CZNBurak opened last December on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard in Dubai, with a menu boasting more than 150 dishes. Chef Burak Özdemir’s first restaurant outside of Turkey, the venue has become known for its day-long queues of hungry diners – waiting to get a taste of the Instagram star’s food.
Born in Hatay province, Turkey on 24 March 1994, Chef Ozdemir got started in the kitchen at 10 years of age, helping his grandfather, a renowned ‘kunafe’ master, at a restaurant owned by his grandfather and father; Zeytindali. By the time he was 13, he had started his career, learning from his grandfather while working alongside him in the kitchen. Chef’s Burak dishes blend Turkish and Arabic cuisine and are known for their big portions reflecting the sense of family and community.
Later in his career, and with the rise of social media, Chef Burak saw a lack of cooking content on these platforms, and as he was eager to share his passion with people, he had an idea of posting videos to showcase some of his special dishes cooked by himself, and that’s how it started. His videos soon went viral both in Turkey and other parts of the world, making him a culinary sensation.
Chef Burak now has six restaurants in Turkey, with the one in Downtown Dubai being the 7th and the first outside Turkey.
The Company and Chairman
Born in 1976, Rizgar Sak has been involved in the F&B and carpet trading sector from a young age, through his family business which has been operating since the 1980s in Erbil.
His career started in 1995, as he took over the family business along with his siblings, with a vision to grow it globally, and further expand its branches, currently covering several sectors including real estate, general trading, logistics, hotel management and customer service, and based in Dubai, UAE, Turkey and Erbil, Iraq.
Sak founded Dives Holding in 2020, with a vision of establishing the brand’s name and presence as one of the leading F&B companies in Dubai, and eventually the entire GCC, which is a key market for Dives Holding and CZNBurak brand.
An avid believer in corporate social responsibility, he has been involved in many philanthropic projects, using the companies he has been involved with as a platform to promote awareness towards creating a more socially conscious business model, with an emphasis on education by supporting high potential students with scholarships, in addition to regular food donations to several charity organizations.
With his new role as a chairman at Dives Holding, Sak plans on widening the company’s CSR reach through their popular brand, CZNBurak, which shares the same values he has preached throughout his career, a more sustainable, socially responsible business for communities to benefit from and embrace.
His vast hospitality experience has fuelled his competitiveness and drive to establish Dives Holding as one of the key players in the region.
Here, the chef and chairman speak with Hotel & Catering News Middle East, revealing the secrets to the new venue’s success in the emirate, upcoming plans and more.
Tell us more about the journey to bring CZNBurak to Dubai; why have you chosen the city and how did the localised concept and choice of location come about?
We’ve set our eyes on Dubai since we started planning on expanding outside of Turkey, because of its thriving F&B market, the government’s support to new investing companies and the competitive atmosphere created by all the international and local brands set up in the emirate.
Dives Holding wanted to present a brand that resembled Dubai’s grandeur and lavishness, and we chose CZNBurak, which has established itself in Turkey as one of the most sought-after F&B outlets, opening its first restaurant in Dubai as the biggest in Downtown, with the biggest oven in the GCC.
Why have you chosen this restaurant in particular to bring to Dubai, and what challenges have you faced in times of pandemic?
Opening a restaurant outside Turkey has always been my goal; this dream has become a reality. Despite the difficult circumstances, you have at times to seize the opportunities that are knocking on your door, so the decision to open a restaurant in Dubai was not difficult for both of myself and Chef Burak, especially with the emirate’s keenness to provide support and the right environment to ensure a safe opening for our customers and for us as well as a new project.
In addition, the huge amount of love and appreciation that we received from the customers in the region, with which all of our restaurants in Turkey were flooded, was a decisive factor to move forward, as the time has come to take a new headquarters closer to them, while waiting for the opening of stations in other cities in the future.
What is your motto/philosophy when it comes to maintaining the best standards?
Our motto is “Happy people can make people happy!”, which is something we strongly believe in; there’s nothing stronger than the human power when it comes to any service-related industry, it helps nurture the relationship between businesses and customers, enhancing their trust in the product and cultivating their loyalty to the brand.
You have hired a specific type of staff/team to handle the restaurant in Dubai; tell us more about them.
Building a successful company starts with hiring the right talent. Whether it’s at Dives Holding, or at CZNBurak, the team has been handpicked, and the hired team members represent the best in their field, with extensive experience in the GCC market, which allows them to better understand current trends and customer behaviors, enabling them to provide better and higher value services, shared with respect, comfort, care and a genuine smile. We view our team as our family, serving our customers’ families.
What training have you given staff to be able to handle such a high number of guests every day?
Our team comes with extensive experience in the F&B industry, which helped them contribute to our opening success in a very short period of time. Apart from job skills, we made sure that the communication ran smoothly, keeping an open-doors policy to discuss new ideas where everyone can benefit from others’ experiences, resulting in better working dynamics between our staff members, which reflects in the effectiveness of our busy operations on a daily basis.
How do you see the venue evolving?
We’ve had high expectations for the restaurant opening which we’ve seen fulfilled from day one. For the time being, our main goal is to provide high-quality food and service to our customers, while working on developing new projects such as CZNBurger, which will be opening at The Dubai Mall soon.
What are your future plans in Dubai and the region?
Dives Holding’s vision is to create a well-known restaurant group that represents the best, most highly demanded and profitable brands. We’re looking forward to getting ahead of our competition by becoming a trendsetter in the F&B industry, while globally expanding and creating a solid and sustainable business model, which will provide profitable investments for our shareholders.
Chef Burak Özdemir
Tell us more about your journey; readers would love to know more about your beginnings.
I started at 10 years old, helping my grandfather at his restaurant; I was young and excited to experience this kind of environment, the enjoyment of customers and the way they liked the food ignited my passion to learn more about this profession.
By the age of 13, I started to take this career more seriously, learning from my grandfather while still helping him in the kitchen. Years after that, I found myself more eager to grow, so here I am, opening my first restaurant outside of Turkey.
How have you become so successful at a young age?
There’s no shortcut to success, and nothing comes easy to anyone. Like other successful individuals, I had a dream, and I worked very hard to make it come true, constantly challenging myself and overcoming obstacles. I’m happy to say that the love I receive and the happy moments I help create for others have made all the hard work worth it.
How do you feel about bringing this concept to the region?
I feel so blessed to have this huge welcome in the region. I’ve always had many followers from the UAE and GCC, constantly engaging with me through social media. I’m beyond happy to finally come closer to them with this new restaurant opening and get to meet them and share this significant milestone.
The restaurant has been well-received, and people are happy to see you here; what does opening a venue in Dubai signify to you?
Opening a venue in Dubai is a dream that came true. While we were thinking of where to open next and expand to other parts of the world, Dubai was the first destination we thought about; the diversity of the community, and the emirate’s healthy business environment have encouraged us to take this step and reach out to our customers in this region.
Since opening in December, we have been showered by the love and support of customers here, which is something that we’re very happy about, and we look forward to bringing more experiences to them.
Tell us more about the venue’s concept, menu and culinary performances.
We wanted to create a comfortable and elevated dining space concept for families and groups to enjoy; the setup reflects the Ottoman style with a contemporary interpretation, while the food merges the Turkish and Arabic cuisines, which represent my diverse heritage.
Apart from the obvious similarities between both cuisines, they represent the moments shared between families and friends, which is why I love cooking extra-large dishes; food is meant to be shared, and that’s an experience I enjoy by performing live shows to our guests, as it creates an intimate bond relating good food to warm memories.
How do you plan on developing the menu even further – and the restaurant?
I’m constantly working on developing my menu and expanding my food offerings. With our brand, people can always expect new things. We have so many new ideas we’re working on, which will make our food experience even more exciting to customers.
What are your upcoming plans?
For CZNBurak, we’re looking forward to more openings in the region, specifically in Saudi Arabia, with other dining concepts as well such as CZNBurger, which will be our next project.