The history of the Gundels

stars on the sky of the Hungarian gastronomy

History of the Gundel

 

Johann Gundel

Johann Gundel left Ansbach in 1857 at the age of thirteen to try his luck in Hungary. By the time he reached the age of twenty-five he was a restaurant owner by the name of János Gundel and at the peak of his career he managed one of the most elegant restaurants of the capital city in István Főherceg Hotel. Many famous public figures became his regular customers, including the painters Károly Lotz and Mihály Munkácsy, the musician Ferenc Liszt, the writer Kálmán Mikszáth, and the statesmen Kálmán Tisza and István Tisza.

In 1876 the pioneer of Hungarian gastronomic reform and founder of the Gundel dynasty was elected Chair of the Hotel and Catering Industry Association. In 1867 he was asked to organise the ceremonial meal held on the occasion of the coronation of Franz Joseph as King of Hungary. Of the 5 children of János Gundel it was Károly who inherited his father’s passion for the catering profession and his gastronomic genius.

 

Károly Gundel

Károly Gundel traveled all around Europe to learn from famous peers like Ritz and Escoffier. He had already established himself and his reputation in several hotels and restaurants before renting the current location of the Gundel restaurant in the City Park from the Municipality of Budapest. Károly Gundel used what he learnt during his travels in the world boldly, but with moderation, and had an ingenious knack for creating new dishes. He fundamentally reformed and enriched Hungarian cuisine. His pioneering work placed Hungary on the world map of gastronomy. According to the New York Times the Gundel Restaurant set up at the 1939 World Fair in New York did more to enhance Hungary’s reputation than a shipload of tourist brochures could have done.

From 1937 Károly Gundel managed the restaurant of the Hotel Gellért as well. Many well-known politicians, artists, and prime exponents of business life were regular guests in his restaurants. He liked to entertain his guests in person and took great pleasure in creating special dishes for his guests, dishes which were then named after the guests.

 

The Gundel House

The ravages of history did not spare the Gundel restaurant either. After World War II the Gundel was nationalised too by the communist regime. For many years the mere survival of the restaurant was uncertain. After the political changes the state privatised the restaurant, which was first bought by the American investors Ronald Lauder and George Lang, and then in 2004 became a part of the Danubius Hotel Chain, Hungary’s biggest hotel conglomerate.

After privatisation the Gundel House resumed its role as a symbol of quality and tradition. Many famous guests have dined here, including Queen Elisabeth II of Great Britain, Pope John Paul II, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, US President George Bush. There is no telling how many politicians, artists, athletes have considered it important to get to know Hungary’s most reputed restaurant – recently the UN Secretary General, the president of Italy, the president of Austria, the president of Poland.

The Gundel House has received almost all gastronomic awards in the past twenty years in recognition of the fact that it is a worthy successor to the most reowned restaurant of Hungary, a true continuer of the more than one hundred year-old Gundel heritage.
This is Gundel, Hungary’s most renowned restaurant for more than one hundred years.