Ádám Barna, Chef, 42 Restaurant, Esztergom

  • 11 Jan 2023 3:07 PM
Ádám Barna, Chef, 42 Restaurant, Esztergom
1. What’s been happening since your first Xpat Interview?

Click here to read his first interview

When we last met here it was called Bistro 42. However, after realising with my business partner Sándor that we wanted to do something different, something better, a place with fresh ideas, we decided to close it down last January for two months. We renewed the place, changed the concept and moved in the direction of a fine dining restaurant. It seems like it was a good plan, as recently we were awarded a Michelin star.

2. Did Michelin give you feedback about why they awarded you a star?

No, they never give us an explanation, but there are a few sentences of evaluation in the guide. Apart from that, there was no discussion about it. We think they came three times, so they tested us three on three separate occasions, but when they came they didn’t say who they were nor did they give feedback on the spot.

3. How did you celebrate after 42 was awarded a star?

There was a gala when we received the award, last November 2nd, and there was a special reception there that we enjoyed. Then we came back to 42 to celebrate it together all our colleagues, we had Champagne to celebrate in style. We felt very happy, but needed a few days for it to actually sink in.

4. So what’s next?

There is no stopping. Here one thing is constant, change. My partner Sándor says the same. He does not believe in repetitive processes. So we are going to close down again in January, we are going to travel a little, and then we will elevate our resources, the 'tools of our trade' to a higher level. This applies to both the processes and the food. I feel 42 is well settled now, a guest gets what they come for here, it is an occasion, a special experience.

5. Does this mean two stars is the goal?

Yes. It’s natural for us to look out for ways to get better and better. So we don't have to be afraid if we get a star or two next year or not, we just do our jobs as we do what we love.

It’s interesting that I don’t cook at all ‘better’ than I did before, but more and more people appreciate what we do. Some ask us what changed since we got the star, and I say, nothing, but everything.

6. What is your travel plan for this January?

Well last November we went to Firenze, with Sándor, to Enoteca Pinchiorri, a three Michelin star place. The service was fantastic, it was really outstanding food of course, and I say that after seeing a few other three star places, the elegance of that place is amazing.  So now for the Team at 42, to reward all their work and special efforts, the gift from Sándor is to take everyone from 42 there to sample that quality. After that we will go to Paris and then to Copenhagen with Sándor.

7. Where does your passion and talent for cooking come from?

I look at my profession in very simple terms. When looking at it from ‘outside’ I realise how complex it all actually is. I realised it when sitting in a restaurant as a guest, and I look at the evening service, at all the process involved, that was the moment I realized, that this is very complicated thing. However it may come naturally to me, since in my childhood it was important to cook together with family. It may come from there. They were very simple types of dishes, but somehow I might have developed a good approach to taste.

8. If you were given a wish that could come true, what would you ask for?

Well, I am not a dreamer.  I feel happy with my life as it is. The happiness of my family is the most important thing.

9. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

“Simple is always complicated” or “Simple is always the most difficult”.

10. What is the perfect pizza toppings combination for you?

In Rome I had the best pizza my entire life, it was a classic Margherita.

11. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

A world traveler, but not just for a week since a world tour cannot be done in seven days!

12. On a scale of 1 to 10 how unusual are you, and why?

Five. I don’t think I am unusual. Well I don’t consider myself unusual, we get back again to what I said earlier, about how simplify I look at things. To always satisfy, that is my driving force, I’m not sure how unusual that is. Also important for me is to give something much better than people expect. Thankfully this doesn’t causing me stress, it is my way of living, I like it, it’s not pressure, it’s my way of living, it’s normal for me to aim to live up to my own expectations.

13. Does your attitude come from your childhood, were you pushed or encouraged to do great things?

I was never pushed, well not intentionally, I was not brought up to have a certain purpose, I was forever drifting here and there.

And I was always lucky. Wherever I ended up I could make it work for myself.

14. Who do you admire the most, and why?

There is not a certain person, but I admire people who do their work with humbleness. You meet so many people who lack humbleness.

Just today I met such a person, a ceramic artist, who works in a lot of countries all around the world, but he is still so very humble. It was a great experience.

15. What do you like best and least about living in Hungary?

The least, and it could well be because of the current circumstances, is that we cannot be easy going and be happy about the little things in life. A lot of people think here are like this, live like this. After I came back to Hungary from living in Austria for 5 years, this was something that came into sharp contrast.

The best about living here is that this is the place where I always feel good. We really liked touring in Austria, I loved skiing in the mountains. I really loved it but even when we had the most beautiful walk in a nice forest in Austria, we sat down for a rest and I was always thinking how nice it would be to see an acacia - how nice it would be sitting in an acacia forest in Hungary – I always thought about spending my life in Hungary. Simply put, I truly feel at home here.

16. Without any restrictions, where would you live in the world?

Asia. Mainly for the sense of freedom, I always feel relaxed there. Also for the tastes, the smells, the whole atmosphere there.

17. If you won USD 30 million, what would you do with the money?

Recently I was always thinking about a restaurant where I work with just one or two people, with not too many guests. Set in a nice garden all around the place, but I know it would actually be very difficult to sustain. So I might spend such money to subsidise a venture like that perhaps.

18. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Oh this is difficult! I work with young people listening to all types of music, and I listen to my son's favourite music, but I also listen to opera, and since my parents were listening to lots of organ music I like Bach for example, I do not find this one easy to answer. I could say Ludovico Einaudi - Night – as I listen to it a lot.

19. Back to the restaurant, do you still focus on serving local products?

Absolutely, we use as many local products as possible, but there are a few things which we choose to use the very best out there, like beef from America.

20. What do you think makes 42 one of the few Michelin star restaurants outside Budapest?

Well, as they wrote in the Michelin Guide we are creative, full of surprises, and we offer tasty food! Here’s what they wrote,: "A colourful city centre townhouse with a striking glass cube extension plays host to this series of intimate dining rooms. Like the building itself, the philosophy they follow here is one of constant evolution; the kitchen likes to spark curiosity and creativity, so, while the assured, skillful cooking has a Hungarian heart and honest flavours, it is also modern, interesting and playful. They offer two tasting menus: go for ‘The Way We See The World’ – and choose the Hungarian wine parings to match."

42 Restaurant
2500 Esztergom, Széchenyi tér 23.

  • How does this interview make you feel?