Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal own and manage the Formaggio Kitchen family of stores, located in Cambridge, Boston and New York. All three stores offer a wide selection of handcrafted cheeses, artisan meats and specialty foods.
Ihsan was born and raised in Istanbul, surrounded by a culture famous for its bazaars full of varied flavors and fragrances. Ihsan added his own twist to this mix by becoming a star volleyball player and, in 1976, he participated in the Olympics as a member of the Turkish volleyball team. In 1977, Ihsan left Istanbul to pursue a college education at UC Berkeley. As a student at Berkeley, Ihsan played volleyball and while also tapping into his natural appreciation for specialty food by working at a local wine shop. In 1982, Ihsan took advantage of an offer to become head volleyball coach at Harvard University and left Berkeley for Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ihsan kept his interest in food alive by working at a small specialty food store called Formaggio Kitchen. Soon after starting his work at the shop, Ihsan became manager and cheese buyer.
Following his retirement from Harvard volleyball, Ihsan was able to put all of his energy into Formaggio Kitchen. In 1992, Ihsan took over ownership of the shop and, since then, has presided over the shop's development into one of the leading retailers of gourmet foods in the country. He has worked extensively with celebrated cheese makers and affineurs throughout the United States and Europe, including Neal's Yard Dairy of London, Pascal Jacquin of France's Loire Valley, and Paris' Fromagerie Barthélémy. His travels around the world have yielded an unparalleled selection of rare and unique cheeses and fine foods. In 1996, Ihsan installed the first cheese aging caves in a retail store in the United States.
In 2006, Ihsan was inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers by Roland Barthélémy. In 2008, he was given the honor of the title of Chevalier by the French Government for his tireless dedication to the promotion of artisan foods from France. Other similarly recognized include Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and Julia Child, who was a long time customer of Formaggio Kitchen.