Yusuf Özbal is the man behind Zeki’s Turkish bread and cafes.
Where are you from?
I was born in Ankara, Turkey. Before I came to New Zealand, I distributed farm products – grain and wheat.
How did you come to New Zealand?
I had heard lots of good things about New Zealand so I came for a holiday, to have a look. I didn’t know anyone here but I decided to move my family.
Why move all that way?
I love it here – people are smiling and there’s no stress. Life is simple and it is not hard to achieve something if you want to. It is more relaxed than Turkey.
What did you do when you got here?
I started working here, making bread for Zeki. In 2006, I bought half the company. In 2013, I bought the rest of the business.
Is it just bread?
No - With the café we started making other traditional foods – dips, stuffed gözleme, börek. We have vegetarian and vegan options. We make everything fresh, with all natural ingredients.
Do you sell in supermarkets?
No - we supply to many cafes, restaurants, delis and a few small retailers, but the unsupervised supermarket shelves are no place for our bread. We do not use preservatives so our bread needs to be sold fresh. That is why selling at the farmers market works so well.
We use an authentic recipe and a method dating back to biblical times, repeated by successive generations of bakers. We bake the Turkish pide in a woodfired oven.
What do you like about Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
It’s the regulars who turn up every week no matter what the weather is. It is those dedicated customers that make me turn up every week, even when challenging things happen. I don’t want to let our customers down.
How big is the business?
We started with the factory, in Henderson, making Turkish bread and then opened a café at the front because people kept coming to the factory wanting to buy our bread. We sell at four farmers markets. And we have just opened a new café on Karangahape Rd, in the same block as the Mobil station. My son Andy is running that.
What about Zeki, is he still involved?
No, but we are still friends and his wife, Clare Hindmarsh, designed our new café in K’Rd.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I don’t get much time off because this is a seven-day-a-week business and there is always something that needs to be done. I used have a big vegetable garden but it is overgrown now. I love reading, mainly Turkish authors like Orhan Pamuk - in Turkish of course.
As published in Ponsonby News : December 2018