Join Oklava chef Selin Kiazim and #CookForSyria
Selin Kiazim, head chef and co-owner of Oklava, has joined restaurateurs, chefs, bakers and café owners across the UK participating in #CookForSyria. Throughout November, #CookForSyria participants are putting a “Syrian-inspired twist” on one of their favorite signature dishes or creating a new dish.
Throughout November at Oklava, the chef will offer a Winter Fattoush Salad with sticky tamarind beef, roasted pears, cavolo nero, bitter leaves and crispy baharat bread. £2 from each dish sold will be donated to UNICEF UK's Children of Syria Fund.
Selin Kiazim knew from the age of 12 she enjoyed cooking. She watched endless food shows and began cooking three-course dinners for her parents and friends.
After winning the UK-NZ Culinary Challenge in 2007, in which she created a gourmet menu that could be prepared and served in two hours, she graduated with distinction with a Professional Chef’s Diploma from Westminster Kingsway College in 2008. After school, she started work with acclaimed chef and mentor Peter Gordon at The Providores in Marylebone.
Kiazim was later named head chef at its sister restaurant, Kopapa in Covent Garden.
While planning to open her own restaurant, the Turkish-Cypriot chef worked at Trip Kitchen & Bar in Haggerston, Carousel in Marylebone and Ember Yard in Soho, where she received numerous glowing reviews for her modern take on Middle Eastern food.
During a one-day kitchen takeover at Ember Yard, Kiazim caught the attention of Laura Christie, Ember Yard’s operation manager, who also dreamed of opening a Middle Eastern restaurant.
Inspired to push traditional boundaries and pull Turkish cuisine out of the kebab shop and onto the London restaurant scene, Kiazim and Christie opened Oklava in 2015 in Shoreditch.
Their contemporary Turkish restaurant is named after an oklava, a traditional Turkish rolling pin used to make breads, pastries and pides, all of which feature on the restaurant’s menu alongside Kiazim’s take on Turkish-Cypriot fare.
Guests can sit around the bar to watch chefs in the open kitchen prepare their meals on a stone oven and charcoal grill, known as a mangal in Turkish.
The food is complemented by a wine list focused on wines of Turkey, one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world.
Kiazim enjoys competitive cooking and has competed all over the world, including Mexico, New Zealand and Geneva, winning numerous titles. Highlights include bronze and silver awards with junior Team GB in the Culinary Olympics in 2008; finalist on BBC3’s “Young Chef of the Year” in 2009; Spanish Young Chef of the Year in 2010 and finalist/semifinalist for National Chef of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Kiazim’s food takes inspiration from her Turkish-Cypriot heritage and is focused around communal eating and encouraging conversations about food by sharing dishes between diners.
For a taste of her award-winning cuisine, Kiazim will offer her #CookForSyria dish at Oklava during November.
A nationwide fundraising initiative, #CookForSyria was created by influential Instagrammer Clerkenwell Boy in collaboration with SUITCASE magazine and NEXTGen London, UNICEF UK's young professional movement.
The campaign raises funds to help children caught in the ongoing conflict in Syria. The lives of more than 8 million children have been turned upside down by the brutal conflict. Many lost family, friends and schools and were forced to flee their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These children face a bitter winter in refugee camps or on perilous journeys in search of safety. Without warm winter supplies, they will struggle to survive.
UNICEF is among the few humanitarian organizations working inside Syria, as well as helping Syrian child refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Europe. UNICEF is providing these children with food, clean water and vaccines, education and protection from violence and abuse.
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