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Ali Baba Doner : 45 Years of Feasts and Firsts

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Ali Ozturk ALi Baba Kebab
Ali Ozturk, who gave his name to his kebab shops in Dalston.

The history of doner kebab businesses, which now numbers are expressed in the thousands today, goes back to the 1960s. Many of the kebab businesses that Turkish and Greek Cypriots spread throughout the country in the following years did not last long. Few of the kebab businesses, which generally finished their activities together with the first generations, have survived to the present day.

Ali Baba kebab shop in Dalston has been serving kebab lovers for almost half a century. We visited the workplace, which has been open since 1984, with Ali Öztürk, the founder of the business, which changed its appearance with its new owners, who recently took over.

Ali Öztürk, who gave his name to the business, which is still owned by him, is originally from Elbistan and has been working in textile workshops for a while in London, where he immigrated in 1971.

After a while, he and a friend of the same name decide to take over a restaurant on Tottenham High Road. Ozturk, who bought the kebab shop owned by a Turkish Cypriot and named it Ali Baba, starts working in a field where he has never had any experience before.

The young entrepreneur and his team, who started to offer doner kebab as well as steak varieties, which were very popular at that time, in the workplace with a seating capacity of approximately 20 people. They serve the home-made mince doner in pita bread as they see in other businesses. Ali Baba kebab shop, whose doner kebabs with a capacity of 20 kilos, weighs up to 100 kilos due to the huge demand. They had long queues, especially on weekends.

Ali Ozturk and his wife Meryem still ives in Dalston after 45 years.

Ali Ozturk’s biggest supporter at work was his wife Meryem. The young couple, who produce delicious meals and doner kebab in the kitchen they work together, introduces doner to many people who do not know about it. Ali Baba remembering that they sell lamb doner kebab for between £1.5 and £2.  

The place, which attracts more and more customers in Tottenham, also serves as a club on some evenings of the week. It attracts a large number of customers from the surrounding pub-type establishments, and was packed on the Tottenham stadium match days.

Another unique food from Turkish cuisine which Ali Baba, whose popularity is spreading day by day and people come from different regions, has started to offer, also attracts great attention. The Ozturk couple, who started to sell the lahmacun, which they prepared with onions and mincemeat in their restaurant. Lahmacun was selling for the first time in London and the couple were selling hundreds of lahmacun at factory exits where many Turkish migrant works.

Seeing that the shop in Tottenham is no longer enough for customers, Ali Baba aims to open other businesses after a while. In 1984, Ozturk took over a restaurant in Dalston, which served as a Chinese restaurant for a while, and then was run by a Turk. He named this business Ali Baba too.

Ali Baba, who applies a concept close to the first shop in Tottenham here, also sells doner kebabs and juicy dishes in the business, which is a music club on the ground floor.

Ali Ozturk is 81 years old

Ali Öztürk reduces his busy work schedule in England, where he came at the age of 29, after a family tragedy in the early 90s. Öztürk, who took an active part in the establishment of the Cemevi and assumed the management of it for a long time, continues to live in Stoke Newington with his wife, who is 81 years old and bedridden.

Saying, “I don’t know if it’s the meat we used in the past, kebabs would taste more delicious”, Ali Baba says that doner kebab has now become an indispensable part of British food culture.

Ali Ozturk in 80’s
Ali Ozturk at his shop in Dalston early 90’s

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