Son of Wolfpack basketball star brings flavors of his Turkish home to Raleigh
When Kevin Corchiani lands in his native country of Turkey, his first thought is rice pudding.
Made from his late mother’s recipe, sweetened with milk and spiced with cinnamon, Corchiani says his sister always has a batch timed to his flight.
Now he can have that pudding everyday, sometimes for breakfast. Last month he opened the Sultan Kebab House on Western Boulevard in the former Gourmet Factory space.
His hope, he said, is to bring a piece of his homeland to the place he’s made his home, bringing a two-decade story full circle.
Corchiani, born Kenan Demir in a small town outside Istanbul, came to Raleigh two decades ago as the adoptive son of NC State All-American and NBA player Chris Corchiani and his wife, Stewart Harris.
Chris Corchiani, after graduating, spent three years in the NBA, finishing the rest of his professional basketball days in Europe.
His first stop was Istanbul, where as a 24-year-old navigating a new city, he’d carry around a basketball card of when he played for the Boston Celtics as a means of introduction. There he met Demir, a 12-year-old who was delivering groceries after dropping out of middle school.
The two developed a big brother-little brother kind of connection. The next year, as Corchiani and Harris moved to Germany for a new season in a new league, Demir went with them.
Eventually, Demir came to Raleigh, enrolling in middle school as a 16-year-old, but advanced quickly with the assistance of tutors.
Demir attended Cardinal Gibbons High School, becoming a star athlete in his own right. He picked up a scholarship to run cross country at Appalachian State and later transferring to NC State.
After school, he worked as a mortgage broker in his American father’s firm and produced a Hollywood film, 2008’s “Broken Angel.” In 2005, at 22, his American parents legally adopted him, and he took the name Kevin Corchiani.
Kevin Corchiani said he’s grateful for the life his adoptive parents gave him. He said they pulled him from a harsh and poor life to one of opportunity.
But he missed many things from his youth, especially the food, living so far from the tastes and smells he grew up loving as a boy.
“I really missed my mom’s cooking,” Corchiani said. “She cooked on a daily basis, and we always had family dinner. Even though we didn’t have much, we always had family dinner.”
Corchiani’s father is a professional cook in Turkey, he said, but his late mother was the home cook, he said.
“The food is very important in Turkey,” Corchiani said. “Food plays a big role in Turkish culture, in keeping families together. Gathering at the dinner table, hosting guests is very important. Any gathering always involves food.”
In Sultan Kebab House, Corchiani said he wanted to serve authentic Turkish food, something he said has been hard to find in his years in Raleigh. The menu features kebabs of lamb, beef, chicken and shrimp, freshly made hummus, the roasted eggplant dip baba ghanoush and desserts of rice pudding and baklava.
Located near NC State along Western Boulevard’s drag of fast-food options, Corchiani said he hopes Turkish and Middle Eastern students can find comfort and familiarity in his dishes.
“They might be feeling the same way I used to, missing the meals from back home,” Corchiani said. “Opening something near NC State was important for me. I want to serve my Wolfpack family.”
Sultan Kebob House is at 3933 Western Blvd., Raleigh. Go to facebook.com/sultankebabhouseraleigh.