- 10 Jun 2023 6:02 AM
In Spain, Márk worked alongside Ferran Adrià at the three-Michelin-star restaurant El Bulli, located in a small bay of Costa Brava and repeatedly chosen as the world’s best.
He then spent the subsequent years at three Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Martín Berasategui in San Sebastián, and Pavillon Ledoyen and Le Taillevent in Paris.
He also lived for years in Tokyo, Barcelona, London, Dubai, Miami and Saigon.
1. Where did you grow up?
Budapest. The First District in Buda, over the river from Parliament on the leafier side, in a historic building. Then I went all over Budapest for a while, Csepel, Angyalföld and Zugló, as well as a good six or seven years in Zala and Vas Counties. In a provincial village, we started a kind of sustainable farm back then. We chopped wood by hand to make a fire for warm water for bathing or cooking.
2. Who was the best cook in your family?
3. What is your fondest food memory?
My life in Tokyo in 2004 and my life in Saigon from 2016 until 2021. It was an intense food life. But if I have to choose one memory in particular, it is probably with my dad, when we cooked Tunisian-style lamb couscous with vegetables and hand-ground harissa.
4. What was the first recipe you ever learned?
Hungarian beef goulash cooked outdoors for 20-30 people. Shin, neck and parts of the leg. Using strictly pork or duck fat.
5. What is your favourite food you like to eat?
Vietnamese broth from the street. Several main favourites such as bún mám, which includes fermented shrimp paste, and bún riêu, which comes mostly with snails and tamarind.
6. How often do you play with food to create new dishes?
Always and forever in every aspect. I actually look at every opportunity of a new concept or event as an opportunity to play, test or try out ideas.
7. Which chef do you admire most and why?
Besides my dad, Alain Passard, an incredible man. His philosophy for cooking meat and fish is incredibly inspiring. And his world of vegetables is even more incredible. He created two biodynamic farms where his master gardener looks after plants whose seeds were collected by him travelling around the countryside in Japan, China and France to hand-pick the most exotic and characteristic heirloom plants.
The other is Chikara Yamada in Tokyo, whom I just visited and who still works six days a week and incredible hours alone. There’s not only his main open-kitchen place with a 15-plus dish dégustation menu, but even an all-you-can eat pintxo operation-with-bottle service right below, manned by only himself, a 52-year-old man. What an inspiration these days for young generations who prefer to work three days a week. [He laughs.]
8. When did you start cooking, and why?
Professionally in 1997 but by then I had already spent a few years being inspired by my dad’s cooking at home, from hand-made Thai curry to lasagne. I also wanted to try to study law but I realised that it wasn’t for me in the long run.
9. What was your funniest kitchen incident?
Switching off the light and electricity by mistake while mopping the floor in the back area at Le Taillevent, when it was still a Michelin three-star, in the middle of a lunch service for 100 people. The feeling that arose a few seconds afterwards I would not recommend to anyone!
10. What was the luckiest moment in your life so far?
In life itself, being saved at the last millisecond from a head-on car accident in Thailand, somewhere in the south going at almost 100mph in a little rented Honda Jazz and suddenly two buses were coming towards me.
In my career, it was when the phone rang and an e-mail was read out to me by my Peruvian ex who managed my yahoo account, who told me about my successful acceptance into El Bulli for the 2003 season. After that, doors opened for me all over the world for years afterwards.
11. How do you like to relax?
Cooking outdoors on a charcoal grill and wok. Driving my Cayenne Turbo on the autobahn, practising the martial arts muay thai and ninjutsu. Playing chess. Travelling with kids and family. Swimming in the ocean.
12. Which is your most treasured possession?
My heart and my life experience. Also, my house in the country.
13. Apart from temptation, what can't you resist?
It’s a secret!
14. Which single thing would improve your quality of life?
To live forever.
15. Which career other than yours would you love to pursue?
None. But I want to be able to do more things as back in my Dubai period (2011-2016), when doing martial arts meant half of my life.
Also, sustainable farming and being able to be part of the education of the masses and kids about food, farming, health and longevity.
16. Which job would you definitely never want?
17. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased with?
Many. But to go around the world as a chef was a main plan/dream and was carried out more than I could have ever imagined. Working as development chef in 2007 at the three-Michelin-star Ledoyen in Paris, for example, or to be able to live and work in Tokyo in 2004.
But to keep winning the best Pan Asian Restaurant award in Dubai for years is also one I could mention. Especially doing all that as a Hungarian in a world where leading and celebrity chefs are from France, UK, Japan, Spain etc.
18. What kind of behaviour do you most like in others?
Trustworthiness and creativity!
19. What would you say is your personal motto?
Let’s live forever but definitely live today and be in the present to the full.
20. What is your professional goal for the next five years?
To build a super successful culinary and FNB empire with sexy and profitable food concepts, well connected with Hungary and the EU. But, for sure, we can achieve that with some of our concepts abroad too.
21. Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Hungary is beautiful. With lots of potential.