“You only learn by trying. Once you know the right flavor you can try to recreate it.”
Chef Orhan was raised in the city of Adana, Turkey. In the building his family owned there were several apartments rented out by Americans. Young Orhan loved looking at the tenants in their Western attire and always had thoughts of the U.S. in 1977 due to political turmoil in Turkey Orhan decided to move to NYC and pursue the American dream.
His first job in NY was that of a bus boy. Orhan's father being a surgeon was embarrassed to say that Orhan worked in restaurants so he told friends back home that he worked in a supermarket.
Orhan's culinary journey started at a Turkish restaurant as a bus boy, learning different aspects of the business. His passion being the kitchen, he was always observing the chef and trying the food and as he puts it: "You only learn by trying. Once you know the right flavor you can try to recreate it. You memorize the ingredients and the combinations and the culture of the food. And then when you decide to be a cook, you learn the skill" Orhan Yegen has worked in more than 100 restaurants, learning different styles and techniques and understanding his audience. "You can only make people happy when you understand them. In 43 years I have become one of the best psychiatrists"
According to Orhan, people have many misconceptions of what Turkish food is. To him it is a combination of different countries and cultures. " Anatolia is a massive country with the right climate, soil, and an abundance of vegetables and animals. Because of that, there are no substitutions when we cook, everything is available. The cuisine is very simple" Lokanta is simply that; a representation of the most Authentic Turkish food, lovingly made the same way it is found in Turkey, without any changes. "The most important thing is that chefs are owners, operating owners. Cooking is an art not a business, and should only be practiced by people who care".
“A CHANCE TO TRY IT ALL (IT’S ALL THERE)”
By Pete Wells / The New York Times / Food
“CRUSTY MEZE MASTER ORHAN YEGEN FINDS HIS DREAM CLIENTELE AT LOKANTA IN ASTORIA”
If you’re a connoisseur of Turkish food and controversialist chefs, chances are you know the work of Orhan Yegen, the passionate, ponytailed owner of Sip Sak in Turtle Bay, who has managed to build a career in the hospitality industry based on the motto “The customer is always wrong.” The last time the Underground Gourmet checked in with him, Yegen told us that that was it. The end was near. He’d had enough. After four decades in the restaurant business, he — like Al Pacino in Godfather 3 — wanted out. “I am 60 years old,” he said in a wistful croak. “I give it maybe two years, then I want to retire to Turkey and teach.”
Two years having come and gone, imagine our surprise to find Yegen in Astoria, at a new restaurant called Lokanta practically giddy and making Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm look like Tywin Lannister by comparison. There he was roasting lamb, stuffing grape leaves, and pinching minuscule manti between his thumbs and forefingers like there was no tomorrow.
What Yegen really wanted out of, you see, was Manhattan, and now he’s realized his goal, though he still remains the owner of Sip Sak. What, you ask, is so terrible and soul-crushing about running a restaurant in Manhattan? The short answer, according to Yegen, is the customers. “They are like furniture,” he says. Furniture? “Yes, they are mindless eaters, their orders are rote, they are not interested in food. They are not students of gastronomy. When they dine out, which is often, it is a business, not a pleasure. They calculate every cent. They are there, but they are not there — like furniture. I always tell my waitresses, ‘Don’t be a furniture.’ As an artist, it is very sad for me.”
/ GROUP STREET I UNDERGROUND GOURMET QUICK BITE APR. 23, 2019 /
TURKISH RESTAURATEUR ORHAN YEGEN
TO REVAMP BROADWAY WITH “LOKANTA”
Here on the blog we’ve been speculating about what the trendy-looking space on Broadway (between 31st and 32nd St) is going to be—and we know the community has been too! We’ve been getting lots of comments and DM’s on social about it as well.
Well, we have an answer for you now: it’s going to be the latest restaurant project by eccentric, brilliant Turkish chef Orhan Yegen! It will be called Lokanta, which is the Turkish word for restaurant.
Yegen is well-known in the NYC food community for providing the best Turkish food around, even rivaling (or better than) being in the country itself. His Midtown East eatery, Sip Sak, was profiled by the New York Times last year, and Grub Street has highlighted what a character Yegan himself is.
Yegan told us he feels his restaurants are “my art, my culture…I’m an artist.” The menu will offer many vegetarian and gluten-free options (not on purpose, he assured us—that’s just natural for Turkish food), homestyle lamb dishes, and everything will be made fresh to order.
He said it will have a casual vibe, will be open for longer hours, and won’t be expensive.
He wasn’t able to give us an exact date, but said it should be opening sometime this week, so we will have to stop by in person asap! Update: Lokanta officially opened Thursday, 4/5.
Let us know if you make it and what your thoughts are! Definitely something new and different for the neighborhood.
/ www.weheartastoria.com I APR 02, 2019 /
LOKANTA: ASTORIA’S TURN FOR SOME
TRADITIONAL TURKISH FOOD!
Astoria has definitely been lacking in options for some good Turkish food. The wait has been long, but lucky for us I think this one is worth it. Introducing Lokanta!
Owner Orhan Yegen is a Manhattan restaurateur who’s most notable spot, Sip Sak, has been featured in the New York Times, Time Out, Serious Eats and by various other food critics. The space is small with a busy “urban garden bistro” type of vibe but let’s be real, we are really coming for the food anyway. Some call it the “best of the best” as far as Turkish food is concerned. Yegen’s restaurants are acclaimed for not only serving delicious food, but for being the most authentic to what classic Turkish cuisine is and should be. Unconcerned with trends, Yegen is bringing us quality homestyle cooking and now it’s more accessible than ever.
Let’s just say my expectations are running high, but any doubts of disappointment are few. Thanks for choosing Astoria Orhan!
Lokanta is located at 31-16 Broadway.