The words of Károly Gundel, renowned turn-of-the-century Hungarian restaurateur and writer are more relevant today than ever. Over recent years, we have been party to the phenomenon of Hungarian cuisine gradually going back to its roots. And cultivating these roots in our 21st-century world is generating excitement and new challenges, which is what makes contemporary Hungarian cuisine so exciting.
Growing numbers of well-educated and well-travelled people – both youngsters and those in mid-career – are choosing hospitality or related professions: from animal farming through wine making to producing artisanal food. Growing numbers are going back to their roots and thus swelling the ranks of Hungarian experts. Such experts have revived forgotten Carpathian Basin grape varieties and saved Hungarian animal breeds and plant varieties which had disappeared for centuries. These are now taking pride of place in top gastronomy. One of the most significant achievements of these efforts is the rediscovery of internationally renowned Mangalica pork. Another is a new awareness of sadly neglected plants and vegetables, such as buckwheat – traditionally cultivated in Hungary – or Jerusalem artichokes.
There is increasing demand in retail and hospitality for artisanal foods from small-scale producers, instead of mass-market products. Selected sausages and bacon from Hungarian smokeries, long-matured cheeses or pálinka. The latter had for years not received its due recognition until recently. This shows that methods for producing food and drink which go back centuries have not been forgotten after all. Products made in this way can now take pride of place on the Hungarian market and abroad.