For most Australians, buying a kebab is like brushing your teeth. Everyone does it, most people have their own techniques or preferences but no one ever seems to talk about it — it’s just something that you do. But as commonplace as the mighty kebab is in this country, it’s odd that such a visible and popular part of our food culture has largely gone untold.
Ufuk Bozoglu and his family have been making kebabs for more than 20 years. He started when he was seven in his mum and dad’s kebab shop in Westmead. Now he runs Oz Turk Jr, the offspring and namesake of the now defunct CBD kebabery which recently hosted SBS’s Kebab Kings documentary.
As far as the kebab industry goes Bozoglu’s seen everything. “You have a lot of memories. I'm lucky a lot of my customers are regulars. Even the students after they finish, they come and visit me.” Bozoglu says most of his regular customers have his phone number. “Yesterday I had to go do something for SBS and I got all these calls, 'Why aren't you at work? Where are you? We came down, where are you? Are you coming tomorrow? We'll come this time, be there.'”
It hasn’t all been happy memories though. He tells us about the death of one of the homeless men his family looked after, and another time where he chased a group of people down the street with kebab knives after they had king-hit an elderly man on the street. “I went and got the kebab knife, they were just there laughing. I said fucking wait for me I'm going to kill yous all. Mate, they started running,” he says with a chuckle. “The cops came and got me instead. ‘What are you doing with the kebab knife?’ ‘Oh I was cutting kebabs I forgot it in my hand’.”
Then there’s New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras and St Patrick’s Day. “There were times me and mum worked 24 hours. It’s quiet then it hits one and you're smashed till nine. You can't breathe, you can't think, you’re sweating. We used to go through 60kg of just chicken in a couple of hours.”
He has no regrets though. “People go, ‘Oh it's drunk food for when it's 3am’. I don't find it that way. Every kebab and every store is a little bit different,” he says. “I love the kebab industry. Hopefully I can stay as long as I can.”
BOZOGLU’S PERFECT KEBAB:
Bozoglu says the most important thing is freshness. The meat has to come in every morning, the hommus, garlic and chili sauces need to be homemade each day and nothing can be reheated, frozen or reused. The meat itself can’t be overcooked he says, to keep it tender and juicy “You have to be always be on it, cutting it, always cooking. It will take you three to four hours to cook a whole beef kebab.”
Style-wise he likes to mix it up a bit but his all-time favourite is lamb. “I like lamb kebabs with lettuce, tomato, onion, chili and garlic sauce. I think you can't beat that.” Hommus he says is for falafel, lamb should be eaten the classic way. Bozoglu makes and toasts his own bread to order but he says toasting isn’t essential.
Visit Oz Turks Jr at 245 Abercrombie Street, Redfern.
Kebab Kings airs over three weeks, beginning Wednesday 25 November, 8.30pm on SBS.