Our former student, Fanni Sallay has always been interested in baking and cooking. She began with one kilogramm flour, by now she has three shops of her own.
What inspired you to open a cake shop? How did you learn to make cakes and cookies?
I have always been interested in creative subjects and especially in baking and cooking. We have family stories that I was a relatively small kid when I already asked for cookbooks for Christmas. Somehow, I always knew how to make things. Of course, later I started studying these skills on purpose. To get my certificate I completed courses that gave me the “official paper” but basically it was my hobby: during summers I went to France and I worked and learned in bakeries in Paris, Lyon and Marseilles.
How did it begin as a business?
When I started, I really was not very conscious. I had always wanted to do something creative and something around or in gastronomy. My ex-husband and I used to work in construction business and when the 2008 financial crisis came, our business went bankrupt. We already had a kid and I had to do something. I began baking cookies and cakes as I had always loved to do it. I simply knocked on the doors of coffee shops, coffee houses and began to sell my products. It was a hobby, my love, and then came the times when it became an absolutely necessity to do it.
How I started was not really a very conscious move to the direction where I am now. I began working in this confectionery business, and I could reach success relatively early. My products became popular and acknowledged, I received more and more orders with more people buying them. After a while I began to set up my little studio, a workshop. Then an opportunity came when I could get in contact with Costes Restaurant in Buda owned by Károly Gerendai. This was the first Hungarian restaurant that got a Michelin star. I worked for them and I received more acknowledgement and visibility. Károly Gerendai is well known because of Sziget, he is its main organizer. I remember one evening at Sziget when there was just one single piece of my cakes left, and Károly Gerendai set up a bid about who would get the last piece, and he, with a generous gesture paid HUF 30,000 for it. I received more opportunities at the VIP section of Sziget Festival. I delivered the desserts to them. I also set up a stand and I could sell my products there. Then Tchibo Hungary contacted me, and I became the product manager and product developer of Tchibo. Tchibo was followed by McDonalds, McCafé, so I had more and more work.
How does a product developer work in case of cakes?
The clients describe me what they want, what kind of ideas they have and I develop a product accordingly. We also deliver this product to them, luckily, by now we have a truck, so we can do it as well. When I design a product sometimes it is a brand new something, sometimes I just make slight changes, add or take away something from existing products. Right now, we are going to supply the Central European region of McDonalds. There are very different qualities, but McCafé quality is very high standard as well.
You also wrote a cookbook.
Yes, parallel with all these I was working on my book, which came out as a big success. What I am really proud of is that I still love my work and I can immerse in it. People who are around me are thinking the same way. Here is Lili for example who is about to complete her thesis at Corvinus University. She is working and studying. There is somebody else who is a fashion designer and studied at MOME, so I work with people who are urged by some inner force. I think I have an excellent crew.
How did you decide to open your shop?
After a while I just began to feel that I really would like to have my own space and shop. I am actually talking about the last 5 years. I found this place that I rent in József Attila Street. You should know that we began this whole business without any money, and we have never had an investor. Recently there was an article published about me and the title said, “From one kilogramme flour to a 200 million worth business.”
The business went so well that I decided to open my second shop. It is Garden in Hűvösvölgy. This is a different quality place, a cosy house with a big garden decorated with lampions and fireplaces inside. My media coverage was rather good. I became the Hungarian face of BBC Goodfood.
Our third cake shop has just opened in Óbuda at Kolosy tér. I also plan to open a shop in London as I am participating in international projects. BBC for example has all kinds of thematics in gastronomy. I wrote about the trends of cakes in 2015 for BBC Goodfood.
What trend do you follow?
The trend and the way I work is very close to the French type of bakery as well as the ingredients I use and the texture of my products. I was also very much influenced by the American trends, this latter is more apparent in the look of my products. My personality is very much there in all of them. The cakes and cookies are totally my creations, they come out of my head.
Do you have a role model in cakes?
I would not name one, but the first one who made a great impact on me was Pierre Herme. When I began to produce my products in Hungary, I was totally alone and unique with what is called today new-wave confectionery.
What is new-wave confectionery?
I can tell you what it means for me. It means that the look and the taste do not have to meet any compromise. The use of ingredients and the care how we use them, the quality and the personal touch that we invest into our cakes are everything that you can expect from a homemade cookie. The technological conditions and background that are connected to all these characterize the so-called “industrial” products. Our cakes are the amalgam of these two. Form, content, quality. I order the ingredients from France mostly, we use French butter and cream.
Who are your clients?
We are rather well-known in Europe, our clients include diplomats, we deliver for receptions, the US ambassador, Hawaii diplomats are popping in the shop almost every day, young intellectuals, who travel a lot and are informed about the world, and a lot of tourists.
Where do you advertise yourself?
Nowhere. I have always been convinced that I want to produce something genuinely good and receive acknowledgement for that quality. So far, I have not paid anything for marketing. This is really not the “rule” but still interesting. We have a lot of opportunities. Just before you came somebody was here and offered us laptops in return to displaying his company’s sticker in our shop-window. So now it seems like a dream but there is a lot of work behind all these. It was a long way from baking for my kids at home to having 50 employees whom I am responsible for. I feel the responsibility more and more.
Why did you choose IBS for your studies?
I have heard about IBS from a friend and I just went there and asked István Tamás for an appointment. This may sound weird but I just wanted to discuss it with him why I should go and study there. He gave me an appointment and we had a really memorable conversation. I loved the atmosphere and the smell of life that I could clearly sense in the school. I have great memories and I still have friends from there. I must tell you that the whole school was fun.
You are planning to go back to study at IBS for your Masters. What motivates you to do that?
When I was studying at IBS, the school trained us how to run a business, how to be successful in business, prepared us for a lot of things that I could really use. Now I have a medium size entrepreneurship and I would need more business knowledge. I also feel that the knowledge I gained at IBS should be integrated into my work on a higher level. In my present life, in each field of my life I control what is happening, I am responsible for everything. To be honest, I want to go back not only to study but also to enjoy a different position, I want to be in the position of a student.
How about your private life and your business? How do you reconcile the two?
I have three kids, they are 3, 5 and 7 years old. My parents help me a lot. They moved to the country and founded a bio-farm. My father is an engineer and my mother is a medical doctor. They are both very good in their professions. I feel that I found my place, I can be a business woman and a mother, everything has a place in my life. It is wonderful to be a mother, I could not really name a better thing in life, however, I would go mad if I could not really use my creativity. My kids fuel me with a lot of energy that I can use in my work. This is why I feel good.