World Chefs: Michelin-starred Hungarian chef inspired by "two moms"

Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:16pm EDT
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By Gergely Szakacs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Akos Sarkozi has delighted throngs of guests with his no-frills style, stripping down heavy Hungarian dishes to their defining flavors. But there is one person he has never dared cook for: his mother-in-law, whose mastery is a key source of inspiration.

The 37-year-old Michelin-starred chef likes to think outside the box, describing his cuisine as free and rich in flavor, infusing traditional Hungarian meals with touches of influence from around the world, such as France, Italy or the Far East.

"By freedom, I mean that I do not like being pigeon-holed into certain categories, be it Hungarian, Austrian or French cuisine," Sarkozi said, seated at an elegantly set table at Borkonyha (Wine Kitchen) in central Budapest.

The stylish bistro, opened nearly four years ago, serves about 150 diners per night and could barely keep up with a surge in demand since receiving the posh award in March, the third restaurant to be recognized with a Michelin star in Budapest.

The humble Sarkozi, who welcomed Reuters for an interview before opening hours, serving up glasses of water himself, says he has taken inspiration from previous bosses, including a ruthless perfectionist he jokingly described as a "genuine terrorist".

But for him, like most others in his trade, it all goes back to his mother's cooking, which he says is the foundation for all successful chefs that they can build upon in later years.

When on the job, Sarkozi whips up dishes like pressed leg of hare with a duck liver cake in mere minutes, but, not being shy about it, every now and then he also ventures into fast-food chains for a taste of the other end of the culinary spectrum.

His all-time favorite dish, though, remains peppers stuffed with spicy ground meat in a tomato sauce. "Some may regard it as heresy, but that is the way I like it: dusting it with sugar and eating it with a spoon."   Continued...