Operations manager of Şişli branch of Hamdi Restaurant, Kerim Özevin, who has left 35 years behind in the dining sector, opened Çinili Taş Fırın, which has been serving at Serasker Street in Kadıköy, İstanbul.
Özevin, who has been working as the operations manager in Hamdi Restaurant for 12 years and managing a team of 45 people, including the main restaurant in Eminönü, is a very experienced name. Özevin, who has worked at significant places such as Arnavutköy Şamdan, Bodrum Halikarnas, Lalezar, Hacıbaba Restaurant, is a successful chef as well. Özevin, who opened Çinili Taş Fırın a year ago while he was working as the operations manager of Hamdi Restaurant’s Şişli branch, says that lahmajoun lovers follow them closely.
Right ingredient, right cost
Having a very meticulous working style, Kerim Özevin, founder and chef of Çinili Taş Fırın, has opened a special place that addresses the lahmajoun and flatbread lovers by adding his skills in the kitchen to his long years of management experience. Specializing in Ottoman palace cuisine and meat specialties, Özevin emphasizes that the recipes of all the specialties featured in Çinili Taş Fırın belong to him. Gaziantep lahmajoun with garlic and Urfa lahmajoun, also called as winter lahmajoun, with walnuts and pomegranate sauce are the most popular specialties of the place. Özevin, who says that there are many places in İstanbul that make lahmajoun, adds, “There is a special crowd that appreciates lahmajouns especially those served in Hamdi Restaurant. The taste, the presentation, the content are really special. When I realized this concept’s popularity, I opened Çinili Taş Fırın in Kadıköy. Here is the trick; use correct and quality material. Most places sell lahmajoun cheap. Inevitably, people are questioning, how can you sell a lahmacun for 3-4 TL at a time when the kilogram of the ground beef is 50 TL? At this point, my aim is to reach a special audience through serving the healthiest and most delicious specialties. We have formed a significant number of frequenters within a short period of 1 year. We serve with a team of 6 people. We established a special stone oven. Our crust is spread very thin. We are investing in the right materials, right cost, and hygiene. Both the topping and the dough are my own special recipes. We’re using lamb brisket for the meat topping. My brother Erim Özevin and my son Ali Cengiz Özevin are currently running the venue.”
Meat, flour, and tomato paste are so special
As a business manager, Kerim Özevin, who pointed out that the nature of the work requires you to know the kitchen very well, comments: “The most important rule in the dining industry, to know the kitchen. You cannot manage the work without knowing the kitchen. You have to know the content of the specialties to be served to the customers and how they are cooked. You also need to know the kitchen closely during the inspection phase. I have always been very curious about the kitchen. When I was the operations director of Hacıbaba Restaurant, I had the chance to work with Master Burhan of Bolu, one of the most important master chefs in Turkey. He is a name that specializes in Ottoman palace cuisine. I used to come to work at 6 am in the morning, put on my apron and cook with him until noon. Then I used to take off my apron and put on my suit to take on the job as the manager. This discipline and curiosity still continue.” Kerim Özevin, who states that he uses baklava dough in Çinili Taş Fırın, said, “The quality of flour significantly changes the taste of the specialty. The cost of flour changes between 30 TL to 60 TL. In addition to lahmajoun, Bafra pita, Sürmene Yağlısı are appreciated. We prefer using the best quality meat in our meat specialties. İnci Kasap in Eminönü supplies our meat from Afyon, Balıkesir, and Thrace. We bring our isot pepper and paste from Urfa and Gaziantep. Our pickles, which we offer to our guests, are also very popular. We make kavurma here in our kitchen.”
400-450 lahmajouns are prepared daily
Underlining the need for a compatible team for the sustainability of an institution, Kerim Özevin continues his words: “By means of a compatible team; I’m talking about an open-minded, complex-free team that will adapt to your directions and training. Processes such as the harmony of the team, quality materials, and hygiene should proceed together. The whole chain becomes broken if there is corruption even in one of these stages. Employees must be sincere and respect the work they do. Everyone should own the job. What makes me most annoyed in business is negligence and disloyalty. I can never accept that the job assigned is not followed up and the staff acts outside their job description. In a place where the average of 400-450 lahmajoun prepared per day, it is necessary to act according to these rules.” Kerim Özevin also gives special advice to young people who want to work in this sector: “If you are going to work in the food sector, be aware that you really love this job. Being creative is also very important to be successful in this business. You must be intelligent, investigative, and observant. You should be excited about what you do.”
GAZİANTEP LAHMAJOUN RECIPE BY CHEF Kerim Özevin
Ingredients: 1 kg flour, 1 kg ground lamb, 1 kg tomatoes, 300 gram red pepper, 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, black pepper, 1 bunch of parsley, 100 gram fresh garlic.
Directions: Lahmajoun crust is made with flour, water, salt, and yeast. Meat topping is prepared by combining ground lamb, finely chopped garlic, tomatoes, parsley, and red peppers. The rule of thumb is to spread the dough very thin while making lahmajoun. Lahmajouns are served hot after being baked in the stone oven. Enjoy!