WHEN CENK SONMEZSOY, MBA ’00, graduated from USF, he had no idea he would one day be running a blog devoted to showcasing his experiences with cooking and baking. After all, most of Sonmezsoy’s culinary experience had centered on omelets and pastas cooked on a shared dorm room stove top.
But Sonmezsoy was so intrigued by food, writing, and photography that he decided to combine the three into Café Fernando (www.cafefernando.com). Written in both English and Turkish and laced with photos of his kitchen creations, Café Fernando has been voted best blog in Sonmezsoy’s native Turkey and has been featured in food and travel sections in The New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. It has also attracted the attention of noted food writers and bakers, including pastry expert Nick Malgieri.
Growing up in Istanbul, Sonmezsoy was surrounded by an assortment of great Turkish cuisine, but he never appreciated it. Not until he lived in San Francisco while attending graduate school at USF did he discover how much he enjoyed food.
“During my MBA years, I was living on a tight budget,” Sonmezsoy said. “The beauty of San Francisco is that you can still have great food without burning a hole in your pocket.” He credits the city with opening his eyes to food from other cultures, including those of India and China, which he now often tries to fuse with Turkish food.
Getting to that point, however, has taken work. Before starting his blog about 2 1/2 years ago, Sonmezsoy pored over cookbooks, hassled his mother into sharing family recipes, and experimented in the kitchen. His blog features the results of his culinary adventures, whether they involve his twists on traditional Turkish food or making bagels for the first time. He also includes recipes, a how-to section, restaurant and market reviews, as well as posts about recent food discoveries. Sonmezsoy’s vivid pictures of local produce and savory meals along with easy recipes and clear, concise writing have helped develop a large fan base of loyal readers. They regularly comment on his blog postings, offering suggestions, memories triggered by the recipes, and sometimes just simple phrases like “yum” and “wow.”
Though his blog is receiving great recognition as a culinary guide, Sonmezsoy does not have plans to write a book or open a restaurant. For now, he works at his family’s advertising firm in Turkey and happily updates his blog in his spare time.
“Blogging has opened so many doors for me. I have met with authors whose books I admire…and had the chance to see my recipes and photos published at the most prestigious newspapers in America,” Sonmezsoy said. “All these things have shown me that once you find something you care for deeply and spend every minute of your waking hours trying to be better at it, good things will follow.”