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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Jan 2, 2013 - 9:13:25 AM


Familiar Faces: Murat Atilla hopes to leave customers smiling at Sermet's
By Elizabeth Bush
Jan 2, 2013 - 9:08:07 AM

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The Sermet's family finds fun and joy in their work. Explains Atilla, “Since then, it’s just been amazing,” said Murat. “It’s nice…It’s a cozy, small group of people we work with…It’s interacting with everyone. Now we get to know all the regulars and the islanders. It’s not like work. You’re working, but at the same time, you’re hanging out with people. It’s just fun.”

Tennis may have brought Murat Berk Atilla to America, but Charleston has served up plenty of reasons to stay. A native of Ankara, Turkey, Murat came to the Lowcountry on a tennis scholarship to Charleston Southern University in 2004. These days, however, you’ll find him on Daniel Island working as a server, bar tender and manager at Sermet’s Courtyard Restaurant, a place that he says feels a lot like home.  
“Sermet is a very important figure in my life,” said Murat, who lives on James Island. “He is like my family. I’ve known him since I was 18, so it was pretty much the most important time of my life. He did guide me in the right direction and being part of his project is more than working for a restaurant…Everyone knows each other, very closely. That’s the best part of working for a small business.”
As a young teen and a talented athlete, Murat knew the importance of a good education. With his family’s support, he sought out scholarships at a number of schools. It wasn’t long before Charleston Southern came calling.
“What happened was I didn’t know anything about Charleston,” he recalled. “But one of my dad’s friends was in the Air Force in Turkey and he was from Charleston. So I just moved here by his word. He said it was a fantastic town, and I took a chance.”
The gamble paid off. Murat played tennis at Charleston Southern for four years, while studying business management. After graduating in 2008, he moved to Charlotte for a brief time to work in a law firm. Soon, however, Murat found his way back to Charleston, where he met and married his “lovely wife.” Shortly after returning to the Lowcountry, he also reconnected with his friend Sermet, who offered him a job at his restaurant in downtown Charleston. Within a month or two, Sermet opened his Daniel Island location, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, and Murat joined the team there.
“Since then, it’s just been amazing,” said Murat. “It’s nice…It’s a cozy, small group of people we work with…It’s interacting with everyone. Now we get to know all the regulars and the islanders. It’s not like work. You’re working, but at the same time, you’re hanging out with people. It’s just fun.”
Even though Murat is at Sermet’s full time, he hasn’t left the game of tennis behind. He works at Family Circle Tennis Center in the summer time teaching camps for kids and clinics for all ages. But he hopes to one day follow in his mentor’s footsteps.
“I’d like to keep moving forward with Sermet,” he said.
In the meantime, he is savoring each and every day on the job, recommending Sermet’s signature dishes (the beef short ribs are his favorite) and making sure his customers leave with a bit more than what they ordered off the menu.
“What I’d like to send them off with is the thinking that this was an overall amazing experience,” he said. “...Going out to eat is not just about food. It’s about good food, good service, good ambiance…and leaving with a smile on your face.”
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