Olga Irez

Welcome to my Joyful Kitchen! My name is Olga Irez. On this blog you will find vegetarian recipes and articles to help you create nourishing meals with joy. We all want to eat healthy food, spend minimal time on cooking and enjoy our time at the kitchen, but the way to these beautiful goals is not so straightforward. Too often crazy pace of our live, old habits, lack of knowledge or skills get on the way. As a seasoned chef and an experiences vegetarian home cook I want to share with you what I learned by traveling and living abroad, peeping into other peoples’ kitchens, teaching cooking and finally, running my own restaurant.

My first culinary steps were inspired by paging through the recipe journal my mother kept updated with the hand-written recipes of the family classics and newspaper clips. By all the women in the family that prepared feasts of numerous dishes created with deep love and care. By the grandma who baked pies with most enchanting smell and a soul of their own; she showed me how kind hands can turn most humble ingredients into meals that cure body and soul. By my granddad, an experienced forager and gardener who taught me the gratitude to the nature and its seasons.

Intuitively, I always knew that I wanted to cook and to be around people who also love cooking. When at other people’s homes I always try to sneak in the kitchen. During my travels I never miss a chance to visit a local market and learn from the local cooks. I prefer culinary books to fiction. However, I must confess, when I was younger I did not have the courage to admit to myself and others that I want to simply cook. It took a university, a business school and a jot as a strategy consultant to finally discover that my calling was just that – cooking.

In 2010 I moved to Istanbul, the city where my hear was beating fastest and where my stomach was happiest, like in no other place I had ever visited. I founded Delicious Istanbul, food tours and cooking classes and the blog under the same name to share my passion for the food and markets of the city I fell in love. I also met my future mother-in-law, a former national athlete who invested her immense energy and strict sports discipline into studying cooking and runs her own restaurant in Sapanca, a picturesque countryside near Istanbul. I got even luckier with my husband who patiently cheered for my first steps in the Turkish cooking and always supports my professional culinary interests. In 2013 we moved to Alacati on the Turkish Aegean coast and opened our own restaurant Babushka.

I cook vegetarian food inspired by the culinary traditions of the countries where I lived or traveled extensively – Russia, Turkey, India, Morocco. I rely on the local seasonal ingredients I buy from the small farmers and producers at the village market. I use spices liberally adding new colors, flavors and meanings to the well-known foods. I am also studying the effects that food has got on our bodies and minds applying principles of Ayurveda in my everyday cooking.