Anyone who has driven along the stretch of the A9 that passes Dunkeld and Birnam this month may have noticed an intriguing shipping container next to the train station of the two adjoining towns.
The Craft Diner, run by Orkun Cevik, former executive chef at the Dunkeld House Hotel, has been serving up burgers using his “secret recipe”, which have become increasingly popular with customers.
The idea came when Orkun lost his job at the local hotel as a result of the pandemic and longed for a new venture that would allow him to continue his passion of cooking good-quality food.
He said: “I was at Dunkeld House Hotel before the pandemic. They closed the restaurant just before the national lockdown and, as I was a freelance chef and not on their full-time roster, I lost the job.
“After lockdown lifted, I went on a trip down to Liverpool and the idea came to me. I called my wife and said that I didn’t want to keep driving round the UK for work anymore, I want to have my own business. She asked what I wanted to do and I said ‘let’s open a burger shack’.
“At first we tried to do a sort of burger caravan thing but after some research we realised it was going to cost a lot of money to get it imported. Then I thought, if I am going to do this, let’s do it properly and get a shipping container.
“I was always interested in shipping containers – it’s one of my dreams, to have my home based in a shipping container. I liked the idea as it’s environmentally friendly, there’s no CO2, everything’s electric and there’s no gas.”
Envisioning his idea
Knowing the Dunkeld and Birnam area well, Orkun was aware of the state of its dilapidated train station and looked into whether it would be a viable option for his idea.
“The building has been closed for 15 years, is rotting and there is nothing going on.
“So we thought why not have it there? We thought it was going to be a very easy process as the train station building isn’t in use.
“I started work on the menu and put things down on paper. My original idea was a 20-foot container with a seating deck up some stairs on top of the container.
“I put the idea to Scotrail, as they own that area of land around the station. They were very interested. That was in November and from there the ball started rolling.”
Concept vs reality
Following a few months of toing and froing with Perth and Kinross Council, Orkun was granted permission to open the diner on August 1, which he’d had to reduce to 10-feet long and without a seating area on top.
In the three weeks since opening, he has gone on to sell more than 600 burgers.
“When we opened, my calculation was that if we sold 20-30 burgers a day, we’ll be OK,” he added.
“Since we’ve opened I’ve sold about 600 of the burgers. We’ve also gone through about 10 kilos of coffee and the numbers are still going up and up.
“My burgers are so good because I don’t use any random ground meat from the butcher. My ground meat is really special, it’s ground chuck and a ground brisket and then egg yolk. There’s a certain special recipe and ingredient with it that I’m not going to tell!”
Also proving popular on social media, the word about Orkun’s burgers have been spreading across the country and all the feedback has been positive, much to his worry.
“We had a customer who came up from Glasgow the other day because they’d heard about us – I don’t know how but they did,” he continued.
“Our social media is booming right now and a lot of people have found us that way. We’ve had so many amazing comments, which is scary. I want to hear some complaints – because every chef’s biggest nightmare is when people don’t tell them genuinely what they didn’t like about the food!”
More to come
As one of two employees in the business, with the other being his wife Claire, Orkun hopes to be able to open further branches of The Craft Diner very soon.
“I’m working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, 8am to 8pm. My goal at the moment is to build the brand,” he says.
“I am still waiting for electric installation from ScotRail. I’m using a generator right now and I am waiting on some water installation.
“Once all the issues have been resolved I am hoping to open in a few more locations. Next year I hope to extend the container to be 20-foot and get the proper planning permission to make that a reality.”