Mahmut Aygün, the Turkish immigrant who revolutionised German fast food with his tasty creation, died at age 87 this week after a serious illness.
Aygün came up with the now ubiquitous döner while working at the “City Imbiss” snack shop in West Berlin in 1971. Cutting meat off a huge rotating spit, he was inspired to put it in pita bread and dress it up with vegetables and yoghurt sauce. Selling for two marks, the döner quickly became a staple of German street food alongside Teutonic favourites such as the bratwurst.
Although Aygün went on to considerable culinary success in Berlin, he didn’t make money from the thousands of kebab shops across Germany that copied him because he failed to patent his invention.
Still, he will be remembered by countless legions of döner kebab fans around the world.
“The news of his passing fills me with sadness, but I'm also overwhelmed by a sense of everlasting gratitude,” Andreas Tzortzis, a London-based editor and self-professed döner connoisseur, told The Local on Thursday.
Learning to love the meaty snack while living in Berlin for several years, Tzortzis – who has Greek roots – initially had to overcome his hesitation towards the Turkish treat.
“I actually stayed away from döner during my first two years there, but eventually realised my folly after ravishing my first one at three o’clock in the morning around the corner from my apartment in Prenzlauer Berg,” he said. “After that, the döner gave me comfort during both the deep dark of the Berlin winter nights and the lazy days of summer.”
But for Tzortzis, the divine sandwich created by Aygün almost forty years ago became much more than just good drunk food.
“There were even a few good döner places in Berlin you could enjoy while sober,” he told The Local.