top of page
Beyond the Plate with Fisun Ercan
Play Video

From a Turkish town to the Quebec countryside, the owner of Su restaurant has followed her passions every step of the way.

Fisun Ercan brings tastes of Turkey to Montreal

May 30, 2019

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
— Maya Angelou

For Fisun Ercan, Maya Angelou’s lyrical quote echoes in both her personal and professional life. From her childhood in Turkey to her time in Montreal, her life has led her to do what she loves.

Ercan was born in 1969 in the Turkish town of Seferihisar, “a very small, tiny village off the coast of the Aegean Sea.” The youngest of three children, she recalls: “I had a really paradisiacal childhood. I was very lucky to have a large and loving, beautiful family.”

Ercan’s father passed away 2 1/2 years ago, but it’s clear his influence will always run deep.

“My father was a very passionate person,” she says. “He enjoyed life. He loved food and family. If he was going out with his friends and ate something new in his life for the first time, he was in the kitchen checking with the chef, learning the recipe. The next day, he would go out and buy everything.”

Ercan’s mother and father both shared in the delight of fresh food and the importance of gathering the family around the table.

“My father was in charge of ingredients — he was always checking for the best tomatoes, the best grapes. Everything would come fresh daily. Fish would still be alive on the kitchen counter. But my mother was the cook, and still is. She is very meticulous and detail-oriented. She cooked all her life, and is known in the village as the best home cook.

“I was always curious in the kitchen. I was like an apprentice to my mother since a very young age. I wanted to cook, make things, learn.” But, Ercan adds, “I never thought this was a profession — that this was something you could turn into a profession.”

Despite a love of food being a continuous backdrop in Ercan’s youth, at 18 she enrolled in finance and economy at Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir, Turkey. After graduation came her first job, then love and marriage, then pregnancy.

 

“I thought I was going to stay home for a few years and raise my daughter. I worked until my last day of pregnancy. I never quit — I was a workaholic.

“For me, it is never a job. It is not work. I just do what I love. I never think, ‘Oh, I want to just take a day off.’ ”

© Photos by Ezra Soiferman

Once Ercan’s daughter Su was born, six months at home took a toll.

“After I stayed home a bit, I said, ‘Hmm, this is not for me. I love my daughter, I want to really be with her, but I think if I stay at home with her I will lose my head, my passions and feel miserable. I don’t think it would make me a better mom.’”

Ercan’s entrepreneurial spirit took over, and she devised a business venture that could soothe both her mind and heart.

“I opened a kindergarten. That was my way out. I could keep an eye on my daughter and be a business person at the same time. I had 14 employees and 50 kids enrolled. I did this for five years.”

At 25, Ercan was divorced and felt the pull of something bigger fuelling her adventurous side.

“I started thinking about changing my life. I was always curious about travelling — how it could be if I was living somewhere else. One day I found an advertisement offering studies out in the world. I checked in with the agency, and they told me they were working with schools in Canada.”

Ercan says her only thoughts about Canada up till then involved our brutal winters. Undaunted, she moved to Toronto in her late 20s, enrolling in an English program. But she missed her daughter, who stayed behind with Ercan’s mother and father in Turkey.

“I left her with my parents because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do — what was waiting for me. How can I take a five-year-old with me to a new place?”

Ercan didn’t feel grounded in Toronto, but Montreal resonated with her when she visited here.

“It felt like home. I think this European look, narrow cobblestone streets in Old Montreal, there was a charm more than Toronto for me.”

Feeling an ever greater longing for home, Ercan moved to Montreal and arranged for her mother to bring Su here.

“I was far away from home for the first time and I was homesick. I was crying for my daughter every day. I missed her a lot and I didn’t know what I was doing. So I said, ‘Yes, why not?’ ”

Ercan studied computer programming in Montreal, at a time when concerns about technology were growing.

“Because the year 2000 was coming, people didn’t know how it was going to go. Technology and computer programming were hot, and I am a very mathematical, analytical person: my forte is all those puzzles and problem-solving. But I was learning French and computer languages at the same time. I didn’t sleep for about six months. I would take power naps standing up in the métro and on buses. I was alone with my six-year-old, studying, taking her to school, then going to work. Winter was harsh. I said to myself, ‘My god, what am I doing here?’ ”