Cooks Grove group
Photo courtesy of Cooks Grove

We are heartbroken after the terrible news of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts are with all of the people impacted by this tragedy. At this time, we invite you to donate to support the relief & recovery efforts in the region. Oldways has traveled to Turkey many times over the last 30 years. It has captured our hearts again and again, and we look forward to returning with a culinary tour group in the spring to see our Turkish friends and continue learning, cooking, and eating in this truly special place.

This Tour Included:
  • Hands-on cooking at the Cook’s Grove school with Chef Semsa Denizsel 
  • Cooking demonstrations with Chef Ana Sortun
  • Market tours, visit to a fish auction, a visit to a sustainable farm
  • Tastings of wine and traditional Turkish products
  • Fabulous meals in restaurants, and time to dine and shop on our own
  • And much more!


Registered Dietitians earned continuing education credits.

Day-by-Day in Turkey

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Check into the Marriott Izmir and relax, unpack, take a walk, and then join us for a wine tasting, introduction to Turkish cuisine, and a wine tasting and welcome dinner at 7:00 at Zafer’in Yeri, a 10 minute walk from the hotel, along the sea. 





Photo courtesy Cooks Grove
Sunday, April 30, 2023

We’ll leave Izmir, driving north toward Ayvalik and the Cooks Grove.  We’ll stop at the ancient site Pergamon and have a light lunch at the Akropolis Resorani before arriving in Ayvalik.  After checking into our hotel, we’ll go to the Cooks Grove for cocktails and dinner with introductory discussion about Turkish cooking.

Monday, May 1, 2023

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll spend the morning at Burhaniye farmers’ market, meeting small producers and having a honey and cheese tasting. Then we’ll visit a self-sustainable farm for lunch including a selection of the farm’s cheeses, salads, and local wine, with a lunchtime presentation.  The evening is free for dinner on your own.


Photo courtesy Cooks Grove


Photo courtesy Cooks Grove
Tuesday, May 2, 2023

We’ll divide into two groups for the next two days.  

Group A will spend the day at Cooks Grove, enjoying a hands-on cooking class and late lunch with Chef Semsa Denizsel.

Group B will listen to Ana Sortun and her spice talk then visit the artisanal local Demirli Creamery to see the making of Lor Cheese with Ana Sortun, Banu Ozden and Sara Baer-Sinnott, followed by Lunch at a tradesman’s lunch place.  You’ll have free time to explore the town center.  

We’ll conclude with a full group traditional meze dinner at Korfez restaurant, with a presentation by Chefs Semsa and Ana about the traditional meze dinner and Raki.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Group B will spend the day at Cooks Grove, enjoying a hands-on cooking class and late lunch with Chefs Semsa Denizsel

Group A will listen to Ana Sortun and her spice talk then visit the artisanal local Demirli Creamery to see the making of Lor Cheese with Ana Sortun, Banu Ozden and Sara Baer-Sinnott, followed by Lunch at a tradesman’s lunch place.  You’ll have free time to explore the town center.  

We’ll conclude with a full group traditional meze dinner at Cunda Ayna Restaurant.





Photo by Kristin Teig


Thursday, May 4, 2023

We’ll have an early farewell breakfast at Cooks Grove with a cooking demonstration by Chef Ana Sortun and then visit a 10th generation artisanal helva makers to observe the traditional making of tahini and helva  We’ll then take a private boat trip around the Ayvalık islands with an on-board picnic lunch.  After lunch we’ll leave Ayvalik and drive to Izmir and check in at our Izmir hotel.  You’ll be free in the evening for dinner on your own.

Friday, May 5, 2023

We’ll start the day by attending the daily fish auction in Urla, and then walk along the dock in Urla to Unal Kardesler Katmer Salonu, a katmer restaurant. There we’ll have the opportunity to watch katmer—a breakfast dish—being made and have a taste of the delicious dish— pastry dough, cooked on a griddle, filled with meat or cheese. Within a walking distance we will head over to the Klazomenai Antique City, where the first olive oil production took place in Anatolia and perhaps in the world! On the way we can look at the local marketplace and see the offerings of spring in Urla. We’ll have lunch at Asma Yaprağı, a very special restaurant in Alaçatı. We’ll return to İzmir where you’ll have free time in Izmir before our final group dinner at Sakiz Alsanack Restaurant—to rest, to explore Izmir’s waterfront or Izmir’s souk, the Kemeralti Market.  





Photo by Jennifer Martin on Unsplash


Saturday, May 6, 2023

Today we’ll drive south to Selcuk for a guided visit to Ephesus, the legendary ancient city.  Ephesus’ ruins are well preserved, and with our guides, we’ll spend half a day exploring and learning about this legendary city and its famous inhabitants and visitors such as Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Augustus, St. Paul, the Virgin Mary, and John the Apostle.   We’ll then enjoy a late lunch with a wine tasting at a nearby winery in Selçuk called 7 Bilgeler. We’ll return to Izmir, where you’ll be free to rest, pack and dine out.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Departures or join us for the add-on Best of Istanbul Food and Culture Experience (see below)






Optional Trip Extension: Best of Istanbul Food and Culture Experience

Sunday, May 7

Depart Izmir and travel on own to Istanbul and check-in at your hotel.  See our hotel suggestions.

Evening Dinner in Istanbul at Mürver Restaurant, looking out at the Bosphorus.

Join Banu Ozden and Sara Baer-Sinnott for dinner at Mürver, a creative restaurant, inspired by fire, on the top floor of the Novotel Istanbul Bostphorus Hotel.  



spice market.jpg



Monday, May 8

Morning with Banu Ozden
We’ll visit the Spice Market and enjoy a food walking tour of the Eminönü neighborhood.

Afternoon with Oguz Goncu, our favorite guide for historic and cultural sites in Istanbul.

Enjoy and learn about the Old City (Sultanahmet) and visit the Topkapı Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

Evening Dinner on own (we will provide restaurant suggestions)

Tuesday, May 9

Morning and Afternoon. With Banu Ozden and Sara Baer-Sinnott, we’ll take the ferry to Kadikoy—on the Asia Side—for a food walking tour and lunch at the legendary CIYA. CIYA is one of Ana Sortun’s favorite restaurants anywhere. CIYA’s chef is Musa Dağdeviren, featured in Season 5 of Netflix’ The Chefs Table. 

After lunch we’ll return on the ferry to the European side.

Evening. Dinner on own—we’ll provide restaurant suggestions—but you may not be hungry after lunch at CIYA!









Wednesday, May 10

Departure or additional touring on own.


Hotels in Istanbul 

Travelers book hotels or accommodations independently. Here are our suggestions.

The Novotel in the Karakoy section is a great central location. You can walk to the old city (Sultanhamet), and the ferry is right there. Plus, the breakfast is incredible and the rooms very nice . 

If you would like to stay directly in the old city (Sultanhamet), we have had groups at:

Empress Zoe: small, may be hard to get a reservation. Chef Ana likes this one.

Hagia Sophia Hotel Old City: near the Cistern and the Hagia Sophia

Ottoman Hotel Imperial: this hotel looks right out at the Hagia Sophia

The Beautiful Accommodations 

Izmir Marriott
Photo courtesy Izmir Marriott
We’ll be staying at the Izmir Marriott, a 5-star seafront hotel for four nights—the first night on April 29th, and then the last three nights, May 4th through May 6th.  It’s perfectly located at the heart of the city, within walking distance from the business hub and shopping, lifestyle and historical districts. The hotel overlooks the shores of the Aegean Sea, and features an all-day dining restaurant, a lobby bar and a rooftop bar. Guests can workout, indulge themselves in pure relaxation with a spa treatment, or dive into the indoor pool.
While all the Oldways rooms have sea views, it is possible to upgrade to either an Executive Sea view room or a Junior Suite Sea view room.
The additional cost to upgrade is:
$540 additional for 4 nights per double room Executive Sea View
$950 additional for 4 nights per double room Junior Suite Sea View
Cunda Despot Evi
Cunda despot evi 1
Photo courtesy Cunda Despot Evi
We’ll also be spending 4 nights in Ayvalik/Cunda Island. The Cunda Despot Evi hotel is located on Cunda Island. This hotel offers elegance and comfort in one place, thanks to its high-ceiling structure, renovated faithfully to the historic texture. It also offers lovely amenities including a pool and spa. 
Photo courtesy Cunda Despot Evi

Meet the Chefs and Guide

Chef Ana Sortun


Our tour is led with Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana Restaurant and Sofra Bakery & Café. Hailed as one of the country’s “most creative fusion practitioners,” Chef Ana Sortun was named the Best Chef Northeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2005 and has been lauded as “deeply inventive” by the New York Times, and “a culinary genius” by Boston Magazine and in Saveur. In 2016 and 2017 she was a James Beard semi finalist for Best Chef, general excellence.

Trained at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine de Paris, Sortun opened Moncef Medebs Aigo Bistro in Concord, and then honed her skills at 8 Holyoke and Casablanca in Harvard Square. She opened Oleana in 2001 where her creative take on the rustic-traditional cuisines of the Middle East and her interpretation of the flavors of Turkey continue to receive rave reviews.

Ana and her business partner, Executive Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick, opened Sofra Bakery & Café in 2008. Then, in 2013, Ana, with chef Cassie Piuma, opened Sarma, a Turkish-style meze tavern. 

Siena Farms, owned by Ana’s husband, Chris Kurth and named for their daughter, provides produce to the restaurants and underscores her commitment to fresh ingredients and healthy food. Ana is also involved with Oldways Preservation Trust which fosters good health by supporting the cultural food traditions of the Middle East and Mediterranean. 

Chef Şemsa Denizsel


Nationally-known for her long-time career as the Chef/Restaurateur of Kantin, a highly celebrated restaurant in Istanbul, Chef Semsa Denizsel announces the opening of her new teaching kitchen at Cooks Grove. 

For over twenty years, Chef Semsa Denizsel has cultivated a reputation for seasonal, fresh, farm-to-table cuisine paired with generous hospitality. She has created a place for food lovers to learn with all of their senses while enjoying the surroundings of her peaceful olive grove oasis overlooking the Aegean Sea. 

Her culinary perspective emphasizes simplicity and sustainability, with unshakeable roots in Istanbul and Aegean traditions. 

With the launch of Cooks Grove, Semsa will curate a series of new culinary experiences, outside of her traditional restaurant environment, that aims to bring people together to “break bread” and relax in the beauty and serenity of the Northern Aegean coast of Turkey.

 I met Semsa in 2013 at a Mediterranean food conference at the CIA in St Helena, CA. We bonded right away because we shared a similar cooking value, honoring seasonal vegetables.    Since then she has help guide me in my pursuit to learn more and more about Turkish cuisine and ingredients. Each visit to Istanbul, I visited her at her beautiful (and one of a kind) restaurant, Kantin. Last year, my daughter and I had the pleasure of visiting her at Cooks Grove, her new dream kitchen in the middle of an olive forest. Semsa is a rare talent and has often been called the Alice Waters of Turkey. I love her and her life’s purpose of sharing her knowledge and passion for Turkish Aegean cuisine with the world. 
—Chef Ana Sortun

Banu Özden


Banu Özden is a graduate of Business Administration from Clark University in Worcester, MA. She started her career at Bertucci’s Brick Oven Ristorante in Boston, as the kitchen manager. She returned to Turkey and started working at Istanbul Culinary Institute as Director of Educational Programs. She continued her work at The Culinary Arts Center, where she worked on several projects promoting Turkish cuisine including a website, lectures, and culinary trips. She has participated in several symposiums in New York, Oxford, Tours, Mexico City and Dublin where she talked about different aspects of Turkish cuisine. 

Currently she is an instructor at culinary arts departments of İstanbul Medipol University, teaching history of Turkish cuisine, and a student of Sustainable Tourism Management Master’s program at the prestigious Bogazici University. She is also writes her own blog called Spoon in My Pocket where she talks about food and shares recipes. She has been designing and leading walking food tours around İstanbul and in gastronomy capitals of Turkey since 2009. She is a regular columnist for a bi-monthly food magazine called Food in Life.


Fly into and out of Izmir (ADB), arriving no later than Saturday, April 29, 2023.

The program ends on the evening of Saturday, May 6th , so you can plan on leaving Izmir on Sunday, May 7th.  There are hourly flights on Turkish Air from Izmir to Istanbul, where you can connect to other international flights. If you wish to fly directly to Izmir, there are international arrivals and departures via Swissair, EasyJet and Lufthansa (Sun Express).