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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Special report: food in the fast lane By Eleni Antoniou ]

Special report: food in the fast lane By Eleni Antoniou

When the fat guy cooks

Down on his luck and finding comfort in food, one Turkish Cypriot took advantage of the improved climate in Cyprus and opened what has become one of the most popular kebab shops in Nicosia

“I’m different,” he declares. He’s right. At 135 kilos, he is strikingly large at a time when a healthy appearance is everything. But that’s not the only thing that stands him apart; Mustafa Erkanlilar is the owner and mastermind behind a fast food joint that has taken Nicosia by storm. Every time a restaurant or bar opens in the capital, people rush to try it out. However, when a kebab shop opens that’s aptly named O gyros tou Pashi (Fat man’s donner), the last thing you’d expect is to be asked if you’ve tried it out. So, what’s all the fuss about?

Mustafa is a Turkish Cypriot but his latest operation is on the southern side of the Green Line. “I grew up a poor boy with a father and mother who owned a kebab restaurant,” he says sitting in the restaurant, cigarette in gold jewellery adorned hand. “It was only natural that I would follow in the same line of business.” Less likely, however, was that the boy would become among the first Turkish Cypriots to open a business in the south and develop into a huge success. O Gyros tou Pashi opened in December 2007 in a tiny shop on one of the busiest roads in the old town, where a few regular customers would enjoy a kebab in the afternoon or late at night. Three tables were set up on the pavement and Mustafa could be seen behind the counter greeting clients with a smile and a big plate of food. Slowly but surely, more and more people would show up. “I realised I needed a bigger place,” he says smiling. A bakery operated in the shop next to Mustafa’s, it was a bigger space that could easily accommodate 15 tables, which meant even more customers. “I had more customers than the bakery so the owner decided to shut it down and rent the place out to me.” Today, seven days a week, O Gyros tou Pashi is packed with people tucking into kebabs, souvlakia, meze and spit roasted chicken.

It is Mustafa’s magical touch that has the town of Nicosia under his spell “and his friendly approach” says his manager Stephanie. “I am the only one who makes lamb and beef dishes and the only one who makes lamb souvlakia healthy,” he declares. Healthy? His manager explains: “Well, of course there’s a certain amount of fat in the meat. However, it’s strange how healthy the food looks and tastes. Lamb souvlaki is supposed to be the fattest of souvlakia yet the way Mustafa prepares it, the meat he chooses and the way he cooks couldn’t be healthier.” His ‘followers’ feel the same. “I realise that eating that much meat on a regular basis is far from healthy but I honestly can’t help it. It’s so tasty,” said fan Loris Cleanthous.

Life hasn’t always treated Mustafa so kindly. Despite the transition to the ‘other side’ going smoother than anyone could expect, ten years ago, ‘Pashi’ was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and found comfort in food. Mustafa was 67 kilos when he married his wife 22 years ago. He is now the 135 kilo father of two. “I had opened three shops in the occupied area of Nicosia but one by one I had to close them down. I went bankrupt, the economy was down and I was in a very unpleasant place.” A few years later though, he was back on his feet and was confident that his “magic recipe” would wow people as it did while he was in training as a young man in London, Paris and New York. “I knew I could cook and I also knew there were better opportunities for me on this side, so I tried it and here I am.”

When asked if his decision to cross to the other side was risky, he laughs and says: “I like risks! What I did was extreme and could be viewed as impossible but I proved that it isn’t.” The fact that he’s a Pashi? “That only adds to the allure. In my world, Pashi means ‘fat-strong’ man.”


O Gyros tou Pashi: Rigenis Street. Tel: 22-677767
Speciality: “Lamb and beef doner. It’s my own recipe and it get many compliments, especially from other chefs.”


(Source: Cyprus Mail)



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