Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
- Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, 34110 Sultanahmet-Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey
Food and Beverage Manager
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2019
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Divan Erbil Hotel, Iraq; Mürver Restaurant, Istanbul; Antes Delicacies Sip & Bite, Izmir; Nisantasi University, Istanbul; Da Mario Kalamis, Dogus Restaurant Entertainment and Management Kitchenette, Istanbul; Time For a Café Break, Istanbul; Limak Eurasia Luxury Hotel, Istanbul; The House Café, Istanbul; Schiller Chiemsee Cafe, Istanbul; Numnum Café & Restaurant, Istanbul; Fourways Inn, Bermuda; Celebrity Cruises USA; Arcadia Golf Resort, Antalya, Turkey
- Denizli, Turkey
- Associate Degree, Tourism & Hospitality, Afyon Kocatepe Universitesi, Afyonkarahisar, Turkey
- Turkish, English, German
“Our guests already know we’re going to give them the best food and service, so we’re here to exceed their expectations and give them more,” says Ejderhan Ay, reflecting on the quality of the dining experiences, and the heights to which he strives to take them, as Food & Beverage Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet.
By “more,” Ay means something more intrinsic. Not just taking an order, that is, but understanding an order, being aware of guest preferences, anticipating their tastes and desires, and communicating everything from the time they enter until they depart.
Giving something more takes a special quality: The food & beverage department is extremely selective on talent, putting candidates through several interviews to ensure that they are willing and able to do their jobs from the heart. “Everyone here is of the same mindset,” says Ay. “You see your co-workers willing to do anything to understand the guest, so you want to do more, too. You put your personality into it and deliver your own specialized service. It can be very satisfying.”
Ay’s team ranges from 75 to 100, depending upon the season, with the kitchen, service, bar, and stewarding under his watch. With its boutique size, the Hotel offers three outlets: The hotspot is the rooftop lounge, A’ya Terrace, serving Turkish delicacies and wines before a picture-perfect, oh-so-close view of Hagia Sofia; Seasons Restaurant dishing up distinctive Mediterranean fare in the most beautiful garden in the old city; and the lobby-level Lounge for light meals and drinks.
All of the outlets are popular with locals, says Ay. “Probably 90% of our Hotel guests are foreigners, but if you look at our restaurants on a busy night, more than half the people will be from Istanbul.”
Meantime, the Hotel has become widely renowned for the quality of its catering, available onsite through 3,600 sq. ft. (340 m2) of event space, as well as offsite for everything from dinners in private homes to high-profile events for up to 1,500 guests.
Ay puts a lot of time, effort, and experience into sourcing quality ingredients for every venue and service. He prefers to sample products at their source “because every farm has its own method,” and he occasionally creates special promotions to highlight the best of particular regions.
Ay has focused on F&B for more than 20 years, since his first hotel job at age 16 while still in university. After studying tourism at the university level, he embarked on his career with the clear intention of experiencing the industry in full. He started behind a hotel bar, moved to the floor, continued onto restaurants, studied to become a sommelier, and served wine on a cruise ship and then on shore in Bermuda. “Every two years, I would jump to a new opportunity. I wanted to learn everything I could.”
Ay then took his talents back to Turkey and other destinations through the Middle East, with a range of experiences including opening a high-end restaurant as general manager in Istanbul. Within a couple of years, right on cue, he joined a corporate coffee chain, one of his last stops before joining Four Seasons. “Working in every different corner of the industry prepared me for the top brand,” he remembers. “In each job, I’d have colleagues who had worked with Four Seasons. I would observe their culture and way of thinking, and I found myself close to their style. I knew I’d get here one day.”
Though his role at the Sultanahmet property keeps Ay plenty busy, he happily stays busier beyond, occasionally lecturing on restaurant management at a local university, and eating out with his family and friends three times a week to stay up on trends. “At a certain point, you begin to realize food & beverage is not a full time job, it’s a full-life job,” he concludes with a laugh – and no complaints. “Even when I’m not on duty, it’s always on my mind.”