It seems there is still some love for perpetuity around the Balaton. You often hear guests and hosts say that they really enjoyed the sense of security from places that have hardly changed a bit since the year before, since 10 years before, since their childhood. The latter is by all means a special category. Its 50 years of popularity was only one of teh reasons we visited Rege Confectionery. Those who have visited this spot in Tihany, are perfectly aware that there is more to the story than Dobos cakes, the panorama and the local myths. There is a protagonist here, who has become a legend thanks to her love of her guests and traditional values. We talked to the manager, Margit Kelemen.
WLB: It has come to our attention that your book about the last 50 years of the Rege Confectionery in Tihany was recently published. Why did you write this book?
Margit Kelemen: I wrote it because I believe all of it would be lost once I leave this place. There are quite a number of people with quiete a number of different ties to Rege, and I'd be sorry to see it all gone. This is a place to which the staff that worked here in the communist era returns even from abroad. We have a lot of regulars, for whom this confectionery is a nice and important place. On the other hand: this is my life.
WLB: What do you think makes a confectionery run fine? What makes a routine task special?
Margit Kelemen: Everyone is baffled by me, the boss being here everyday. I recognize the people who have already visited and I'm friendly with those who are on their first visit. I'd like to give them pleasant minutes and hours, and I realize along the way that I even remember their dogs' names clearly. This is not a special recipe, this is the basis to build on.
WLB: How would you summarize the story of Rege for those who have not read your book?
Margit Kelemen: The Rege Presso belonged to the Hungária Hotel until the systems change; in 1990, we teamed up with them and set up an Ltd. In the beginings, we brought the cakes from the central bakery of Marina, but I wanted us to have our own pastry workshop, and fortunately we did set up one. In 1990, Rege underwent a major transformation: it has become less intimate, but more spacious, and there were of course necessary safety improvements. I had played a great role in shaping the old Rege, so this one is new for me, but I'm trying to preserve the spirit of the old place.
WLB: Where did you get the inspiration for the transformation, if you've always worked here?
Margit Kelemen: I don't really know; I have never looked around to see how it looked and worked in other places. I hardly knew other place sin Hungary. Still, one has that sense of beauty, and I believe I relied on that completely.
WLB: Where and from whom did you learn the most in terms of your profession?
Margit Kelemen: After having finished the Catering School, I picke dup everything I needed to from Erzsike (Mrs István Solymár). She then moved on the Virág Confectionery in Szeged, but I wanted to give her special recognition on occasion of the 50th anniversary. I found out by chance where I her grandchild lived, and I sent him a complimentary copy of the book to Ireland. He was so happy that someone paid tribute to his grandma!
WLB: What do you think your strongest connection to Rege is? The city, the tasks, the place itself or the people?
Margit Kelemen: Rege has grown important to me primarily because of the guests. It is nice to be loved, isn't it? If someone enters, I remember them, I even remember where they sat and we can continue chatting where we left off. I wanted to create an informal, humane place, and I strive to preserve this, but it is increasingly difficult to do so. It is difficult to find staff, who approach catering like me.
WLB: Was noone disturbed by your informality? Were there guests who took it as an intrusion to their personal space?
Margit Kelemen: No, I believe this is partly why they become regulars. I'll tell you a story. There was a complained when paying that the spoon he got for his coffee was not the right one. I stared at them for while, than asked 'How come you're still alive?' He was speechless, so I added, 'How come your wife has not killed you yet?'
A few months later, the Rácz family wrote into my guest book: 'Dear Queen Margit, be blessed in your wonderful creation for several years to come! We wish You strength and resources to safeguard and protect this unique wonder, a gem of Hungary. We wish You as much love in return as You put in tending to this place.'
WLB: There is yet another name strongly associated with Rege Confectionery. Is Terike still in the kitchen?
Margit Kelemen: We worked together for 19 years, but two years ago, just after cooking the ice-cream, she collpased and died. Since, others have been baking from her recipes.
WLB: In which part of the year is Rege Confectionery open?
Margit Kelemen: We open on 15 March amd close on the last Sunday of October.
WLB: Unofficially, how long is Rege open on any day?
Kelemen Margit: Until 9 PM the maximum, because of the Abbey. In the good old times, we were sometimes open until 11 PM - then again tehre were late night buses, while today the bus timetables are awful.
WLB: Is the ice-cream cooked on spot?
Margit Kelemen: Yes, our ice-cream has preserved the same quality for a long time. The recipe is originally from Kálmán Gönczi, who arrived from Budapest to Kedves Confectionery before signing up with us. Our ice-cream is free of additives: the fruity ones are churned with egg yolk, tand we use cream for the milky ones. Once, someone asked if there was flour in our ice-cream. I was quite stunned.
WLB: What are the specialities of Rege, apart from the ice-cream?
Margit Kelemen: It is by all means a speciality that we prepare everythign just like in the old times. The Rege cake is quite popular - it was conceived by Terike a long time ago: we spread apricot jam over the walnut-seasoned dough, ice it with chocolate and put walnut crwam on top. Our Somlói is also famous far and wide: it has rum, raisins and walnut in it and is drenched with punch.
WLB: How many types of cake do you offer in Rege?
Margit Kelemen: At least 25 different types in the summer.
WLB: Why was the place named Rege Presso?
Margit Kelemen: It had to be a presso to sell spirits. Why Rege? I did a whole a lot of research, but I could not find that out.
WLB: Who are your favourite celebrity regulars?
Margit Kelemen: The Mádl family, for example. They fell in love with Rege before Mr President was elected President of Hungary. They gave me a lot of love, in the form of compliments, gifts or their presence.
WLB: What are your bad experiences?
Margit Kelemen: Negative feedback that I consider unjust. Recently, tehre happened something noteworthy. A young man stated that our lemonade was gross and illusion shattering. It turned out that he had problems with real lemons, on account of the floating pulp.
WLB: How does your day look like?
Margit Kelemen: I do not work as much anymore as I used to. At a certain point, I was also transporting the staff and I was responsible for the buffet as well. I stayed after closing to do the administration, so I never got home before 11 PM. Today, I purchase everything in the morning and I stay until the evening.
WLB: Do you have a message for those who have never visited Rege Confectionery?
Margit Kelemen: I got an excellent portrayal of Rege for my 50th birthday from Sándor Rosta (the retired head of the Balaton Regional Tourism Committee), 'This is the royal box of Hungary.' I don't get it why noone had thought of this before. It is.