Derya Ozyuvali was born in Istanbul and currently goes by the name Foodie BackPacker.
He juggled with various careers and got himself involved in many ventures as both entrepreneur and creator. He was studying advertising but never made it until diploma, probably because he was busy making money. Risking hundreds at the age of 20, running tourism agencies, managing nightclubs, investing in real-estate, event management, playing real-life Farmville etc.
“I can say that I used to live quite a fancy and business oriented life. Being a guy who had a travel agency, who managed several clubs and did event management, I was kinda in the middle of everything in Istanbul.”
Becoming FoodieBackpacker was not a result of a certain decision. Derya was quite bored and felt the urge to change things in his life.
So he bought a backpack for the first time in his life and backpacked around Croatia and Serbia on 2013. That was the trip that made him realize he was wasting his time and money while staying in fancy hotels. Soon afterwards, he met with Eatwith.com and became the first Istanbul host of it.
“That is how I figured out that the food scene is changing and it is not all about the restaurants anymore. Meanwhile I was taking some cooking classes to open a small restaurant abroad and somehow I could manage to combine these two “find outs” and started asking myself if it would be possible to be on the go while cooking instead of sticking to one certain address. Then I started doing small trials… It took like 4 months to be certain about being the FoodieBackpacker”.
Derya, who always carries spices in his backpack, has travelled the world high and lo, putting milestones of his two passions – cooking and travel – in over 36 countries.
He cooks at-home dinners for his fans across the planet and always enjoys sharing a table of mezze and a glass of Raki (the traditional Turkish anise flavoured beverage) with people from all sorts of cultures.
I met Derya online, when I was backpacking myself in 2015 through Europe. He was in fact my first UpWork client. We got along smoothly from the very start, both of us sharing the taste for good food, wanderlust in our veins and the great pleasure to host casual, friendly and delicious dinners for friends and strangers alike.
Then, in January 2017, I asked him to cook a dinner for 12 in my apartment for my birthday party. Being a host turned out a wonderful experience, and not just from the culinary point of view. After all, how often do we have the chance to follow a chef at shopping, crack jokes in the backseat of the car together and watch him flip pans and multitask on 6 dishes at once in our own kitchens?
He is an interesting fellow who talks passionately but in a relaxed manner about his work, and has that special charm only people who live off what they love most bear.
“The more you have shared food, the more social you are. If there are small plates to share coming to the table, you can easily expect friendly environment”, he muses.
Derya describes a perfectly balanced meal as one where nobody feels stomach problems after dinner. He won’t cook much heavy stuff, but instead will settle for lamb for the main course which is heavier than most other dishes, and choose starters based on olive oil and veggies.
“I have a secret that I share with some of my hosts. I usually cook at least 6 course menus and I love using the same product on consecutive dishes. For example using orange zest in a lentil soup and then serving a salad with orange juice sauce..”
Can you imagine? From all around the world, different religions, different races, with all those differences, people do enjoy hosting him, people do ask him to cook in their kitchens. If this does not make you happy and fulfilled, what would? The more you trust, the more you are trusted.
“There are several cities that I feel like home and I also find inspiring. Amsterdam, Berlin and Bangkok are for sure in the list. If I am to choose one, it is surely Bangkok. The street food! I couldn’t taste even %10 of what it has to offer…”
He agrees that if you are doing what you really love and you are determined, the success finds you somehow. Travelling this much made him much more welcoming, much more open, much more tolerant and allowed him to trust people more.
“Good business opportunities? A big network? Good friends? I am leaving all of those behind almost everywhere. I don’t care about business, because I am not doing this to make money or such. I want to see more of the world and more of the people. If I see that the city is huge for me business wise, I appreciate it. But that is all. I am not into staying for that.”
When it comes to certain people, he admits he feels a bit sorry.
“I have a best friend in almost each city I visit. That would be amazing if I could have all of them at one place when I decide to settle somewhere. Anyway, I can say that it mentally is not easy but to know that you have people that you can trust all around the world is such an amazing feeling.”