mix all the ingredients slightly and transfer them into a casserole dish. Without baking in the oven, boil it on the stove top. Add the spices. Serve it within the first 10 minutes that comes after you started making it. It should look juicy. Enjoy!