Ayla Clulee has an impressive CV under her culinary belt – most recently at The Rosewood Hotel in London.
Now living near Abingdon, and having worked in the kitchens of some of the country’s best hotels, Ayla Clulee is now on a mission to teach us how to cook. And hailing from Turkey her recipes include a wonderful mix of European, British and Turkish dishes.
Anyone already following Cooking Gorgeous on Instagram will have been drooling over her tantalising array of offerings from Turkish flatbreads to strawberry tarts, spinach borek and baked prawns made at her home in Tubney.
“It all started during lockdown when I couldn’t work,” she tells me. “I started cooking at home and filming the processes and my daughter suggested that I start a blog. The whole thing went from there really and now I put up three posts a week.”.
“It means I can dictate my hours around my family and create recipes that people can actually cook, so while I’ve hit the ground running, and had to learn a lot on the way, I’m really enjoying it.”
And yet despite her deft hand in the kitchen and her impressive CV Ayla has only been a professional chef since 2008 when she came to England to study Cordon Blue cooking and joined an agency where she was assigned to.
She kicked off at The Mandarin Oriental on Hyde Park and began working a 70 hour week. “I was a single person starting life again in a new country so I really threw myself into my work,” she says.After four years working in hotels in Knightsbridge which was “old school tough” she moved to The Rosewood and worked in the five star hotel.
But then she met Oxford hairdresser Matt Clulee and everything changed. Now happily married Ayla has changed her life. Her daughter is 28 and a lawyer doing a masters with the EU in Frankfurt snf she now has time tor focus on herself and what she wants to do which is be at home with Matt but keep cooking at a certain level.
“It’s funny because in Turkey I was running a technology company with my first husband, and while I was interested in cooking and food I never thought I’d end up as a chef.
“But in Turkey food is about family and occasion – people getting together and preparing feasts and celebrations, prepping and chatting in the kitchen, catching up with my cousins. But I learnt so much just by watching them.
“Turkish food is so much more than kebabs and mezze, pitta and hummus and while there are lots of recipes I haven’t demonstrated because the ingredients are so hard to get hold of Turkish food is totally different to the way its perceived here in the UK, plus its hugely regional – from Greek to Middle-Eastern influences, but there is lots of soups and pastries, fish and vegetable dishes, meat cooked slowly that people eat slowly.”
“Food isn’t just my passion or my work, it’s my life, so I love everything from foraging to eating and my new blog is just a different way of experiencing that.””I just want to cook and share nice food.
So what was it like when she first came to the UK? “My language wasn’t very good but it was easy to pick up, although I’m still learning,” she smiled.
As for recording her recipes, Ayla says it takes endless practice runs and prepping to make sure she’s weighed everything correctly for the recipes to run smoothly online. “I triple check each and every one and cook it four times first to make sure they work.
The recipes themselves are a great smattering of dishes she learnt to cook here in the Uk as well as dishes from her homeland. “I just want to show people what Turkish food is really like. But neither did I want to concentrate solely on that so there are French, Asian and Indian dishes there too as well as British of course.
So does Ayla want to open her own restaurant one day? “No, I’ve never been interested in that. I know how difficult that can be and I don’t want to work for anyone else, so this suits me. I just enjoy cooking.”
https://cookingorgeous.com or Instagram @cookingorgeous