Tributes paid to 'visionary founder and head chef ' Esra Muslu

31 August 2023 by
Tributes paid to 'visionary founder and head chef ' Esra Muslu

Esra Muslu, the chef behind London restaurant Zahter, has died.

A post on Zahter's Instagram page this morning confirmed the news and paid tribute to the chef.

"Today, we mourn the passing of Esra, the visionary founder and head chef of Zahter restaurant. Her vibrant spirit and unwavering positivity touched us all," the post read.

"With heavy hearts, we share the news of her peaceful departure this morning. Her legacy will forever live on in our hearts. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to her family and friends during this difficult time."

Muslu moved from Turkey to London at the age of 18 before leaving to complete a degree in culinary arts at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

She opened her first restaurant, fine dining concept Moreish, in Istanbul in 2007, and eventually launched six further sites in the city.

After working as head chef in Soho House Istanbul, Muslu returned to London to cook at Shoreditch House before joining Yotam Ottolenghi's Ottolenghi Spitalfields as head chef.

Her first London restaurant, Zahter, opened on Carnaby Street at the end of 2021 with Muslu leading the kitchen and her sister Yasemin Efe overseeing front of house. Zahter served Turkish cuisine, with dishes inspired by the cooking of Istanbul, and was listed in the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2023. It received a rave review from The Observer's critic Jay Rayner, who said it served "quite simply the best baklava I have ever eaten".

Responding to the news on Twitter, Rayner wrote: "This is very sad. Esra Muslu was a brilliant chef and a very lovely person who in Zahter, created something special. She welcomed me into her kitchen earlier this year and taught me so very much. My thoughts are with her family and the community of cooks with whom she worked."

The Zahter team shared a further tribute to the restaurant's founder, which said: "On behalf of the entire team, we want to express our utmost admiration for Esra Muslu, our leader, owner, friend and chef. She was truly an extraordinary person, consistently displaying kindness towards others and exhibiting exceptional professionalism in teaching all of us what hospitality is about.

"Her memory will forever reside in our hearts, never to be forgotten. Esra dedicated herself wholeheartedly to her restaurants, especially for Zahter, and we vow to honour her legacy by striving to fulfil her vision and elevate it to new heights."

Cornelia Staeublil, director at Ottolenghi Group, said: "I lost a friend that I which I could have known for many years before and could have known for many years to come. I will so miss this wonderful crazy warrior."

Hrishikesh Desai, chef patron at Farlam Hall in Brampton, shared a tribute to Muslu on behalf of the hotel team. He wrote: "Sad news to read about Esra who has left us so early. Zahter is a well-known restaurant and credit goes to the team but also to Esra who had a vision for the restaurant. From the entire team Farlam Hall, we would like to extend our condolences to Esra's family, friends and staff in this sad time."

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