Having lived in Germany for 40 years, Balaban opened his first restaurant in 1979, then opened “Bosphorus” in Cologne in 1982, followed by “Bongut” in 1985. Bosphorus is still run by Balaban's sibling.
Upon the wish of Hochtief, one of Germany's preeminent construction companies, Balaban opened a restaurant named “Opera” in 1988 in Germany's then-capital Bonn. He sold the three previous restaurants and is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Opera's opening. The restaurant still maintains a spot in the top five best restaurants of Bonn. When Bonn was the capital, Opera was the center of the political, artistic, and high-society scenes.
Balaban currently operates a beer garden in Leverkusen, the bar in the opera house of Bonn, the canteen in that building, and a 4200 square-meter relaxation center in the same city. He employs nearly 50 people in these endeavors.
FROM SPITZ CAFE TO A MODERN RESTAURANT
There is a project that is preoccupying Balaban these days. You can see the excitement in his eyes when he describes it. He is getting ready to open a new place with a 2.5 million Euro investment on Eren, one of Cologne's high streets. The street, which has an 800-year history, spent 760 years of that time as home to the city's prostitutes. The street gained its modern-day status in the 1960s and the 870 square-meter location of Cafe Spitz has served well for 19 years as one of the important places to meet and be seen.
Like Cologne's famous Dome Cathedral, Cafe Spitz has become a symbol of the city so 170 firms, among them food giants, competed to see who would gain the rights to replace the famed cafe with a new one. Balaban points out that his extensive experience in gastronomy helped him win the competition. At the time of this writing, the new owners were still searching for a name for the new place, which will open in the fall of 2007. The restaurant will boast a staff of 45 and instead of serving traditional Turkish food will maintain a menu drawing from various culinary cultures. The seating capacity of the new restaurant will be 350 people.
Born in 1955, Balaban is an entrepreneur who has closely researched the practices of restaurants from around the world. Having witnessed the use of an open kitchen in New York, he implemented the same thing in his restaurant. He bought the furniture for the restaurant from famous French and Italian designers. He has adorned the walls with pictures such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) and Edward Burne-Jones' “The Golden Stairs”. With these modern tendencies, Balaban has contributed a certain type of air to the restaurant, which he summarizes by stating, “We have been living in Europe for forty years and we have to be modern.” (October 2007 – Issue 26th)