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Homeless to millionaire restauranteur

posted 7 Oct 2011, 07:55 by Mpelembe Admin



The World Food Awards' 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year Hüseyin Özer reveals how the experience of living rough as a child in Ankara helped propel him to success in London's competitive restaurant business.

UK-ENTREPRENEUR - It's lunchtime at Hüseyin Özer's restaurant.

The Turkish businessman now has four branches of the Ozer and Sofra chain in London and he's just won the food industry's Entrepreneur of Year award.

A world away from his humble beginnings in Ankara.


Hüseyin Özer, founder and owner of the Özer and Sofra Turkish restaurant chain, saying

"I was an unwanted child, my mother and father separated and then my mother got remarried, my father got remarried and they had more children. I was living with my grandparents."

Hüseyin spent the next few years being passed between relatives.


Hüseyin Özer, founder and owner of the Özer and Sofra Turkish restaurant chain, saying

"Age 11 I was homeless I was staying in a public loo (toilet). I was selling things which enabled me to buy a piece of bread and some tripe soup - everyday I was hungry. In the end I found a little drinking place where I changed their ashtrays and brought them (customers) bread etc and they gave me food and I thought I was rich."


Those early years proved useful.

By day he worked in a cafe, by night he taught himself English and eventually left Turkey for a new life in the England.


After several years of working in a kebab shop he opened his first London restaurant.

Some thirty years later - he's now a multi-millionaire.

And he says he's not bitter about his past.


Receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year award, he paid tribute to his mother.

Hüseyin Özer, founder and owner of the Özer and Sofra Turkish restaurant chain, saying

"I hope she's in heaven right now, seeing all these things tonight and I hope she's proud of me."

Now his half-brother David manages the Regent Street branch - not always an easy job.


David, Hüseyin Özer's half brother and Manager of the Özer restaurant in Regent Street, saying 

"He's very tough, he's like everything to be perfect. The food it must be good, the service must be good otherwise you'll be in trouble because if you see on the table he has his mobile number if he doesn't make the customers happy they will call him straight away and then we will get in trouble."


Hüseyin's exacting standards have earned his Regent Street branch a place in the prestigious Michelin Guide and though he's now in his sixties, he's concerned more with expansion than retirement.


Hayley Platt Reuters.

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