Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Fez Ozalgan. I’m the head chef of Barboun on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch.
Tell us about Barboun
It’s an Eastern Mediterranean grill restaurant, specialising in dishes cooked over open fire. The menu features a lot of fish and vegetables but, in my opinion, a barbecue wouldn’t be complete without my beloved meat, so there’s stuff for carnivores on the menu too. Many of the dishes are inspired by my heritage and the meals my grandparents cooked.
Tell us about the best meal you ever had
It would have to be one of the meat feasts from back in my Barbecoa days. Chicken liver paté, beef tartare and delicious dry-aged steak.
What food makes you happy and why?
Meat, meat and more meat. On a more serious note, there isn’t a single ingredient that I actively avoid. I love cooking with seafood and offal too. My real love is cooking over open flames – the intense smokiness lends even the simplest of ingredients an incredible flavour. I really admire the ‘caveman’ style of cooking and the skill it takes to understand the fire and how to use it.
You come home drunk – what do you cook?
Well, I don’t drink. But whether I’m drunk or not, I always make sure I have a steak in the fridge for those late arrivals home. If I’m being completely honest, I also stock packet noodles from the Chinese supermarket for emergencies, they’re delicious!
You’re mayor for a day – what food law would you introduce?
A law that all restaurants go plastic free. Being environmentally conscious is on the up in London, but we’ve still a long way to go.
What’s your earliest food memory?
I was very young and still in a highchair. My grandmother was visiting London from Cyprus and made aubergine dolma. Being young, I found the flavours very strange, I’d only just started eating solid food. I vaguely remember finding it odd, not sure whether I actually liked it or not. But I ate it all nonetheless and it’s now one of my favourite dishes (it appears on the menu at Barboun, of course).
What’s your favourite dish?
My desert island dish would have to be molohiya, especially if it is made by my mum. It’s a traditional Cypriot dish, basically a leaf originating from Ancient Egypt that’s stewed for several hours. I tend to make it with diced lamb.
What’s the worst thing you’ve put in your mouth?
When I was about eight years old, we went to a local Turkish restaurant and my dad gave me what he said was ‘chicken’. As I ate my father laughed hysterically before telling me it was actually chicken hearts. I vomited. Now I’m a huge offal fan, however, so maybe it stirred something inside me.
What do most people get wrong when cooking?
Cooking temperatures and resting time for steak. My advice is to never underestimate the time your meat needs to rest! Whatever cooking temperature you’re going for, remove the meat from the flames (assuming the meat is being grilled) around eight degrees below your desired temperature and give it a good rest. The heat from within will continue to cook the meat so you want it to slowly get to the ideal temperature by itself, then give it a quick flash and it will be perfectly cooked to your liking.
What should everyone have in their cupboard?
Olive oil, lemons, chilli, garlic, sea salt and black pepper. With these basic ingredients, you can make anything super tasty. I’m a bit of a chilli head so I always have dried Carolina Reaper chilli in my cupboard.
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen a chef do?
I’ve seen a chef send lamb to a customer and swear blind it was beef, because they’d run out of the correct meat.
• Barboun is on 61-67 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HU; To book go to barboun.com or email email@example.com