By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — The folks at Clifton Park’s Alaturco restaurant take great pride in sharing their Turkish culture with the people in the Capital Region.
Since Guven Yalcintas can’t bring his Clifton Park neighbors with him to experience Turkish food and culture firsthand, he has decided to throw his efforts behind Alaturco. “I want to take these people to my home thousands of miles away but I can’t, so I bring my home here to them,” said Yalcintas.
Yalcintas has been working with Alaturco owner Rauf Ziya with managerial tasks since June. The restaurant has been bringing Turkish cuisine to the Capital Region for several years.
Alaturco’s Hunkar Begendi, also known as The Sultan’s Favorite, is one of the restaurant’s many dishes. The traditional dish is made of roasted eggplant which is pureed with Kasher cheese and served with chicken or lamb. Fried eggplant patties dipped in a house-made yogurt make for a memorable appetizer.
“We don’t call people customers. They are our guests,” said Yalcintas.
Yalcintas described his experience as a Muslim in the United States after September 11th, saying, “I buried my head in the sand. I couldn’t tell anyone I was Turkish or that I was Muslim.”
More recently, in the wake of the election of a president who has called for a ban on Muslims from entering the country, Yalcintas decided he had to stand up and take pride in his roots.
“After Trump came out I thought ‘We gotta get up, stand up and say we are Muslim,” said Yalcintas. “I was born in a Muslim home. My mother taught us thou shalt not lie. It’s not a bad thing to teach.”
Turkey, he said, acts as a bridge between the east and west. “So many cultures pass through that bridge and we distill the best of the best and express that through our food,” said Yalcintas.
Since coming to the states 48 years ago, Yalcintas has earned a medical degree, business degree and Phd. “My mom always wanted me to go to school so she could have free blood pressure checks,” he laughed.
He decided to study in the United States in part because it was so far from home. “There was a huge ocean. I had to throw the oars and burn the sails. There was no way of going back until I was successful,” he said.
After working in Oak Ridge Tennessee and at Oklahoma State University, Yalcintas began working with the SUNY system as Vice President of Technology Transfer for the SUNY Research Foundation.
He now works with dozens of universities in Turkey when he’s not lending a hand at Alaturco. “It’s not easy but it’s doable,” he said when asked how he balances so much travel and responsibility.
Though he has only been working with the restaurant since June, Yalcintas said he’s treated like everyone’s older brother.
“I’m the most fortunate person in the world in the most beautiful country,” he said. “I like to dream and I encourage everyone to dream. You find the most possible solutions in the most impossible places,” he added.