How I Got Here: Civan Er

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Turkish chef Civan Er Yeni Soho

Related tags: Civan Er, Turkish cuisine, London, Restaurant, Chef

The Turkish-born chef behind Yeni in London's Soho on what drew him to restaurants, the importance of travel, and why he wants to abolish allocated time slots.

Why restaurants?
Cooking has my biggest passion ever since I was eight so if it’s not restaurants, I should be in a kitchen at least!

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Nothing, actually. I’ve loved learning on the job, and finding things out myself.  I’ve loved the advice of others. The one thing I would have loved to know how to manage would be the Covid pandemic though.  It caught us all completely off guard. 

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
The Little Sardegna is a great Italian restaurant in Finsbury Park where I always have the best seafood pasta in London. Marcello, the owner, is around all the time.

What motivates you?
Passionate people. People that really care, and go the extra mile.

What keeps you up at night?
At night, I day-dream.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I think the greatest input came from my mum as she fed me with the tastiest food possible and showed me all the hygiene standards that I know of. My uncle Ugur has been my biggest mentor though, he taught me how to cycle, swim, and lastly encouraged me to start my own business.

What time do you wake up?
Around 10am - pretty leisurely!

Coffee or tea?
Tea to start the day, always.

How often do you check your email?
Five times a day.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
My Sunday omelette with kuru et (dried beef), leek and potatoes - so good.

Typical Sunday?
Cycling with my wife. We absolutely love it.

Favourite holiday destination?
Karaburun near Izmir in western Turkey - it's a place that offers everything I look for.

What are you currently reading?
White Dog​, by Roman Gary.

What was your dream job growing up?
I desperately wanted to be an orchestral conductor.

Best business decision?
To quit where I used to work and open Yeni Lokanta [his first restaurant] in Istanbul in 2013.

Worst business decision?
Opening my third restaurant in a shopping mall. It`s been a great lesson for me.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Travel as much as you can before starting a career.  It opens your eyes and shows you how the rest of the world does food – good and bad!

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I would remove the allocated time slots, allowing everyone to enjoy their meal as long as they wish.


Born in Istanbul, Turkey, in the late 70s, Er studied Economics at the University of Marmara and started working as a chef in 2003. His early career saw him cook at Sofra in St John`s Wood, London, before retuning to Istanbul to work at Changa. In 2012 he left to pursue his own venture, and launched Yeni Lokanta the following year. Er returned to London in 2019 to launch Yeni in Soho.

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles

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