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Zoltán Feke and his new restaurant Petrus Part 1.
The name of Zoltán Feke is not unknown on the Hungarian gastronomy scene. Only a few chefs in Hungary have ever managed to get a Bib Gourmand nomination for their restaurants. Zoltán received two for Vár: a Speiz, the restaurant he is now leaving to open his own place, named Petrus, in District 9.
Annamária Riedl
Best of Budapest online | July 4, 2013

What was your reason for leaving Vár:a Speiz?  And, leaving to start something unknown – this is impossible without a carefully planned strategy.
This was a long process, of course. Some of my colleagues at Speiz and I felt the urge for something new, a need for a break-through, something that you may only achieve at your own place, not in the shelter and sometimes shadow of someone you work for. During my trips to discover different cuisines in foreign restaurants, I have conceived of a million ideas which were asking for realization. I have visited the kitchen of Paul Bocuse, and learned a great deal in France. I know what I am capable of, and I need a place to perform: my own kitchen.
You’ve brought a part of your team from Speiz, so your kitchen is in professional hands. Those hands helped you receive Bib Gourmand titles. Do you think this place will make that special “red book” too?
We are proud of the Bib Gourmand titles: they make us feel we have achieved something. Although I’d like to prove that I can build something new and interesting that might be eligible for prizes, Bib Gourmand is not on my priority list at the moment.
At Petrus, everything reminds me of France, the country you visit regularly. What inspires you in French gastronomy?
I think French gastronomy is the basis of all gastronomy. Everything new in this business comes from France. I am familiar with the Southern Italian kitchen as well, but the French cuisine, being so colorful and ever-changing, is the easiest for me to work with and incorporate into my dishes.
The atmosphere of Petrus mirrors France. How about the menu?
Let me make it clear: we are not a French bistro.  What we love in France is the way people eat and their behavior towards food and restaurants.  On a recent visit, we found this tiny restaurant in an even smaller village, where we decided to dine. A moment later a guest turned up, wearing a suit - only he jumped off a tractor. He came to eat a 60-Euro dinner, washed down with a 20-Euro wine, and then went back to his tractor. It is unbelievable how French people respect gastronomy. And this is the philosophy I’d like to pass on to my guests and to my children. On the opening day my 19-year-old daughter stood at the cash desk, while my 11-year-old son served the appetizer. People appreciated it, my children, on the other hand, LOVED it.
The slogan of Petrus says this place is different because you can cook. Isn’t that too harsh?
Not at all! If I make a mistake, I provide a cross-hair to the others. Many people open posh places that serve food made of posh ingredients: they think that’s hip. My kitchen is based on my family traditions and on my pro team. I want to present dishes I love myself, simply because those I can and will create perfectly.
To make these dishes, high-quality materials are needed. Where do you get them?
Most of the ingredients are coming from the country, but, of course, there are many things from Budapest too. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid much foreign product yet. We have a kind of coated meat for instance, for which I get meat from Austria. It is made of the inside of the pork’s limb, and the pork is cut in the right way only in that country. Calf meat also comes from abroad.
How do you feel after the first week of business? How close are you to having the 50 frequenters?
I don’t know about that, but 4 days after the opening we still had a full house, with guests coming from the neighborhood, and also those who were regulars at Speiz. The fabulous show kitchen we have here does the trick.
Why did you choose this part of the city for your first restaurant’s location?
We found the right place here, on the premises of a former pizzeria. A friend of mine was walking here and phoned me to consider it as a potential location. I did not like this district, but when I saw this place with its massive glass-wall looking to a lovely green park, I said to myself: This is it. Another reason is – to be honest – that it fits our budget.

To be continued!

 
 
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