Mr. Yuzu

My parents opened a restaurant when I was 4 and it was open for 5 years. It was a seasonal restaurant in Hungary near the lake Balaton. Every summer we moved down to our lake house which was part of the restaurant. There were a couple people returning to work for us year after year but the staff changed considerably each season. My mom and my dad made up the recipes and my dad manned the grill.

I loved going to the arcade when I got a little older. My parents gave me money to play on the condition that I help out in the restaurants. Reluctantly I agreed. I did everything from chopping vegetables, marinating meat, preparing the fire in the grill, serving food, bussing, washing dishes…. You name it. This is how I spent my summers until I was 9.

My mom was an editor at the Hungarian television, her schedule was pretty flexible. Quite often we would cook together at night and experiment with new flavors that she would later use in new dishes in the restaurant. My grandma was a baker. She makes some of the most amazing pastries I have ever had, even up to this day. I spent a lot of time with her as well in the kitchen as she was kneading the dough to whatever she was making. My parents got separated after a couple years of running the restaurant but they kept it open for 3 more years.

Shortly after the restaurant closed my mom met an American guy. They fell in love, got married, and we moved to the US, to Sedona, AZ. Up until that point, we hardly ever ate at restaurants. Budapest at that time wasn’t really on the culinary scene as much as it is now. Besides, my family cooked way better than any food we could have paid for in a restaurant. In the US though, going out to eat was a lot more common. I started noticing that most restaurants were okay or they just straight up sucked. Of course, my mom and I kept on cooking together in our usual experimental fashion. There were so many new foods that you could buy in America. It was really awesome. Eventually, I started cooking a lot on my own as well.

As the years have passed my cooking changed as I traveled more and more, as I tried food from all over the world. At one point I even considered applying for culinary school. Quite honestly I don’t know why I decided not to go. Eventually, I ended up in LA, wanting to be an actor. Naturally, I ended up working at several different restaurants and catering companies. Working in the food industry came easy to me, it was natural. LA food scene was and still is fantastic. I tried to go to a new restaurant every week.

Through one of my jobs, I met my best friend Todd. He was food crazy as well and we started to go to restaurants together. We talked about our experiences afterwards and he told me that I should write a blog because he thought that my palate and my remarks about the food and service were spot on. We also realized quite often that we could reproduce the food that we ate or even make something better. I was already quite picky about my food but LA made me even more critical.

Every time I came back to Hungary, I was pissed about something that I have had in a restaurant. Either the food was shit or the service or both. I never understood how some restaurants could remain open with the shoddy quality they were giving to people. I kept on imagining if I had a restaurant, what kind of food I would make and how easy it would be to make something better than most restaurants out there. As the years passed, I got out of acting, and by accident, I got into wine. I couldn’t believe that you could make a living because you could form an intelligent sentence about what you tasted and smelled in a wine. I took WSET I-III in Budapest. I fell in love with wine. I always liked to go the route of least resistance and this wine thing was not resisting me at all. Apparently, all my years cooking, tasting, and smelling everything I came in contact with, built up a library in my head that was surprisingly easy to access.

I went back to LA and found a job at a pretty cool little French restaurant in Studio City. Although I was just a waiter, I convinced the chef to teach me some techniques when he had time. He turned me onto Thomas Keller’s cookbook of Per Se. Up until that point, I never looked at a recipe in my life. I cooked intuitively. I realized that there were so many new techniques to learn, so many new ways to prepare food that I would probably have never thought of on my own. I started practicing at home. Not recipes but techniques. Techniques that I later applied to my free-spirited style of cooking. I decided that I had to go to Per Se.

After the restaurant closed I moved back to Arizona to work at a winery. Unfortunately, I was laid off after four months because of some bogus reason about companies merging blah blah blah…. I swore that I will not be fired again, that I would make myself indispensable to whoever I would work for next. I started looking for places that offered the WSET Diploma course.

To my surprise, there was a course starting in Rust, Austria the next week. I bought a ticket and four days later I was back in Hungary. I went through the diploma program although I didn’t graduate. I love tasting wine but eventually all the memorization of appellations, grape names, soil types and dates got to me. I started hating wine, so I decided to stop trying to graduate.

I made many friends all over the world. It was the greatest thing I got from the Diploma course. Through the people I met, I ended up judging wine at the IWC in London, I went to countless wine regions in many countries, I made gin and wine in Austria, I started meddling in wine investment.

About six years ago I finally made it to Per Se. It was an experience I will never forget. Per Se definitely started me on a new chapter in my endless food journey. Previously when I traveled I would eat whatever was recommended to me by locals but now I research restaurants make reservations ahead of time. I became a conscious food traveler. Every now and then I wrote a review on Trip Advisor when I had either an incredible or a terrible experience. I usually wrote down the bad ones though, just because I had to get it out somehow and writing it down seemed the best. After I wrote it down, I figured I might as well post it. I’ve been approached a couple times via e-mail if I wanted to write reviews for money but I always declined. I wrote things down because I felt compelled by the experience. Once it was going to be something I had to do I would have lost interest anyways.

I traveled quite extensively with a friend from wine school to visit wineries and to taste. Good wine usually begets good food. She told me we should do a video blog about us eating and just travel the world. I was already traveling and eating anyways so the proposition wasn’t that appealing. Besides, what if she got a boyfriend or whatever… what then? We just stop?

In any case, after Per Se I started to make a point of eating at amazing restaurants as often as I could. I’ve eaten at a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants as well with the latest one being Steirereck in Vienna. Now that I don’t have to do this whole blog thing for a living it seems fun.

Although its only been a year with my current girlfriend, I feel this one might last for a while, 50-60 years ;-). She is just as much of a food nazi as I am and we basically agree on everything food related and otherwise. I never felt like doing this alone and I feel she will be a good partner in crime.

Besides, I’m sick of going to hyped up restaurants and have to find out that the service sucks and the chef can’t even make a proper fucking hollandaise sauce. We can do a much better job than most reviewers since most of them have zero food industry background and could’t prepare an omelette to save their lives. If you are going to spend your hard earned cash on food, it better be good. If you are going to trust someone’s opinion who you have never met before, I think you should make sure that that person knows what they are talking about. I wouldn’t trust Mary from Main on her opinion on Indian food that she had on her bachelorette party when she’s never had Indian food before and she’s fucked up on Fireball anyways! Would you?

Ms. Salty

It all started when I was six. Imagine a cute little girl with big doe eyes, two ponytails and a recurring request: cream of wheat with sweetened cocoa powder. I didn’t care about how fancy, Michelin-starred or super old, “just grab something to eat” kind of restaurant it was, I knew what I want and how I want it. I ordered on my chirpy, cute voice and a face even Agnes could envy from Gru and I got my wheat of cream. But it wasn’t enough. It had to be exactly as I liked. The consistency, the taste, the look and even the temperature mattered. If it wasn’t good enough, I left it without any second thought and ate my father’s food (’cause eating someone else’s food is at least a mischievous consolation price).

Half of my family works in catering or hedonist enough to indulge their cravings, cooking/baking/getting something great to eat or drink.
To be honest, it’s really easy to make me happy. If I can eat awesome food, get my daily caffeine fix, travel as much as it is humanly possible, watch Dragon Ball, and if my special quirks are accepted and I can enjoy sports until my heart explodes, I am the happiest person in the universe. But life is not a unicorn-spark glazed fairy tale (only in my head; ahh, I love unicorns), and I had to realize something dark and disturbing. Eating great food is not easy. Hype and marketing make the masses blind to the truth: the price tag on the food, the huge portion or the fact that the presentation of the food is Insta-worthy doesn’t necessarily equal to mindblowing food. To the contrary. I learned to take everything with a grain of salt. Maybe that’s why I have such a high tolerance for anything salty…
A few more things I really have to share. My love for sports led me to a deeper knowledge of nutrition and being a personal trainer makes me constantly analyze my food’s nutritional value. I also had my trial and error phase with different diets (vegetarian, vegan, raw food, only organic food) but my conclusion was that I love to eat and I love great food. When I eat something meh, I feel that I’ve been stolen from. My calories, my happiness, my chance to gush about something amazing and I can be sooooo enthusiastic… My world peace kind of mentality starts to fade away and transforms to a stormy and cold world where unicorns start to die.
The idea of writing about food and traveling and all the experience I collect during building my own puzzle popped into my mind from time to time but now I have a partner in crime. Have you ever felt that someone is basically you or if sometimes not, then complements you? I won’t get cheesy. He is awesome in sniffing, tasting and from time to time talking about foods I have no idea how to pronounce but we are on the same page most of the time when it’s time to rate what we ate or where we were. Different perspectives, but still. We love to eat and it has to be good. Great. Exceptional. Mind-blowing.
That’s why we started this blog. To give a real picture of what’s worth the excitement, the energy and the money to try. The criteria are the same as they were back when I was 6. I became less sophisticated and pickier. I also have a passion for visually pleasing… well… everything. I use to bitch about lighting and if something is not being Insta-worthy and probably there is nothing sweet or salty enough for me on this planet. There is a bit of affection towards coffee, eggs, salted caramel, cottage cheese, baked goods, baking, beef and other kinds of things I like to put in my mouth… #thatswhatshesaid
So, let the fun begin! 🙂