Kantin opened on January 20th, 2000. The idea was to provide the neighborhood with freshly cooked good food at lunch. And we wanted to offer our customers the feeling of home-cooked meals in a restaurant. The menu changed everyday and what was being offered was always an element of surprise. No printed menus, everything written on blackboards. We went through the menu and explained our food to each table. When something was finished, it was simply erased from the blackboards.

After 13 years, we still run our restaurant with the same principles. The only things that changed are the number of covers we make and the number of dishes we cook each day.

We started with only 39 seats, but after renting the retail space downstairs in 2008 and moving the kitchen downstairs, today we can seat 54 with an additional 24 at our leafy backyard terrace. We also installed a wood-burning oven, which we use for all our baked/roasted savory dishes.

Downstairs we also established a shop where our guests can buy our house-made stocks, sauces, salads, jams, relishes, pastries and our sourdough bread. It’s a place for both take-away and pre-ordering. It also makes our customers sure that everything they eat at the restaurant, down to the ketchup and mustard, are really house-made because everything is proudly shared with them.

2 years ago we started our own sourdough starter and today we bake our own bread using an heirloom variety of Anatolian wheat. This wheat has actually been in existence for more than 8000 years and we are very proud to be using it.

The most important aspect in Kantin is the quality of ingredients. We firmly believe in ‘whatever you cook can only be as good as your ingredients’. We use only local and seasonal produce. Our next step for the future is to start a vegetable garden, which we believe will raise our cooking yet to another level.

We think of the food we serve at Kantin as ‘New Istanbul Cuisine’. It’s based on the heritage of Istanbul which is a melting pot of cultures, thanks to Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Turks who have all contributed to it throughout the history. There is such a distinction as Istanbul cuisine, which is the most refined of what is known as Turkish cuisine.

We use the cooking of the finer Istanbul homes of the past as our guide and create urban contemporary home cooking for our clientele.


Semsa Denizsel is the chef-owner of the Kantin Restaurant & Shop in the up-market district of Nisantasi in Istanbul, Turkey. She is known as the Alice Waters of Turkey and was a pioneer of the farm-to-table approach long before anyone had ever heard the concept in Istanbul.

Chef Denizsel is born in Istanbul in 1967. Although she knew she wanted a career in the kitchen at the early age of 19, she could only start chasing her dream at 30. In the meantime she studied ‘Publicity & Promotion’ in London’s prestigious London School of Printing, worked at magazines first as a still life then as a food stylist. In 1998 she started running the restaurant and café of BUMED (Bosphorous University Alumni Club).

She opened her restaurant Kantin in January 2000, serving innovative Turkish and Mediterranean dishes. In 2004-2005 she also worked as the chef of another restaurant, Mim Kemal 19. She was nominated as ‘chef of the year’ in Turkey by Time Out magazine in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2009. She has made a radio show every Monday for 6 years at Açık Radyo.

She writes a blog named, does menu and business consultancies and continues to cook what she calls “New Istanbul Cuisine” at Kantin.