Take a regular egg: its size and colour are the technical aspects of the product, its physical properties. How the egg is prepared – that is, whether a Chinese chef makes ‘century eggs’ out of it, an American one makes ‘eggs Benedict’ or a Turkish one ‘çılbır’ (poached eggs with yogurt) – is the product’s cultural component. For the wholesale and food specialist METRO, which sells its goods in 36 countries, quality naturally plays a decisive role. METRO’s position as a partner of hotels, restaurants, catering businesses and canteen operators means that a country’s culinary culture – and therefore also its culinary legacy – holds an important place as well.
Gastronometro: Learning by feeling, tasting, smelling and doing it yourself
This is why METRO features community platforms like Gastronometro in Istanbul. Directly opposite its wholesale store, METRO Turkey has created a kind of ecosystem for the country’s hospitality industry. At this combined training centre, cooking school, show kitchen and event location, everything is brought together under one motto: Learning by feeling, tasting, smelling and doing it yourself. Since 2015, customers – above all, hotel and restaurant owners – established and aspiring chefs, suppliers, employees, gourmet critics and opinion leaders in the restaurant scene have been gathering in the 1,700-square-metre space to trade their experience and ideas. Together, they create and sample new dishes and preserve traditional recipes. The purpose of their activity is to perpetuate and enrich Turkish cuisine – at home and in the world at large.
The facility’s focus is on up-and-coming talent in particular. The aim is to support young chefs in the country. Gastronometro is the first and only institution in Turkey dedicated to extending the reach of the country’s native cuisine and cooking culture. Here, budding restaurateurs are trained by top chefs and renowned instructors from Turkey and abroad. Experiencing these professionals’ well-honed craft, creativity and passion first-hand, they develop not only their culinary know-how, but also their own standing in their field.
An investment in the future and new trends for the menu
Gastronometro even trains new talent itself: as part of a special joint programme with the Turkish Ministry of National Education, it offers a 3-year cooking apprenticeship for economically disadvantaged youths. The trainees rotate through the various departments of the kitchen, assist the professional chefs and attend in-house training courses and seminars. Every year, 4 of them complete their apprenticeship and enter the industry as Commis de Cuisine, or young chefs. It is a worthwhile investment for both sides.
At Gastronometro, all of METRO Turkey’s customers from the food service industry are invited to find inspiration from local and international chefs and culinary experts, as well as discover new ingredients and trends to enhance their menus. They can get to know the METRO portfolio and immediately put the products to a practical test. Suppliers can utilise the platform and the community to present their range of goods. Gastronometro is also about the continuing training of METRO staff. In some 25 different training offerings, the employees of METRO Turkey can learn all about the wholesaler’s broad selection of food and professional equipment, as well as acquire special cooking techniques. To instruct them in a professional approach recognised worldwide, Gastronometro collaborates with the École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). Founded in 1893, it is one of the oldest hotel management schools in the world and one of the most widely recognised institutions of its kind at the international level.
Gastronometro serves all of these purposes with a very open and transparent design. Only glass walls separate the large kitchens from the adjoining lounge area, which is furnished with tables, chairs and seating groups. The state-of-the-art kitchens are equipped with high-tech appliances from RATIONAL. In the main kitchen, there are 14 work stations with everything the training participants need for the mise en place, the food preparation. All of the participants can closely observe their instructor’s every move, as the preparation process is clearly shown on a video cube on the ceiling. Afterwards, the team sits down together at the table in the middle, eats what it has cooked, and discusses how the dishes can best be marketed.
The knowledge they gain enables the METRO employees to even better understand and advise their customers. On this day, the entire FSD team from METRO Turkey is in the kitchen, which is specially laid out with kneading machines and marble surfaces for confectionery training. The participants taste and compare various baked goods from the own brand METRO Chef. They try to determine what kinds of products are best suited to which customers. All of the participants wear gleaming white chef’s jackets and hats. Gastronometro even has its own laundry, as all who take part in a workshop or training have to change into professional work attire.
Show kitchen and trial lab: sharing taste experiences
At Gastronometro, the METRO employees additionally have the opportunity to develop and test new products for the own-brand lines. There is even a multisensory trial lab – a windowless, entirely white room with small work cubicles. In each one, products can be tasted anonymously, with all of the senses being brought into play. The light, for example, can be adjusted to yellow or red.
But drinking holds just as important a place here as eating. At a long bar along the wall of a large seminar room, baristas and sommeliers can learn everything that is worth knowing about the liquid pleasures – whether this be coffee, tea or spirits. Hundreds of wines from Turkey and many other parts of the world are stored in the adjacent wine cellar.
Culinary critics and opinion leaders gather here for tastings as well. Several times each year, Gastronometro invites famous chefs to serve this exclusive clientele various delicacies in a wood-panelled room with an adjoining ‘experimental kitchen’. Later, by way of the influencers’ blogs and public appearances, the whole country can participate in the discussions about taste experiences and the corresponding food preparation.
In the large hall that houses the gleaming show kitchen and dozens of rows of chairs before it, world-famous chefs, like the Frenchman Christian Le Squer from the restaurant Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel in Paris, demonstrate their prowess. The audience is made up of, above all, the chefs of tomorrow, bearers of the nation’s culinary aspirations – who therefore enjoy the special attention of Gastronometro. The show kitchen is also rented to TV broadcasters like CNN Turkey for cooking shows and banquets.
At the end of the day, at Gastronometro as anywhere else, even closer inspection reveals that an egg is still an egg – but with all of its culinary and cultural facets.