As published in the Nelson Mail – 03.03.15
One of the things I love about Nelson is the diversity brought to the region by immigrants, they don’t just add numbers to the population, but they bring their culture with them too. We have a large number of ethnic restaurants in Nelson that all make delicious foods from the immigrants home countries so we can have a little taste of their world right here.
I spent an hour or so chatting with Zoltan (Zoli) Loranth and Greta Vagujhelyi who moved here from Budapest, Hungary and are sharing a slice of their hometown with us at The Baker’s Coffee Shop located at the new medical centre on Collingwood St opposite the Buxton Car park entrance.
They make stunningly delicious pastries and breads, all hand made on site; only raw ingredients are purchased by them to turn into these treats. I won’t go into too much detail about the food here, the photo’s can do the talking about that, because I think their story is just as important as the finished product they create, it is the passion they bring with them that makes this such a wonderful addition to the Nelson food scene.
Hungary, like many European countries, is riding through some tough economic times and when Zoli and Greta met about four years ago they talked about what they would do if they had a chance to start their working lives over again, the one thing that was common in everything they talked about was creating something other people could enjoy. Zoli is a trained economist and he worked for 12 years in arts management specialising in opera, ballet and classical music while Greta has a media background but they decided they wanted to do something completely different.
As a neighbour of Austria, Hungary is famous for its Viennese style pastries and baking with a very similar culture to the more well-known France. One day while Zoli was eating a croissant at his favourite coffee shop a man sitting next to him asked him if he was enjoying it. Zoli told him it was the second best croissant he had eaten, the man smiled and said he was the baker who made it. That was the start of both a friendship and a new career for Zoli and Greta.
Jozsef (the baker) is now famous in Budapest, and in fact Hungary, as he now has a lot of media exposure. The key thing Zoli and Greta learned from him is a ‘passion for pastry’, from the feel of kneading dough to the smell of fresh baking and most importantly the smiles beautiful food puts on people’s faces.
After spending some time learning the pastry craft from Jozsef, Zoli and Greta started looking for a new place to call home, they headed to New Zealand and Australia for an extended holiday, they bought a car in Auckland and spent the next three months travelling around New Zealand. When they arrived in Nelson they instantly knew they had found their new home. After travelling back to Hungary they knew where their new life would be so it was pack everything and move to Nelson.
Greta says they have found setting up a new life here very easy, from meeting people to establishing their business. Zoli says doing business in New Zealand is much less complicated than having to deal with European standards but that doesn’t mean they have cut any corners. Starting with an empty but new building they made sure they set it up to a very high standard, the kitchen looks like it could be a hospital operating theatre. Zoli says “the high quality ingredients are key to making great food next to the cleanness”.
Another really important piece of the success puzzle for Zoli and Greta is that they treat all of their customers as if they are guests in their own home, they think of the seating area in the café as their lounge at home. With everything they do they think as though they were the customer, ‘would we be happy to have that served to us?’, ‘is that good enough?’
You may wonder why they don’t open on Saturdays; the answer is quite simple, they moved to Nelson because they love it and want to enjoy it. They have spent the first part of their lives making careers and now they want to work to create beautiful food that makes people smile and have a nice lifestyle as well. Life for them is just about satisfaction.