This will be the most personal post ever on this blog. I started my blog 6 years ago; therefore, it’s time to look back (and forward!).
[Disclaimer: it might be on the cheesy side here and there!]
Some of this year's great encounters
My blog in English
I started my blog six years ago in Hungarian to share my gastronomic adventures around the globe. Recently, I managed to visit numerous top restaurants all over the world so I decided to publish my key articles in English. The collection is ever-growing and is available under jokuti.blog.hu. It’s worth following me on Instagram and Twitter where I also post in English.
In this post, I try to catalogue what I got from this blog, what my plans are and what my ultimate purpose is. Entering school age, it’s finally time that the blog gets to know all this.
From the beginning
The start was actually quite easy: if I travel that much and try to get into very good restaurants, look for foodie adventures, then why not share it on a blog?
I had already been planning my journeys around finding culinary pleasures but with far less emphasis than now, when I travel to eat. At that time, my main motivation was to visit an interesting city, country or region and to find the best possible places to eat -, other cultural sights or touristic attractions were secondary. I started the blog and I really liked publishing my experiences this way, so it quickly became a virtuous cycle. Gastronomy gradually gained a bigger part in my life; the journeys became more frequent and more focused. Obviously, this wasn’t only because of the blog but also because I eventually found my calling, the subject that attracts me, the subject I like to dig deeper into, where lifelong learning finally makes sense to me, where learning is not boring but you are actually enjoying it. And you get hungrier while learning, and I don’t refer here to the quantity of the food only but also to the quality. And of course your curiosity grows about the chefs you have the chance to get to know, the events, the ingredients, technologies or even other people’s cuisines. This is how my foodie horizon expanded. After the big nations famous for their kitchen, like France, Italy, Spain, I also got to know Japan, Vietnam, Peru, Denmark, India and I could carry on forever. I have my focus on the top fine dining restaurants but I am interested in everything else as well. I like to familiarize myself with the whole picture and I cannot imagine understanding a foreign culture without getting to know its street food scene or the simple bistros.
My personal approach
Yes, this blog is a subjective one. Already the blog as a genre is quite personal, moreover I don’t believe in unbiased critical restaurant reviews per se. There are expectations, experiences, personal preferences and many other factors that make it impossible. And it doesn’t make any sense to separate the experience from the food, even if a lot of food writers try (and fail) to do so. Because eating is a very complex and complicated experience, where there are potentially a lot of other influences other than the food on the plate. The food can be perfect on my plate but if the other aspects are not coming together, I won’t be satisfied. Or, I can very much enjoy a place where the food is not excellent but the hospitality, the ambience or other aspects give me a satisfactory feeling and I will have a very good time there.
So, on this blog, I publish mainly my gastronomic experiences of places that I think are worth it. Because they are good, they give you a good feeling and a nice experience and they mean well. I don’t consider it my task to introduce you to the dark side: there are a lot of critics and complaints out there; I try to inspire you and make you curious about gastronomy. I encourage everyone to vote with their feet and reward the aspiring places with their money – and not waste their time on simple food factories. And this works, according to the feedback. I have already received phone calls from restaurateurs joking that I ruined their calm weekend because, after my post, instead of the usual lukewarm attendance, people were queuing up on the street to get a table. It feels good, but it’s also a huge responsibility. And of course I receive a lot of messages from readers, followers who are travelling somewhere or who have a visitor, wanting to know where they should go. I try to reply to these requests as well but this is not easy, especially when I am travelling myself (and this happens quite often) and I have to make best use of my short online presence.
I do annual summaries about the top posts, kilometres I travelled, etc. so here are only a few cornerstones: since the beginning, I have had almost 5 million individual visitors, my Facebook page (in Hungarian) reached 28 000 followers who are interested in gastronomy and travel, and my (recent) Instagram account has over 7000 followers. I have people liking and commenting my pictures, like René Redzepi or other world famous chefs from around the globe. On Facebook and Instagram I also report in real time from my journeys in the form of videos, pictures or live coverage (on Instagram everything is in English because of my international contacts) so it’s worth joining. And you can also find news about events there.
What’s the purpose?
99,9% of my posts is based on my personal experience on the spot (where it is not the case, you’ll know it). I go there, get in, take pictures, taste and ask questions. This is very important. I neither copy other posts, nor do translations; these are my own experiences. Partly this is the reason for all the selfies and the pictures with the chefs. (The other reason is my exhibitionist nature.)
I ate in the past years in a whole lot (triple-digit lot) of Michelin starred places and of course, I ate in other, non-awarded restaurants as well. I gather the experiences, the flavours, I talk to chefs, restaurant owners, wait staff, sommeliers, wine makers and other foodies. And fortunately this means today the top figures of the world’s food scene. I constantly look for bigger challenges and novelties. In the last years, I met many of the most influential personalities of the global gastronomy, like Ferran Adrià, Thomas Keller, Joël Robuchon, Alain Passard or René Redzepi with whom I actually ended up being friends. But I am still pleasantly surprised that I managed to get in the blood circulation of the foodie world, internationally. For example, there were a few faces at the ceremony of the World’s 50 best restaurants in New York who instantly recognised me, even though we have never met before. Or at the Momofuku in Sydney, my neighbour at the bar, an Asian guy, asked me if I was Jókuti. Yes, that’s me. Arrogantly, I could even say that I am building up a knowledge base or database of the world gastronomy. But I just try to share the quintessence of my experiences on this platform.
The aim is twofold: I’d like to inform and entertain my readers, and inspire them to make the most of their opportunities - be it when they cook, do grocery shopping, eat or travel. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to go to the best places or cook something fancy. It’s more about being more conscious in their choices and finding enjoyment.
What I got
I have received a lot more through the blog than I could ever give. Lots of new friends, good acquaintances from Hungary and from abroad. And unforgettable memories I don’t even deserve, like the strictly private cooking party of Alain Passard on his private domain; Mibu, the world’s most exclusive restaurant that is the most difficult to book but serves the best sushi in Japan; 2 days at the Bocuse d’Or Europe as a host, and many more. I would like to write more extensively about all this and I think a book is the best format to do so. I am already working on it. I was invited to the jury of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and restaurants became available to me, which I would have never had the possibility to enter. And who knows what comes next?! I let myself be surprised. And not the least, I can use my international contacts to promote Hungarian gastronomy: I regularly give Hungarian wines as present to the big chefs I meet, and invite my journalist/foodie/blogger/food writer friends to Hungary, provide them with information and update them on where to go. If I am home, I accompany them personally to the best locations so that they get the best experiences and make the most out of it: I give them important and much needed background information on the dishes, recipes, chefs, restaurants and trends. (In a way, I build the image of the country and do some PR for Hungary, for which the Hungarian Tourism Office could even consider supporting me…)
Big thanks to…
I receive a lot of help, tips, ideas, inspiration and it would be difficult to list them all one by one. And I always try to return these favours. I also often help companies, which helps to secure the financial and technological needs of my trips. I definitely need to mention here KLM, Air France, Telenor, Samsung and many more…
What’s most important and applies to all my posts: I always take responsibility for the content. Of course, the quality of a certain restaurant or service may change, it can happen that I get better treatment in a restaurant than other random guests (this is also why I don’t want to write critical reviews, although, I am sure that in a low end or medium-range restaurant they won’t be able to suddenly whip up something excellent). The opinion is always mine, I never write anything I cannot agree to. And it stays this way.
If you want to support my work, please read my posts, follow me or share the blog with your friends who might be interested in fine gastronomy! Thank you.