Cooks Grove group
Photo courtesy of Cooks Grove
What You’ll Love About This Small-Group Cooking Experience in Turkey
Photo courtesy of Cooks Grove

This 8-day Culinaria is special in so many ways. You’ll have hands-on cooking classes with two incredible cooks—Chef Semsa Denizsel, who left her well-loved restaurant in Istanbul, Kantin, and created the Cooks Grove, a cooking and event space near Ayvalik on the Turkish Aegean Coast, and Chef Ana Sortun, beloved, amazing chef and owner of Oleana, Sofra and Sarma. The hands-on cooking lessons at Cooks Grove will be in small groups of 12 maximum, giving you lots of individual attention. 

We’ll also explore markets, visit food producers, and eat at restaurants that Chef Semsa knows and loves. We’ll also be accompanied by Banu Ozden, who is incredibly knowledgeable about Turkish food and wines, and is a great friend of Ana’s and Oldways’. No doubt! You’ll have an extraordinary experience.

Since we’re on the Aegean Coast of Turkey, we’ll also visit two historic sites—Pergamon and the incredible Ephesus, south of Izmir. We’ll have wonderful meals in and around Izmir, and you’ll be able to experience the Izmir market, wineries, a fish auction, and the making (and tasting) of katmer, a truly delicious Turkish breakfast dish.   

In addition, if you (and others) are interested in a food tour in Istanbul at the end of our 8 days by the Aegean, we can make arrangements for a very special food tour experience with Banu Ozden.

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

Registered Dietitians can earn continuing education credits.

Questions?  Please read our Travel FAQ here. Call us at (617) 896-4861, or email us at

Day-by-Day in Turkey

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Check into our hotel in Izmir, relax, unpack, take a walk and then join us for a wine tasting and welcome dinner.  





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 before arriving in Ayvalik.  After checking into our hotel, we’ll go to the Cooks Grove for cocktails and dinner.

Monday, May 1, 2023

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll spend the morning at Burnhaniye 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.  


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 Semsa Denizsel.  Group B will visit the artisanal local Demirli Creamery to see the making of Lor Cheese with Ana. Sortun, 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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Groups A and B will switch, each experiencing what the other group had the day before.  We’ll enjoy a group dinner a 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.  We’ll have lunch and a tasting at a local boutique winery and then return to Izmir where you’ll have free time in Izmir before our final group dinner—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 lunch at a nearby winery in Şirince, a small village that will make you think you’ve been transported back to a Greek village. We’ll return to Izmir, where you’ll be free to rest, pack and dine out before leaving for home or time in Istanbul.


See Your Charming Accommodations 

See Your Luxury Accommodations

We plan to spend 4 nights in Izmir the opening night, Saturday,  April 29th,  and then the last three nights, Thursday, May 4th-Sunday, May 6th.
We will also be staying in Ayvalik.

Meet the Chefs and Guide You’ll Be Traveling With

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).  

Pricing and Registration

Please download and complete the registration form below, which includes instructions for how to submit the form and deposit to Oldways.

Price per person from $5,150 per person

Download Registration Form

If this trip must be cancelled due to Covid-19, refunds will be issued.

Prices are based on rates of exchange, taxes, and other costs as of the tour publication date. We reserve the right to correct errors and changes, and to increase program prices to cover increased costs, tariffs, and taxes received after prices are published and to reflect currency fluctuations.