The Michelin Special Awards recognise the exceptional work of teams and individuals across the MICHELIN Guide selection. Throughout the year and across repeated visits, these restaurant professionals have caught the eye of the Michelin Inspectors thanks to their professionalism, commitment and skill. After their triumphs at the first MICHELIN Guide Ceremony for Hungary, we caught up with the winners to learn a bit more about them.
MICHELIN SOMMELIER AWARD – Winner Tamás Langó of Clarisse, Tura
There are few more beautiful locations in which to be a sommelier than Clarisse, in the Hungarian city of Tura. Just ask Tamás Langó, the winner of the Michelin Sommelier Award and the man in charge of the wines here. Sitting inside the stunning BOTANIQ Castle of Tura hotel – which could have been pulled straight out of a fairy tale – Clarisse is named after the daughter of the castle’s original owners. It provides something of an idyllic setting in which to enjoy a theatrical tasting menu, with its 10 hectares of surrounding forest and beautifully furnished dining room.
Tamás’ journey to Clarisse – and to becoming a top-drawer sommelier – started with an interest in wine from a young age. “As a teenager I quickly learned that wine could be much more than a beverage you consume – it is a lifestyle”, he explains. With this early passion for wine, Tamás set about training as a sommelier both in Hungary and abroad. After working at two restaurants in Budapest, Tamás found himself drawn to the countryside splendour of Clarisse.
“Following the years I spent working in the hustle and bustle of downtown Budapest, I was captivated by the castle’s calm milieu and atmosphere”, he explains. “I knew that in these peaceful surroundings, I could fulfil myself and create an exceptional wine concept and wine list for Clarisse. Similarly to the BOTANIQ Castle of Tura, the wine list I put together at Clarisse also reflects the French elegance associated with wines that I’m so fond of.”
Our inspectors are particularly impressed with Tamás’ personality and manner. He immediately put his diners at ease and is brimming with an infectious enthusiasm for his carefully selected wine pairings, which perfectly reflect and complement the kitchen’s seasonal menu. Tamás has also played a key role in curating the 200+ bin selection of the finest Hungarian, French and international wines housed in the cellars of BOTANIQ Castle.
“Receiving the Michelin Sommelier Award is an incredible acknowledgment of my hard work and validation that I’m on the right path”, he says. “I definitely don’t see this recognition as a final destination, but as an inspiration and further challenge for my future endeavours.” Tamás is also keen to impart his knowledge onto the younger team members working at BOTANIQ: “As an Executive Sommelier it brings me the biggest joy to have many young and talented sommeliers supporting me as part of my team.”
MICHELIN WELCOME AND SERVICE AWARD – Winners Flóra & Ferenc Kvasznicza of Pajta, Őriszentpéter
At Pajta in Őriszentpéter, owners Flóra and Ferenc Kvasznicza fulfil their roles as hosts perfectly. It is this high standard of care that has seen them awarded the Michelin Welcome and Service Award. Their restaurant is one of the more idyllic locations our inspectors have visited; a place perfectly befitting of the delightful way in which they run it. With a forest and gorgeous meadow on the doorstep, Pajta is housed in an old building that’s been restored to suit the rural surroundings. The local area informs the cooking too, with produce and traditional dishes coming from the Őrség region of Hungary.
When Flóra and Ferenc opened Pajta eight years ago, they were new to the restaurant business, but that didn’t stop them from transforming this 110-year-old barn into the inviting restaurant it is today.
It was originally the dream of Ferenc’s parents to turn the building into “a Transylvanian-style folk dance camp venue”, but it was not to be. “We didn't dream of opening a restaurant”, say Flóra and Ferenc, “but we saw it as a challenge to fill the building of Pajta with life, making the wonderful Őrség region more attractive. In the beginning, we didn't have a business plan, just our dedication to quality hospitality. During its 10-year history, Pajta has continuously developed into what it is today.”
During their journey here, Flóra and Ferenc have clearly been doing something right. The Michelin Inspectors are impressed not just by the smooth and perfectly professional service, but by the sheer charm of their hosts. From a warm welcome to an equally delightful goodbye, guests are well looked after by a team that work with genuine care and passion, and the ever-present Flóra and Ferenc have a talent for knowing exactly what their diners want and when they want it.
“It was already an honour for us that we were invited to the gala and that our restaurant was included in the first Hungarian MICHELIN Guide”, say the pair. “And when we heard our name read out for the award, the most beautiful moments of the past 10 years flashed through our heads. We are grateful to everyone with whom we have travelled this journey, because it is a shared achievement that Pajta is now famous for its hospitality.”
MICHELIN YOUNG CHEF AWARD – Winner János Mizsei of Mák, Budapest
János Mizsei, Executive Chef at Mák in Budapest, has been on the Michelin Inspectors watch list for several years and is a worthy winner of our Young Chef Award. Mák is a rustic, well-run bistro in Hungary’s capital, housed on the ground floor of a grand city centre block not far from the banks of the Danube.
János took over the kitchen 11 years ago, initially hired as a sous chef by Kata Tálas who he had worked with previously at Laci Konyha; just a year later, János was entrusted with leading Mák’s kitchen. His culinary journey started long before this however, having learned to cook at his grandmother’s side. Among other things, she taught him how to ferment produce – which still plays a part in his cooking today.
A host of pickled products are an example of the Scandinavian influence on János' cooking, which he developed during his time working with acclaimed Swedish chef Daniel Berlin at his (now closed) eponymous Two Michelin Star restaurant in Skåne-Tranås. “The influences I received there ultimately determined my approach towards my work as a chef”, says János. “Luckily, we had a great professional as well as personal relationship, so I was able to reach out to Daniel for his opinion and input later on too. The way that he sees Scandinavian gastronomy and the way he thinks about food, including the depth of tastes and presentation, is very inspiring.”
The Michelin Inspectors are impressed with János’ ability to create original dishes that often feature a playful element. They enjoy the careful balancing of ingredients and flavours in dishes that reveal a degree of sophistication despite their seemingly simple appearance, as well as the way in which János skilfully updates classic Hungarian dishes.
The significance of his Special Award win is not lost on János. “Naturally, we do everything to please our guests, which is our passion. However, at the same time, we’re all human – so professional recognition is also very important to all of us”, he admits. “I am filled with immense pride to receive such a special recognition; yet I believe that this achievement is not solely due to my personal efforts but to a great extent the kitchen staff, the service guys, the owner and the whole Mák team.”