If there is someone who knows how good food should taste, it’s Fausto Arrighi, the former director of the Italian version of “Guide Michelin”. The passionate restaurant tester has been on the road for over 30 years to find the best of the best and to award them the renowned Michelin star. The Hungarian Dining Guide team managed to convince him to help select the best Hungarian restaurants this year at the Volkswagen-Dining Guide gala in February. We asked him about Hungarian products, his favourite Hungarian dish and his prognosis of the local fine-dining culture.
How did the team of the Volkswagen-Dining Guide convince you to come to Hungary and test the best restaurants here?
This was very interesting, since first I have to understand how the gastronomic scene of the current country is built up, before the testing can begin. I also have to get an overview about the regional gastronomy. When I got the invitation, I only thought about it for a short time and then I decided to come. This invitation was a really big honour for me.
And now that you have tried the dishes at the best Hungarian restaurants, what is your impression about the Hungarian cuisine?
Its main strengths are the very simple and traditional recipes. I think that the modern restaurants are very interesting, since the products used are often very simple and original, so typical for Hungary, yet the experience is very avant-garde.
So did you find that the Hungarian products are a very good basis to be used for modern recipes?
In my opinion there is a revolution of recipes going on in Hungary right now, since the modern cuisine is more characterised by light dishes and is less fatty than the traditional Hungarian kitchen. In this context yes, the products are very good for this, it’s only that they have to be processed in a different way than before.
You have already been in Hungary a couple of times and you have already tested many restaurants. Was it possible for you to get to the end of your long list, or do you have to visit again?
Well yes, let’s put it like this: I have already tested the most interesting restaurants but there are simply too many of them. Furthermore, I have also tried to visit some of the good restaurants outside Budapest, in the countryside. There is a large selection of these restaurants and they are completely different from the ones in the city.
Now that you have tried so many modern and traditional restaurants too, what is your favourite dish in the Hungarian cuisine?
What I really like are the little bit sour dishes in Hungary, since they are so very different from the other dishes in Europe and for that reason they are very special. Sometimes they were too sour for me personally, but I still found that they were interesting. From the traditional dishes I like the goulash the best, especially when it’s prepared in a little bit lighter way.
During your career you have dealt with the Italian cuisine most of the time. Italians have a long tradition on the fine-dining scene, of course. Do you think that Hungary might be on the right track to develop a higher level of gastronomy?
There are differences, of course, since in Italy there is a long tradition of high-level eating culture, which is still in its infancy in Hungary. In a few years you will surely find here a similar quality as in Italy, but for the moment there are still large differences. Still, Hungary is on the best track to get there.
At the gala evening the best Hungarian restaurants were awarded in many different categories. What is the importance of the evening to you?
I have been working for the Guide Michelin globally for 36 years and at the gala we saw the result of one year of intensive work. The new guide is the result of a fantastic co-operation and joint effort of the Hungarian team and myself. Of course, it’s the most exciting for the chefs, who wait spellbound to find if their work is going to pay off and to see if they got better in comparison to last year.