Yigit Bulut, who advises Erdogan on economic affairs, said the foreign chefs featured on Turkish TV shows are undercover spies, claiming that they freely travel across Turkey and collect information for intelligence services.
"Our compatriots are credulous. They open up their doors to them (the foreign cooks), tell them their secrets, say there is a military air base in the corner, a munitions depot, and how to get in and out of a village,” Bulut said in an interview with pro-government A-Haber TV channel.
He pointed to two chefs on a TV program whom he described as “an English guy and an Italian wandering from one village to the next and cooking up dishes to discover the delicacies of Anatolia.”
“Why are English and Italians wandering round villages in Anatolia and Thrace? What is the point of that? They are collecting a database!” he said, adding, "And please no one tell me this is a conspiracy theory or that I am exaggerating!"
Opposition media said Bulut was likely referring to the show on private NTV "Tastes from Europe to Anatolia." The show, presented by Dutchman Wilco van Herpen and Italian Danilo Zanna, also highlights projects around the country supported by the European Union.
Several Turkish TV channels use foreigners to travel the land and highlight good food and hospitality at every stop.
Bulut, a former journalist who has been advising Erdogan since 2013, is believed to be very close to the current president, although the extent of the influence of the advice that he offers to Erdogan is not known.
Bulut gained much of his infamy during the 2013 protests against Erdogan’s rule as he claimed that German airline Lufthansa had organized rallies against Erdogan or that opponents were trying to kill the Turkish leader through "telekinesis."
Bulut’s remarks come at the height of disputes between Turkey and the European Union. The EU has extensively censured Erdogan’s harsh crackdown following the failed July 15 coup.
Ankara has defended its post-coup clampdown, which has seen 37,000 people arrested and more than 100,000 discharged from their jobs, accusing the EU of failing to properly condemn the coup attempt.