Berlin is called ‘Döner Capital’ for a reason. Not only does Berlin have over 1000 döner shops, the German-Turkish döner was born in this city. Turkish immigrant Kadir Nurman is widely believed to be the founder of the world-famous fast food.
Favorite Fast Food
Nurman came to Berlin in the 60s as a guest worker, together with thousands of other Turkish people. He noticed that people in Germany loved to eat quickly, while they were walking or working. Nurman decided to make money out of this German habit. What he did was simple: he put some meat in flatbread and started selling it in 1972 in Zoologischer Garten in Berlin. Ever since then, döner has become one of the favourite fast foods of Berliners.
Popular in Germany are the ‘döner kebap’ served in flatbread or the ‘dürüm döner’, served in a wrap. Traditionally, the dishes consisted of veal or beef meat, some sauce and served in a flatbread or wrap. Over the years however, the ingredients of a German döner have changed. Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap for instance uses chicken meat and adds loads of fried vegetables.
The Turkish Döner Organization in Europe, based in Berlin, estimates that there are around 16.000 döner shops Germany-wide. 600 tons of meat are fried on the skewer every day. It has become a 3,5 billion euro industry.
Forgot to register
With such an enormous industry, you would expect the founding father to be filthy rich by now. Unfortunately, Nurman forgot to register a patent for his invention. His idea has been copied thousands of times and he didn’t get a penny for it. He still lives in Berlin – proud of the success of his idea, but also a bit sad that he never got rich from it. And while Nurman still enjoys a good döner every now and then, he doesn’t like how other döner shops have added ingredients and spices to the recipe.
Nurman in the Frankfurter Rundschau: ‘with good meat, you don’t need tomatoes or spices. There are too many ingredients nowadays. Meat and maybe some onions are all you need.’