By Patrik Lyons
It was a cold and gloomy winter morning when I arrived at the college to interview Szabolcs and Miklós at the downstairs cafeteria. The school was empty and quiet, but when I entered the cafeteria, they were busy brainstorming and organizing. “We often do this on Fridays, there is always something to do or to think about”, said Szabolcs. We sat down at one of the tables and had our interview. After it was done, their positive energy, laughter, and kindness turned that frowny beginning of a day upside down for me. When I left, I felt more optimistic about what challenges may come my way, and I was enthusiastic to write about them.
Szabolcs and Miklós are genuinely the nicest people you have ever met. Szabolcs is the chef, and a food fanatic, his colleague Miklós described him as a “gastrovert”, or a “perv for food”. He is extremely passionate about the food he makes. Coming from a family with a long history of working in restaurants and catering. He handpicks each ingredient at a marketplace where he is well-known by owners because of his 12-year experience running eight different cafeterias at schools.
Picture by Patrik Lyons
His philosophy when it comes to creating the menu is similar to how Italians do it, he explained: “We don’t plan meals here, I go around the market looking for the freshest and best ingredients I can find. When I come back to the kitchen next morning, I make the decisions about what to make on the spot”. This keeps the variety of food surprising and fresh, and they added: “We love seeing the joy of foreigners trying Hungarian cousin for the first time. As well as seeing people try food that they have never thought about trying before”. This is their first joint venture, where they have full control over decisions, and they have big plans in the making.
Miklós’ aims are the same as Szabolcs’, they want the cafeteria to be more than just a cafeteria. While Szabolcs is busy making food all day in the kitchen, Miklós is just as busy taking care of customers. They met a few years ago at another school and due to their liking for each other, they decided to work together. “We never had an argument, and we plan to keep it that way”, said Miklós. They are complementary partners who listen to each other’s ideas and they are constantly brainstorming about changes they could implement. They both believe the way they are presenting their food is a key to their success and Miklós gives a lot of insights into customers’ needs and behavior. He told me about the time a girl wanted one of the beloved brownies they had been making, but they ran out. He told Szabolcs about the request, and in a few minutes, a new batch of brownies was available. Customer service and satisfaction are everything for these guys. They even added extra activities, like playing free board games with friends between periods. Their prices are made low so that any hungry mouth could enjoy their delicious meals and they look forward to requests and suggestions.
As for what the future holds, they are planning to stay in the college for a long time, which is already great news. When I asked them about the ideas they were having, Szabolcs suddenly got up, excused himself, and ran to the kitchen. I was looking at Miklós surprised, and he was giving me a “you will see” look while nodding his head. When he came back, he brought three jars filled with delicious-looking food. He said: “We are planning to make food to go for students that do not have the time to eat here because of their busy schedules. This could allow them to take fresh food home that could be thrown into the microwave anytime.” I was in disbelief at how genuine and caring they were, and what a great idea it was. Another idea they have been thinking about is adding new breakfast options, like homemade granolas and jams. Additionally, they are planning to put out a suggestion box, where you can anonymously make requests. When I ended the interview, they were very kind and they gave me all three jars of food and a piece of home-marinated salmon. I will review these foods later in another article, so continue to follow The Messenger if you are interested!
Overall, this interview strengthened my feelings about how enthusiastic and friendly these guys are. I have been visiting the downstairs cafeteria every lunch break since I found out about them. Their prices are great, the portions are perfectly filling, and I can save so much time and money just by going downstairs rather than looking around for food. Each day is a new surprise, and they push me out of my comfort zone to try new things yet they never disappoint. Make sure you and your friends give them a visit too, and if you find me around school, let me know about your experience!