General text about your awards and years of establishment here.
ALISON COOK Staff
Houston Chronicle, Section Dining Guide, Page 3, 2 STAR Edition
SOME people are born to run restaurants.
One of those people is Yilmaz "Jim" Dokuyucu, the enormously hospitable owner and chef of the Turquoise Grill. He stands tall and hyper-alert in his airy room, calling out greetings to regulars, learning the names of newcomers, explaining his wild hybrid menu of deli-Italian-homestyle-Turkish fare, with a few Mexican flourishes for good measure.
He urges a sample of juicy homemade baklava (that's right, juicy) on one table, then shows some women at another how to invert the silt from their Turkish coffee into a saucer, so that they can read their fortunes in the tracery left inside the cup. He can't read the coffee grounds himself, Dokuyucu laughingly allows, although he knows a woman named Anna who is gifted at it.
A crisply attired patron on his way out the door pauses, peers at the silty patterns and declares in a lilting African accent that he is sure he can see Mary in there. He adds slyly, "You will win the lottery!"
MARY VUONG Staff
Wed 09/26/2007 Houston Chronicle, Section Flavor, Page 1, 2 STAR Edition
DURING the holy month of Ramadan, it's customary for Muslims to break their daylong fasts with large, festive gatherings in homes or mosques.
But for people with busy schedules that leave little time to cook - and those whose families live far away - restaurants are the logical place to visit at sundown.
Turquoise Grill is among the Houston eateries that serve such iftar or fast-breaking meals to local Muslims, though chef-owner Yilmaz ``Jim'' Dokuyucu is quick to point out everyone is welcome. The Turkish restaurant features a changing iftar menu in addition to its regular offerings. On the first night, eggplant boats stuffed with ground beef are the special. Two hours before sundown, Dokuyucu's 78-year-old mother, Sadet, is in the open kitchen, making sure the staff properly executes her recipes for the night.
In southern Turkey, where they are from, ``We don't eat to live, we live to eat,'' Dokuyucu says.
Houston Press- Turquoise Grill
Domino's has nothing on the Turkish lahmajun pizza (a.k.a. lahmacun pide) ($5.99) at Turquoise Grill (3701 Kirby, 713-526-3800). Lahmajun is an Arabic word that means "meat on dough." The pizza's wafer-thin, hand-formed crust is extra crispy as it emerges from the brick oven. It's topped with a mixture of finely minced beef and lamb, along with onions, green peppers, tomatoes, paprika, parsley and a spritz of lemon juice. Lahmajun might also mean "quickly disappears," since that's precisely what happens with this dish.
Cafe Owner Won't Let Setbacks Crush Dreams
By DAVID KAPLAN
Copyright 2004, April 10, 2004
INSIDE the new Turquoise Cafe is a brick oven that will cook Turkish delicacies such as lahmacun , a meat pie made with lamb, beef and spices.
But while the restaurant has been open for more than two weeks, owner Yilmaz "Jim" Dokuyucu has yet to serve one lahmacun . It is not for lack of customer interest; the oven doesn't work. Several people have come in to try to fix it.
"This is his big thing — that brick oven is his centerpiece," said his wife, Deanna Teel.
The cafe, at street level of an office high-rise near the corner of Richmond and Kirby, has faced other obstacles, including a long delay on the build-out: Dokuyucu had to pay rent for three months before opening.
Teel is a business instructor at Houston Community College, where she teaches that cash flow is crucial. But the cash won't flow if you aren't open.
In the life of a small business, the opening and days prior to it can be maddening. You are fighting to make your debut deadline and a good first impression as you iron out many problems. The pressure is on.
Dokuyucu has been dreaming of having his own business for 15 years and has no intention of letting initial setbacks get him down, although unexpected expenses have forced him to put some projects on hold, including his main outdoor sign and a Mediterranean scene mural inside.
Currently, he is open for lunch and breakfast on weekdays. After he is up and running a while, he plans to also offer dinner, serve beer and wine and expand to weekends.
His lunch menu includes burgers, shish kebab, fajita wraps and appetizers such as baba ghanoush , stuffed grape leaves and hummus. When he gets the brick oven working, he'll make pizza and calzone.
His breakfast items include tacos, pancakes and the "Turquoise Omelet," made of spinach, red peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella and feta cheese.
His marble walls and travertine floors are imported from Turkey.
Dokuyucu applied for a Small Business Administration loan through Frost Bank, where he says one of the senior vice presidents, Ken Hutto, became a father figure and mentor. After getting the loan, Dokuyucu told Hutto, "I'll never let you down." Perhaps that promise is one reason he isn't letting himself get discouraged by travails that included having to wait six weeks to get his city permits.
"If you have a grand opening that goes off without a hitch, you're a rarity," said James Evans, assistant region director at the University of Houston Small Business Development Center.
It could be a shipment that is late in coming in, a carpenters union that goes on strike or construction cost overruns, he said.
It's best to plan for the unexpected, Evans said, because if you are underfinanced in the early days of your business, you can get in serious trouble fast. After creating your business plan and determining the size of the loan you need, it's best to add an extra $10,000 to $15,000 to cover hidden costs that "might jump up and bite you," Evans said.
While waiting for the completion of the build-out, Dokuyucu sold Aramark sandwiches in the lobby of the office building, which served two purposes: It brought in some money and gave him the opportunity to become friendly with people who work in the building.
On his opening day, he had 140 customers, many of whom had been buying sandwiches in the lobby. Teel had been keeping her HCC classes updated on all the construction delays, and when she broke the news that the Turquoise Grill finally opened, her students applauded. She explains in her classes that when entrepreneurs encounter cost overruns and other problems, they have to be flexible and prioritize. Her husband is a case in point. She believes he will ultimately prosper for a number of reasons, including his background in the food business.
For 15 years, he worked for ARAMARK as a food service manager in the cafeterias of American General, Halliburton, Williams Tower and other corporations.
He was originally educated as an engineer but could not find work in the field. He moved to the United States in 1982 and began working in food service management after obtaining an MBA. Dokuyucu also has a good cultural frame of mind, Teel said. Possessing a warm personality, he is quick to offer samples to customers when they come in the door.
"It's the way he was raised in Turkey," where hospitality is greatly valued, she said. "Food is the glue that binds family and culture together. He's really going to do anything he can to feed you. It's a passion."
They were both raised believing that hard work is the key to success, Teel said. "We both feel that failure is not an option." Dokuyucu has a lot riding on the Turquoise Grill. It represents a new stage in his life. He no longer wanted to live from paycheck to paycheck, he said: "I want to create something and leave something behind for my kids, and maybe they can expand on it."