Wine, passion and love - András Dobai walks like he talks: the Kredenc Wine Bistro is about wine and sub-Mediterranean vibes, so this Balatonfüred joint is strictly closed for siesta from 3 PM to 6 PM. The sommelier-performing artist Dobai associates moods with Lake Balaton and the wines; he prescribed wine and cakes for the bad case of rainy summer; but he believes that the real challenge is still up ahead.
WLB: How did the rainy summer affect the turnout?
András Dobai: At Lake Balaton, weather is always affecting tourism. This has to be accepted, it is so. Many cancelled their reservations due to the bad weather. It is certain that less people came down to visit, or so I've heard - but those who came had fun anyway. Since we aren't a lakeshore business, the bad weather was almost beneficial. We were counting on the evenings, but with the bad weather, people tended to drop in for a glass during the day as well.
WLB: Whenever we visited, you seemed to have a full house, even on weekdays.
A.D.: True, because we have our own anti-depressants against bad weather: wine and cakes! We cannot complain, because, just like everything else in this world, the issue of the weather isn't black or white. Obviously, this summer was quite bad for the beach buffets, as no-one likes to go dipping in rain. The consumers, who came to the Lake to spend most of their time on the beach now spent their money elsewhere.
For example, we expected this to be a weaker season due to the soccer world cup. I dislike the word season, but experience shows that years without Olympics or a soccer world cup are better. This was also apparent this year: less people arrived with everyone timing their holidays for after the world cup. As soon as the world cup ended, the number of tourists multiplied by 10, and then came the relatively bad weather. I believe that this is exactly why Lake Balaton is great--at least this is why we love it--that there is always an alternative option.
WLB: What were your goals for the year, were there novelties in the cards?
A.D.: The Kredenc tries to be colourful, we strive at continuous renewal, which is not at all that easy after our fifth year. So this year our goal was to hold on to our achievements and improve wherever we can. Unfortunately, the core of the yearly turnover is slowly starting to be restricted to just two months. In such a period, the escalated demands require different resource planning and logistics. We, however, strive to meet these demands in the way and on the level that our guests are accustomed to: it should be personal, fun and fast. Of course, this is rarely possible in the summer rush. This year, we aimed at sustaining the essence as well as the vibes with the escalated demands. I believe we did it.
WLB: It seemed to us so, whenever we visited.
D.A.: Costumer feedback was also positive, both online and face-to-face. So we attained our goal, and in addition there were professional acknowledgements as well, but the most important factor has always been the guest. This continuous challenge is not easy by any means, because we have no competitor in the genre. This is one one hand lucky, but it might also prompt you to become too comfortable.
WLB: During one of our chats over wine in the spring, it popped up that it was difficult for you to find someone who could be her all-year-round, or at least from spring to autumn, and most importantly, someone who knew at once what and how is to be done.
A.D.: One of the greatest difficulties of Balaton hospitality is the question of the staff. It is quite hard to find crew members, we are almost constantly searching for employees, still I've managed to find great people whom I was quite satisfied with, and who made it easy for me in many respects. However, I cannot offer them winter options that would make them stay.
I'm looking primarily for ambitious young people, who are up cool and up for a challenge. Such people are already looking for the next challenge by the end of the season and leave for the capital or abroad. Of course, this is the order of things, they should learn and then, with time, they will surely return to say hello, as guests for example. In the winter, there is only two of us, in the summer we work in 5, plus 2 hands.
WLB: What are your plans for the autumn-winter season? Will you still have theme nights, concerts and wine tastings?
A.D.: When the summer's over, we have to recharge and rediscover the joy in this all, because--like any other Balatonside caterer--we grow tired by the end of the high season. We need 2 or 3 weeks to come to our senses, so we can add positive vibes to the business again.
I have an odd approach to life and hospitality as such. I can only think in terms of energies, and I wouldn't separate the professional part from it, the gist is positive energy. If we can do it with love, the guests will notice. The output equals the input--both humanly and materially. We give it a lot throughout the summer, so, obviously, we grow tired by September. In such a process, sometimes you just have to recharge the system, so we go on a few weeks of vacation and concentrate only on the family.
Then, from the autumn, it is time for a bit more personal, more refined programmes. Summer is about partying, which we cannot and would not change. The other three seasons come with a more intimate, more sitting-in, more rendez-vous-ish and wine-ish mood--the entire Balaton is exuding this feeling from autumn to spring. The monthly jazz concerts and the slam poetry night will both return, but in the past we also managed to fill our club space (that has a capacity of about 100 people) in the coldest February apropos of Riesling.
WLB: It seemed to me that two or three times as many tables were occupied in the summer. Is it in the plans to keep the back room, the slam poetry venue permanently open? Or would you like to expand in some other direction, e.g. towards the street?
A.D.: Our background, the infrastructure is fixed, so we cannot serve far more people than this. Many have asked why we didn't place tables on the opposite side as well. We would rather progress slowly, by smaller steps. We cannot take on more than our resources allow, because that only leads to dissatisfied guests. After a summer like that we would have to start our 5-year-work from scrap again. It isn't by accident that we only host the aforementioned major events in the club room from autumn to spring--this is when we have the capacity and when the guests have different demands.
WLB: What are your autumn/winter plans in terms of gastronomy?
A.D.: It used to be somewhat different originally, but now our food selection is deliberately more Mediterranean. We also have to keep an eye on the market. This fits well into our trademark sub-Mediterranean café atmosphere, and so people also know what they can expect. Of course, the selection follows the seasons. Our fresh mixed salads, for example, will be replaced by winter salads, which are just as delicious and healthy.
WLB: Apple, beetroot, carrot, squash…?
A.D.: Yes, we have had our pumpkin weekend since 2010. You only have to time it well, so for the sake of proper interest.
WLB: The Nyitott Balaton which was first held in the spring, will return in October. Will you also take part?
A.D.: Of course! We join every initiative that points beyond one-season Balaton hospitality. We are also pioneers of the cause. For example, we also promote it hand-in-hand with the Balatoni KÖR (Balaton CIRCLE), with whom we plan a wine tastings for autumn and winter. But there are also several other Balaton service providers, who stand behind the cause and want to stay open all-year-round. My hat off to them. This is still quite difficult to do.
WLB: Are the Balatoni KÖR wine tastings planned to be a weekly event? Are these tastings wine dinners as well?
A.D.: Our background is insufficient for wine dinners, but I believe that the tasting of fine wines with a bit of ham, cheese, toast and oil on the side is more serious. Here, wine is in the focal point, and we provide a simple, tapas-like dish to go with it. In many restaurants, the wine is only the garnish at such events.
WLB: Recently, you visited the Winestage Wine Bistro in Budapest in the frame of a road show, and you also prepare to visit the Chianti Restaurant in Veszprém for a wine dinner. Do these events pay off? I've heard that the one in Budapest was quite a success, there were people in the street as well, drinking wine--which is fittingly sub-Mediterranean.
A.D.: Yes, it happened exactly so--it was like being here, in Balatonfüred, which was exactly our goal. We took our customary DJ (DjErnőPiaf) with us, who helps us set the mood In Balatonfüred in the summer. So he prepared the scene with music, the wines I took were also great, and the guests were really nice. Encouraged by this, we'll return in October as well, so we can meet our friends in Budapest at the same spot.
This will be our first joint wine dinner with the Chianti in Veszprém. They have a solid, reliable kitchen. I will take my six current favourite wines, which mirror my personal taste. They will prepare a harmonising menu. We would like to evoke the spirit of Kredenc, which we successfully managed at the Winestage Wine Bar in Budapest, but which will be a greater challenge in this more elegant setting. As much as possible, want an informal, chatty wine dinner, because this is the line I believe in. I'll try to describe wines in terms of moods. The wine-food harmony is guaranteed, and we'll also have music to help us. We are preparing some kind of a performance, because we want to upset our usual routine a bit.