Culture Charity Wins Turkish Restaurateur Award in New Zealand

A tradition inherited from his home country made Yusuf Corten a “local hero” in New Zealand. A restaurant owner in the city of Nelson introduced the “bread on the hook” custom from Turkish businesses to the locals, adding his own twist with “kebab on the hook”, offering free dishes to those in need.

Kiwibank, the nation’s largest lender, named Corten to its list of local hero medalists who made a positive difference in the community. Through the Kebab Kitchen, Corten provides free meals to people in need. “It was his own personal experience with hunger as a child in Turkey that ignited his desire to prevent others from going hungry,” the awards website said in a statement.

“Bread on the hook” refers to the tradition upheld by Turkish bakeries where they put free loaves of bread on the hooks for people who cannot afford it. Customers often pay extra money to “buy” at least one loaf of bread and people who need it later can grab as many loaves as they need no questions asked.

Corten moved to New Zealand a decade ago. He lost his wife last year and in her memory, he began donating a meal to 10 needy families every Friday. Corten says that he went through financial difficulties and began to give away what he had “to be thankful for in the wealth that he accumulated.” Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Saturday, Corten said Allah gave him “this blessing” and “therefore I have to share it.” “I was thinking of a way to help people in need and my wife suggested checking Facebook posts to find people in need. So I did it,” said Corten, who five years ago became a regular contributor to the “Pay It Forward, Nelson” Facebook page, which provides meals to those in need. He also put up a sign outside his restaurant inviting people who can’t afford a meal to come eat for free. “This is something I learned from my mother, from my family. My mother used to leave a water can on the garden wall of our house in Türkiye so passers-by could drink if they didn’t have water. I am simply doing what our ancestors did, what the Ottomans did, although this is considered a great act of kindness here,” he said.

Nelson was hit by severe flooding earlier this year and Corten stepped in to help those affected, keeping his restaurant open after hours so people could find shelter.

“I received this award in the mail, right on my birthday. She surprised me and made me proud. This is the greatest legacy that I can leave my daughter, ”she said.

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