“Being better every day”
The Hungarian pastry chef Zoltán Kolonics has striven for more than thirty years to give the best of himself. The coronavirus was of course new for him as well. Together with Debic, he looks back over the past year.
Zoltán Kolonics acquired the requisite work experience in Sweden and Scotland, among others, but in the end returned to his native Hungary. Here, he worked as the head pastry chef in hotels like the Gellért and Le Méridien, and in iconic coffeehouses like Jago and Gerbeaud. After that, he became a self-employed consultant and in 2018, together with his wife, founded his own boutique in Budapest: the Málna Pastry Shop.
How do you look back over the past year?
“For us, the first pandemic year went all right, even though we had only been open two years. This is thanks largely to the specific concept of our business. We have a modest French-style boutique, with a classic shop window. Customers can't eat on site, and so we didn't lose any guests as a result of the closure of cafés and restaurants.”
“We don't deliver; we didn't do so before the coronavirus either. Our style of products are very hard to deliver because they are so delicate. We created many lovely boxes that people could pick up and take home. You can see that customers need something that gives them pleasure. That is why our concept works so well. Customers can come and pick up something delicious to enjoy at home.”
Are you seeing a growing demand for vegan products, for example?
“Hungary is a little behind in this regard, but I try always to be well informed. Thanks to international fairs, social media and books, I keep up with the latest developments.”
Do you see increasing competition from supermarkets?
“Our prices are on the high side, because of the quality of our ingredients and the complexity of the creations. But customers are not naive; they recognize when something is good. They don't mind paying a bit more for that.”
Do you see a growing awareness of environment and sustainability?
“Definitely. I think that in the future, pastry will have to undergo a great deal because of the planet. We have to work much more locally and following the seasons. At the moment, I am not using any fresh fruit but fruit puree. It is not always easy to go for local products, certainly not in Hungary. The government does not support us in doing so. We have lovely fruit, but almost all of it is exported abroad. It’s a shame. All in all, we are trying in innovative ways to celebrate the local in our business. For the most part, I make Hungarian items but with French techniques.”
“We have a small business, but we feel now that the shop has to grow. I also hope to play my own modest role in the growth of the pastry sector in Hungary. At the moment, our national pastry association is very conservative. That is a shame, for there is so much talent in our country. By always trying to innovate and to be better every day, I hope to be able to inspire them.”