Turkish Cuisine Is the Hottest New Hudson Valley Food Trend
If Masa Midtown’s Chef Oz gets her way, Turkish fare will flavor celebrations in Kingston and beyond.
Chef Oz holding a pomegranate, Masa Midtown's logo
Photos by Mariclare Cranston / MCCreative
When’s the last time you had really good Turkish food? Come to think of it, when’s the last time you had any Turkish food?
If you’re drawing a blank, we’re right there with you. After all, Turkish eateries are few and far between in the Hudson Valley. Beyond Anatolia in New Paltz and a handful of spots in Westchester County, there’s a remarkable absence of Turkish cuisine in the region.
Or, ahem, there was.
In the heart of Midtown Kingston, Masa Midtown arrives to fulfill the flavorful void. A boutique catering company by Chef Ozlem Oguzcan-Cranston, otherwise known as Chef Oz, the business steps into its first brick-and-mortar location after years of traveling for events in New York City. The move is a long time in the making for Oguzcan-Cranston, who’s been working as a caterer since October 2015.
A trained chef, she earned her credentials from New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2007. After a stint at Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, a leading wine merchant in Manhattan, Oguzcan-Cranston switched gears to the catering world. She spent 3.5 years as a prep cook with Abigail Kirsch Catering, then worked as a private chef in the Big Apple area.
“It gave me the opportunity to see that I could do this on my own,” she says of the private chef experience. After talking with her husband, who she met while working at Sherry-Lehmann, she decided to pursue private catering as a full-time career.
It was around that time that she first fell in love with Kingston.
“[My husband and I have] been coming to Kingston as long as we’ve known each other,” she reveals. Three years ago, they bought a home in town as a way to escape from the city. Although they both still commuted back and forth for work, Oguzcan-Cranston realized her heart was growing more attached to the Hudson Valley with each passing day.
“I fell more and more in love with this area,” she admits. “Each time we got back to Brooklyn, we got more stressed.”
It was not too long after the couple purchased a property in town that Oguzcan-Cranston’s husband scouted 666 Broadway on Zillow. With a commercial space on the first floor and room for apartment rentals on the upper levels, the edifice seemed like the perfect place for Oguzcan-Cranston’s catering company to officially make the move to the Hudson Valley. For three years, the pair kept the eye on the property, and even went so far as to make an offer. After being listed as a backup during the closing, they came out with the winning bid at the end.
With the Broadway building in hand, the couple went to work to transform the 1920s space into what is soon to be Masa Midtown. Although the structure had previously housed a steakhouse, it sat relatively unused for ten years. Turning around the property meant changing the windows, upgrading the interior, and creating a space that is at once warm, welcoming, and versatile for any and every event.
There is so much joy in preparing meals, like this simple pasta and shrimp dish I did for my family last night. There’s joy not just in the precise blending of ingredients but in the moments created over that shared meal. The laughter or tears, the secrets shared and dreams revealed. The meal the common thread through it all. ________________ #comingsoon #kingstonny #midtownkingston #hudsonvalleyeats #hudsonvalleybusiness #hudsonvalley #foodie #cateringandevents #mealswithlove
When Masa Midtown opens in Kingston at the beginning of 2020, it will act as a physical extension of the Mediterranean and Turkish catering company that Oguzcan-Cranston has established over the past six years. Inside, the space is a blank canvas for corporate and private events alike. Depending on the celebration, Masa Midtown can accommodate 30 people at the bar and 60 seated or 90 standing in the dining room. With the exception of a few bar stools at the counter, the chef plans to leave the interior bare so it’s adaptable for whatever a client has in mind.
Speaking of clients, Oguzcan-Cranston has amassed quite the resume of catering experiences. Between her time in NYC and in the Hudson Valley, she’s perfected onsite catering for dinner parties and rehearsal dinners, tailored offsite catering for holiday meals and work lunches, and planned corporate events like launch parties and team-building lunches. At them all, her flair for Turkish fare shines just as much in the dishes she prepares as it does in her commitment to hospitality and her artful presentations.
“I love the hospitality behind Turkish food and cooking,” she enthuses. “It’s not just standing at the counter and serving. It’s the whole experience of showing people what everything is all about.”
To her point, Oguzcan-Cranston infuses her Turkish heritage, whether in essence or via ingredients, into every single meal she creates. Channeling her roots in Eskisehir, Turkey, she concocts delectable dishes like Turkish spiced marinated chicken skewers, stuffed peppers with pine nuts and currants, and yogurt panna cotta with apricot coulis and candied pistachios. Many of the dishes she prepares are naturally vegetarian and embrace enticing ingredients like currants, feta, and, most notably, pomegranate.
“Pomegranate is famous in Turkish cooking,” she explains, adding that the popularity of the fruit is why she chose to incorporate it into Masa Midtown’s logo. “We use the syrup in dressings and in meat dishes. It signifies bountifulness.”
In truth, the symbolism of the pomegranate gets to the core of what Masa Midtown is all about. With each event, Oguzcan-Cranston dreams of tables overflowing with food, of guests eating and laughing, and of everyone departing with the happy glow of a meal truly enjoyed. To her, catering isn’t just about the food she prepares, but the entire experience. Food adds to the enjoyment and flavors the occasion, but genuine hospitality and joy are what ensure each and every gig is a success.
“It gives me so much joy to hear people enjoy my food,” she says.
With just a few finishing touches left for Masa Midtown, the venue should open its doors in early 2020. Until then, Oguzcan-Cranston is always available for corporate and off-site catering. And with delectable entrees that highlight fresh ingredients and authentic Turkish traditions, how could anyone resist?
666 Broadway, Kingston