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Sultan’s Delight Food Truck Serves Up Heart and Taste

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Nothing makes for a better work afternoon than a good lunch break. Sultan’s Delight Food Truck at the Medford Thursday Farmer’s Market provided just what was needed for a long afternoon at work, followed by a long evening of volunteering.

I had to have the staple—the gyro. Slow-cooked, tender and flavorful lamb with fresh and crispy greens with cabbage, pickled onions with just the right amount of tang.

My mother has always made spanakopita, and Sultan’s Delight gave her a run for her money. The filo dough was crispy, and the feta and spinach filling was just the right ratio. The crispy garlic garnish literally topped off the dish, making it definitely something my mother would approve of.

For dessert, the regular baklava was just right: not too sweet, and the walnuts not soggy. I also tried the blackberry baklava, which was likewise excellent, the blackberries not overpowering the delectable dessert.

It was so tasty, I had to chat with the owner, Yasem “Sam” Altunel a few days later. We talked over the phone, and I caught him in the kitchen, of course, making chicken kabobs to serve the homeless in Hawthorne Park in Medford, under the overpass. He has been feeding the homeless three days a week for the past year, in addition to serving with the Red Cross, making food for the victims of the Almeda Fire. Additionally, he works with the Rogue Food Corps, which rallies 60 local restaurants to provide 2,000 meals per day for fire victims living in hotels and RV parks.

Altunel’s home was a mere one-quarter mile from the fire, and he lost four rental homes in the blaze, including a farm house built in 1880.

“I was there on the day of the fire; it was windier than hell,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘how stupid am I to be out here in this weather.’”

That is just who he is—faithful. In addition to all his service work, he sells at the farmer’s markets, wineries, and events.

“I am there,” he says. “Snow, rain, good, bad, always there at the market. My customers know that I am always there.”

He admits that his favorite market is the Saturday Grants Pass Market.

“The most loyal and loving customers are in Grants Pass; it is special,” he says.

Altunel’s life has been like “a box of chocolates.” Growing up in Turkey, his father owned a restaurant, but Altunel wasn’t excited about the restaurant business then. He moved to England in the 1980s, where he met his wife. She didn’t like the rain and fog in London, so they applied for Australia and America, and ended up here in the late 1990s.

Previously an electrician, he had an unfortunate accident and couldn’t continue in that line of work, so what started as a hobby has been his job for the past 12 years.

“It is a passion,” he says. “I like cooking.”

As for the future of Sultan’s Delight, especially after the rough COVID year affecting his usual catering jobs, Altunel says, “the season is just starting, and no one knows. We are just following their orders. They say you can’t eat in the market, then two weeks later they say you can serve food in the market. Hopefully everyone is going to get the shots, and then everyone will be safer. Will everyone get it? Why not? You have to.”

We ended up talking about his garden, and some of his secret ingredients in his scratch cooking.

“My spanakopita is different, I use kale too, not just spinach,” he confides. “It stays more perky. Also, that is my edition of spanakopita, with garlic on top. There are 36 layers of filo dough and I paint each with butter; I am always counting.”

And the unique baklava?

“It isn’t common for it to be flavored, but people loved them,” he says. “I sell more of those than the regular now. People try them, and they keep coming back.”

 

Sultan’s Delight Food Truck

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