Given the depth of the grilling tradition in Turkey to say that an Usta is a mere masters of their trade is a great understatement. The men (all men) we met had nearly all started their kebab careers early in life. They slogged, carrying wood or fetching tea for those that they were apprenticing with. They learned butchery, developed precise techniques,honed their patience and ultimately learned how to run a successful business. As Ansel put it 'a true Usta is a blend of celebrity chef, Zen master and humble servant". So true of everyone we met.
( Above: Usta Ali Gürbüz repurposed a baby carriage which he uses to transport his liver and lamb fat kebabs to his shop near the Gaziantep castle. His day typically starts at four o'clock in the morning where he serves workers and late night partiers).
(Above and below : Usta Halil began working as a youth, sleeping in a butcher's shop where he learned the trade. He passes out free lahmacun everyday to kids that drop by his shop).
(Above : Usta Ali Gürbüz and his repurposed baby carriage).
Whether from open air shops, street stalls or formal restaurants grilling in Gaziantep is king. At all times of day the air is fragranced with the aroma of the grill.