Ádám Barna, Chef, Bistro42, Esztergom

  • 29 Sep 2021 2:54 PM
Ádám Barna, Chef, Bistro42, Esztergom
Ádám won the "Chef of the Year" award from Dining Guide in 2018 while he was the chef of the St. Andrea restaurant in Budapest.

These days he is the co-owner and chef of Bistro42, which this year was ranked as one of the top ten restaurants in Hungary by Dining Guide, as “a prominent representative of an innovative and unique approach to Hungarian cuisine”.

Ádám says likes to combine his experiences gained during his travels and from the best restaurants he has visited, with the simplicity of Hungarian homemade food, to bring out the best from fresh ingredients and thus raise the dishes that are considered standard to a new exciting level that turns dining out into a special experience.

1. Where did you grow up?

In Békés county, where I was born and raised. I spent 15-20 years in the profession here, which was decisive. My family ran the Bélmegyer hunting lodge, and I worked with them.

2. Who was the best chef in your family?

Like for many others, my mother and grandmother, and the 'cooking' women in the hunting lodge. I worked with the cooks, who were very thorough. We cooked real, homemade food, and one of my strongest memories, for example, is repeating the tasting of the Hunters' stew (vadas mártás) 8 to 10 times. This special stew has sweet, salty, and sour flavors at once, and you really need to find the balance - I still have that care and thoroughness in my work.

3. What was your favorite food in your childhood?

Pigeon dishes, as we kept pigeons and other animals, we had a large garden. Soup cooked from young pigeons with early carrots and early peas.

4. What was the first recipe you learned?

Back then, 30 years ago, we didn't know much about international cuisine and didn't have the ingredients for it. But there were recipes, small recipe cards, and I experimented with them. I obviously had bad attempts… For example, since it was not possible to get fresh ginger at that time, it had to be replaced with ginger powder, mandarin with canned mandarin. Experimentation was dominant at the time.

5. What is your favorite food you love to cook right now?

"Lecsó" - in a cauldron.

6. When you go to a restaurant, what do you usually order?

Mostly the simplest dishes. If we also look at the restaurant, I often choose the simplest ones, but of course I also really like the atmosphere of the gourmet restaurants, I am very happy to eat a menu there too. Obviously, every place has its strengths, and one can try the foods that are popular there.

7. How often do you play with food and recipes?

This is interesting. On the one hand, there was a slogan in the kitchen that for us only one thing is constant, change. So every day, we polish and refine our many good dishes, but we don't go crazy to always come up with something new. Constantly inventing something new that is perfect is not possible.

8. Which well-known chef do you admire the most and why?

If we look at chefs, I admire the northern chefs for their innovative thinking and the Italians for their respect for the raw material and the very intelligent use of the raw materials.

9. Where does your commitment to cooking come from?

It started very early. I saw that the raw material - from which we produced a lot ourselves - was very important. Meals were important in the family, we always sat down to eat with my grandparents exactly at midday. They cooked well and a lot, and I helped them, I think it happened this way.

10. What has been your funniest kitchen 'stunt' / case so far?

There were many such things, especially when we were young.

11. What was the luckiest moment of your life so far?

When my children were born, it's a memorable thing. That's not what I necessarily call luck. What I consider lucky is that they are healthy.

12. What is the secret to your success?

I just do what I love, and then the whole process I'm in becomes natural. Experiencing success - which of course I'm very happy about - is also natural for me somehow, because that is the consequence of what I do. Diligence, and most likely some talent, and the love of the profession have led me so far.

13. How do you like living in Esztergom after Budapest?

I tend to have one sharp turn in my life every 6-7 years. From the countryside of Eastern Hungary, from Békés county, I moved up into the mountains, then to downtown Budapest, and now again to the countryside. This makes my life so complete. I love this diversity. And between the moves, I spend months abroad. I really enjoy living here.

14. Tell me about your last recognition, please.

It was an absolutely unexpected result to be among the TOP 3 best restaurants in rural Hungary. We intentionally gave the place the name Bistro. It is a great success for this young team.

15. How do you relax?

I run, swim, ride the bike.

16. If you couldn't be a chef, what other career could you imagine for yourself?

Making ham and sausages, I want to delve into it.

17. Who / what inspires you?

Our taste experiences. If I look at the profession itself, it is the taste experiences that inspire me.

18. Which social issue concerns you?

Global warming and sustainability. What we call sustainable is usually not sustainable either. It's like lying to ourselves that we don't dare, we don't want to admit. For example, the question of cars or whatever, or sustainable gastronomy. How could it be sustainable when something travels hundreds of miles until the restaurant?

19. What is your favorite wine?

There are a few, I like Gyula Pálfy from Köveskál, Kékfrankos from Frigyes Bot.

20. What is your personal motto, if any?

It's about cooking, not really a motto as such: the simple things are always the most complicated, and also the hardest to achieve. A simple dish, placed in front of the guest, can easily become simple in a bad way if we don't approach it correctly, and from then on, it doesn't give an absolute experience anymore. Maybe the guest can do the dish better. What makes a simple thing, like a pancake, stand out?

It is utterly exciting to find the answer to this. We can, in fact, raise a pancake to a level that is much better than what the person who consumes it would make at home. It's exciting to do a simple thing well.

Interview text translated by Szilvia Molnár, a professional freelance writer, travel expert, mom of two, and admitted coffee addict. Though not necessarily in that order. Connect with her on LinkedIn or read about her latest travel experiences on the Exploration Lounge website.

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