Döner Fans, I bring you sombre news. I wish it were not so. Fish out your black armbands, for this is a sad day in the kebab calendar. All jests shall be put aside. If you had not heard already, Kadir Nurman, the gentleman widely credited with inventing the Döner Kebab, has carved his last slice from the great, rotating meat-stick of life and has departed from our mortal company. Yes, this colossus of the fast-food industry has passed away at the grand age of 80. So long, great man! Allow me to present humbly the following obituary. And as one might say in his native Turkey: nur içinde yat, Kadir Usta!
Kadir Nurman, born 1933 in Istanbul, is the man who first sold döner meat and salad in flat bread. At the age of 26 he emigrated from Istanbul to Stuttgart, finally moving to West Berlin in 1966 where he worked as a mechanic for a printing press. In 1972 he opened a Döner stall at Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten train station, thus revolutionising the West German food industry. Kadir Nurman altruistically did not seek to patent his invention and as such did not profit from the subsequent explosion of popularity in döner kebabs once other vendors got hold of the idea. While selling grilled meat on a skewer was common practice in Turkey, the idea of stuffing it into a bit of bread and lashing it with sauces came from him. In his own words: ‘through me the kebab was known’.
There you have it, Döner Fans. Doff your caps for this departed hero. I for one shall be marking his departure with a kebab. I hope we meet again in happier times.
To Recap: What Have We Learned?
“nur içinde yat” [noor eetch-een-day yat] (rest in peace)
photographs courtesy of Berliner Zeitung