“Machines Can’t Taste Food” – Magic Cooks on Hungarian Gastronomy

Tamás B. Molnár is the one of the triggers and masterminds behind the so-called hungarian gastro revolution. He has a reputation of being a stubborn, difficult personality, but also one of the most qualified experts and authority of gastronomy in Hungary. 

Back in 2003 Mr. Molnár launched a series of articles in Magyar Nemzet on food and culinary with his journalist wife Dora Bittera, which was revolutionary and inventory that day but very interesting at the same time. Not surprisingly, it soon became one of the favorite of the readers. In 2008 the couple initiated a blog in the same spirit. Mr. Molnar and Mrs. Bittera are about to issue a book with these re-edited articles under the title Bűvös szakács – Konyhauniverzum (Magic Cook – Kitchen Universe). On this occasion Magyar Nemzet published an interview with the couple.

First part of the interview is mostly about the importance and access to ingredients. They are still critic of certain conditions in Hungary, but also admit that circumstances are improving from year to year. The first international barbecue competition in Hungary was a good exemple, which with large number of participants and spectators was a great success. Or the first slaughter of wagyu beef has been just carried out recently. And results were promising.

As to their working methods, they still experiment a lot at home, where they have a commercial sized kitchen. They read professionnal literature in 6 languages, travel a lot and visit different restaurants. And, well, as they are speaking about how to perfectly cook the New Year lentils, it becomes obvious that the knowledge they have is hard to compete with.

An exciting part of the interview is when they discuss technology development in household and commercial kitchens. Inventions, they say can make their way from luxurious kitchens to the normal household ones. But still high-tech won’t replace manpower completely. As he puts it, ‘machines can’t taste food’.

Concerning the circumstances of quality restaurants in Hungary B. Molnár and Bittera looked at the situation from the owners’ or managers’ perspective. Even though hospitality VAT deduction from 27% to 9 was favourable, hungarian restaurant owners and managers are still often in a difficult situation. While imported ingredients and rent fees cost nearly as much as abroad, Hungarian wages are still considerably lower. Wages are the reason too why a lot usually more qualified staff choose to work abroad. Not to mention that the quality of vocational training in Hungary is far from being adequate.

via Magyar Nemzet, Origo