Firsts & Lasts with... Selin Kiazim, Chef-Director of Oklava, Kyseri and Arcade X Oklava

First & Lasts

It is said that the two most important moments in a restaurant are the moment you walk in the door – the hello – and the moment you leave, the last bite you take, the last person you speak to – the end/goodbye. But so much of our life is shaped by first and lasts, so here we profile amazing women of the industry, talking about some of their first and last moments…

Selin Kiazim grew up in the kitchens of her mother and grandmother, where she developed an intrinsic love for the food of her Turkish-Cypriot heritage. She developed her cooking skills at Westminster Kingsway College, from which she graduated in 2008, and in the kitchens of Peter Gordon. At the age of 25, she became Head Chef of his restaurant Kopapa, in Covent Garden. Her journey to bring together her personal culinary heritage and her professional career began in 2013, with several highly acclaimed pop-ups and residencies, at which she began to explore a modern take on the food she grew up eating. Together with her business partner, Laura Christie, she opened up her dream in 2015: Oklava restaurant in Shoreditch, which is focused around communal eating and sharing plates. In 2017, Selin published her first cookbook, Oklava. Selin was also one of four winning chefs on BBC’s Great British Menu 2017, and cooked the dessert course at the final banquet at Wimbledon. Selin and Laura opened up their second restaurant, Kyseri, in Fitzrovia in 2018. Their third venture, Oklava x Arcade (in Centre Point), opened in the summer of 2019. 


First kiss: I don’t kiss and tell.

First cocktail ordered on a night out: First ever – I snuck a Tequila Sunrise onto a beach in Northern Cyprus. That was also the last time I had one of those. 

First food poisoning: I’ve never had it! 

First job in hospitality: I made sandwiches in my dad’s cafe as a teenager.

First thing you do to unwind after work: I would like to say yoga, but to be honest... it’s a glass of wine.

First thing you do in the middle of a hellish service/day at work to stay level headed: Vent to my business partner. 

First thing you do when you wake up: Scroll through twitter and try to ignore my emails.

First thing you do when you plan a holiday: Make a list of places I want to go and eat at.

Last thing you bought at an off license: An extra long lighter to light my kebab machine. The struggle is real.

Last three favourite places you ate in:

(in no particular order) 

  1. Bright

  2. Coombeshead Farm

  3. The Seahorse

Last song you listened to: A lay priest sang ‘Ave Maria’ at me, at a very creepy old manor house. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Last podcast you listened to and what did you take away from it: ‘Serial’. The world is a cruel place. 

Last glass of wine you really enjoyed & where: A weird and wonderful wine called ‘Little Bastard’ from the Mosel, at Coombeshead Farm. We had the bottle.

Last time you had a proper day off and what did you do with it: Proper days off as a restaurant owner are a myth. However, I spent a very pleasant weekend recently driving around Cornwall and Devon.

Last time you exercised (body or mind): Soft opening of Oklava x Arcade, rolling about 100 pide bases. This is exercise.

Last review you read and agreed with: Giles Coren’s review of Kyseri.

Firsts & LastsNatalia Ribbe