“We need to keep learning and growing”
The Hungarian pastry chef Attila Meinhart is convinced that everything is constantly evolving. “Look at the whole world. Look at mobile phones, cars and even architecture. Everything is evolving. Everything! We also have to evolve. We need to keep learning and growing. Even from a year of coronavirus and all the restrictive measures.”
Attila Meinhart is head pastry chef at the famous Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest. The love of sweets is in his genes, since both his grandfather and his great-grandfather were in the trade. After training in Hungary, Meinhart spent eleven years working on various cruise ships, which enabled him to learn about and make pastries from all over the world. In 2015, he returned to dry land to work at a hotel in Switzerland. Since 2017, he has been the head of the pastry division of the Four Seasons in Budapest. Together with Debic, he looks back and forward.
How did you experience the past year?
“I work as Executive Pastry Chef in a five-star hotel. So when tourism stopped, that was very stressful. But we were lucky: we never had to close the hotel’s doors. On the contrary! We even opened a new bar: Múzsa. That was an overwhelming success, even after just three weeks. It was chock-full on Fridays and Saturdays. Magical.”
Did you find any new opportunities?
“Our clientèle is normally around 80-90% tourists and businesspeople. Because of the coronavirus, those numbers fell enormously, of course. Therefore we focused entirely on local clients: for us, this was a new departure. A cake-to-go programme was launched, in which we offered five different cakes in three sizes. Three times a year, we design a seasonal cake. Customers can also make special requests. I suggested to our management to set up a luxury ‘coffee corner’ with pastries, comparable to the Café Gerbeaud. We have to do more than make individual cakes and pastries to go. I am thinking, for example, of chocolates, macarons and bread products such as jam. We can put together fine gift boxes. There is a lot of potential.”
“I am receiving more and more requests for a vegan product, certainly from tourists. Eighty per cent of those who are requesting this simply want to eat less carbohydrates. They don't have any allergies or lactose or gluten intolerance; it is simply a healthier choice. That segment is constantly evolving. Recipes are getting better all the time, both vegan and sugar, gluten and lactose-free.”
How do you deal with the demand for local ingredients and recipes?
“I combine a lot of things. I often use very typical Hungarian desserts and give them my own twist. Take my Sachertorte, for example: I make it with local plum jam. Many pastry chefs continue to follow ancient traditions. But everything is evolving. We also need to keep learning and growing.”
How do see the future of our sector? And for you personally?
“I would like to open my own business. At the moment, I am mainly looking forward to the chance to innovate as much as I like. Whether as a head pastry chef or as a chef, our brain is always busy thinking up new ideas, new techniques and how to use them. During the crisis, we necessarily had to stop. Even if you had a million ideas, you couldn't try them out or use them. I have pages full of ideas, recipes and desserts. Yes, I can't wait till the days after the coronavirus!”
Check our article about international pastry chef Sandrine Bauman-Hautin.Discover more