MasterChef finalists go to Istanbul, “one of the great food capitals of the world”, to learn how to cook Turkish cuisine

The latest series of MasterChef has seen 45 talented home cooks be put through their paces by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace during seven weeks of competition.

The show is down to the final four contestants – Anurag, Chariya, Omar and Terri – one of whom will be crowned MasterChef Champion 2023.

In this final week, the four amateur cooks undergo a series of tests, including a trip to Istanbul to learn about the richly diverse flavours and sophisticated cooking techniques that underpin Turkish fine dining, and then to recreate that in three different cooking challenges.

Broadcast on Wednesday night, the Istanbul episode (series 19, episode 22) starts with Wallace describing the city as “one of the great food capitals of the world”, while his colleague Torode said the finalists face a “culinary baptism in the food of Turkey”.

The four chefs start their Turkish journey in a community garden in the historic village of Kuzguncuk, located in Üsküdar district on the Asian side of Istanbul, where they are split into two teams to cook renowned Turkish dishes to serve to the local community.

Mentoring them for their first test is Refika Birgül, one of Turkiye’s most famous culinary faces whose roots hail from Nevşehir, Turkiye (father) and Lefkoşa, Cyprus (mother).

Refika Birgül


The chef and author, who has millions of subscribers to her Turkish and English YouTube channels, gave the finalists four of her Turkish recipes – Hamsili Pilav, Gözleme, Kibbeh (İçli köfte) and beef and chicken kebabs with dips – to cook, each one exacting in their different ways.

Their next extraordinary challenge is working alongside trailblazing chef Fatih Tutak at Turk — the only restaurant in Istanbul to have been awarded two Michelin stars.

The four contestants are tasked with recreating dishes from Fatih’s celebrated menu, which represent the future of Turkish fine dining, where classic cuisine is re-imagined in spectacular fashion. Do they have what it takes to impress Fatih and deliver dishes worthy of two Michelin stars?


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A post shared by TURK Fatih Tutak (@turkfatihtutak)

Their final task is to cook an exceptional four-course lunch at one of the city’s most exclusive addresses, Pera House – home to the British Consulate General and the political centre of Turkish-British relations for over 200 years.

The host is the British Consul General himself, Kenan Poleo, who is of Turkish Cypriot heritage (Balalan and Luricina) and whose critique of the dishes prepared for his lunch reflected not only his knowledge, but also the appreciation of fine Turkish food.

Poleo’s five VIP guests are not easy to please either: mentors from the first two rounds, Refika Birgül and Fatih Tutak, and the three judges from MasterChef Turkiye, Somer Sivrioğlu, Mehmet Yalçınkaya, and Danilo Zanna.

For each of the four finalists, this was definitely an unforgetting trip to Istanbul, learning about the essence and complexity of Turkish cuisine.

The episode was not only a brilliant showcase of the fantastic flavours and dishes of Turkish cuisine, but also a fantastic advert for this incredible city that straddles two continents.

If you missed this hour-long episode of MasterChef, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer. It is online for the next 12 months.


Main image, top, MasterChef S19, FINALS WEEK – Final Four + show presenters (l-r): Chariya, Omar, John Torode, Gregg Wallace, Anurag, Terri. Photo © BBC/Shine TV