Esra Muslu, the head chef and founder of Turkish restaurant Zahter, has sadly passed away as of this morning, 31 August. The news was announced today on the restaurant’s Instagram page, as hundreds of comments and tributes poured in from friends and admirers of the chef.
The post stated: ‘Today, we mourn the passing of Esra, the visionary founder and head chef of Zahter restaurant. Her vibrant spirit and unwavering positivity touched us all.
‘With heavy hearts, we share the news of her peaceful departure this morning. Her legacy will forever live on in our hearts. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to her family and friends during this difficult time…’
The post has been inundated with comments in the last couple of hours as people share their shock at her passing.
Restaurant critic Jay Rayner commented: ‘I’m so so sorry. Esra was a brilliant chef and a lovely, lovely person. She welcomed me into her kitchen with such kindness and grace and taught me so very much. A terrible loss. My thoughts are with you all.’
While chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine said: ‘This is awful. Sending so much love and strength’.
Esra was originally born in Turkey, before moving to London at the tender age of 18. She opened her first restaurant in Istanbul in 2007 – fine dining concept Moreish – and went on to launch five more sites in the city over the new few years.
She moved back to London in 2017 to work at Shoreditch House, followed by a head chef stint at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi Spitalfields. Esra opened Zahter in 2021 to offer diners an authentic taste of Istanbulite cuisine, and the home-style food she grew up eating. It opened to great acclaim, earning itself a place in the Michelin Guide, and winning a SquareMeal Silver Award.
In other news, one of London’s most iconic restaurants is set to close after 56 years.