YKRA FACES: PÉTER DORMÁN
This month, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Péter Dormán, founder and head baker of Freyja - the croissant story, a Budapest-based artisan bakery, offering meticulously perfected croissants and pastries in two culinary hotspots across the city. Read on for more!
Hi Peti, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work.
I’ve been working with croissants and baked goods for the past ten years, and from the outset, I’ve been striving for perfection. My main goal is to be able to make croissants in larger quantities but with the same high quality and style, in as many exciting flavours as possible. We’ve opened two cafés in Budapest, in two very different environments. Where we’re at now is on the Pest side, in the city centre, and you can feel the hustle and bustle of the city while our café in Buda is closer to nature, in a quieter, peaceful setting, where you can hear the birds sing. I think it’s great that we've managed to open cafés in two completely different locations. My wife also runs her own pastry shop—Chez Dodo Artisan Macarons, and as the name suggests, she makes macarons, but contrary to popular belief, we both agree that making croissants is harder! Our daughter, Rozi, is one and a half years old, and I try to spend as much time with her as I can. I like to organise activities for her where we can get out of town and spend time in the fresh air.
Where did your story start? How did you decide on a career in gastronomy?
My parents had a totally different idea for my career path, they thought I’d be going to university - and I did attend an agricultural university, but I left after a year and a half and moved to London instead. My first job was at a large bakery, and the vibe was industrial, so there was an assembly line, a slicer and so on, but there were one or two things that I had to do by hand, like making little scones or loaves of bread, which I really enjoyed. I liked kneading dough, it’s a bit like playing with clay, and it was such a good feeling to see the end result of my work, so I stayed there. Later, I decided to work at an artisan bakery in London, and by the time I moved back home, I knew exactly what type of bakery I wanted to work at. It took me ten years to get where I am now, but I succeeded.
When I first started working with croissants, it was still a secondary product in Budapest, it wasn’t really something people cared about. In the beginning, sourdough bread was what caught people’s attention, while croissants were left on the periphery in most bakeries. But I was crazy about croissants, their flaky layers and texture, and I've been trying to improve my skills since day one. I like to keep up with current trends, to make sure that what you get at Freyja is no different or worse than what you’d get in Denmark or France, and I do think that we’ve reached that level, with Freyja croissants you’ll get great quality paired with a fulfilling taste.
What does your daily routine look like?
I usually get up early, at 4am each morning and I know it sounds painful, but it’s manageable. At Freyja we don’t have night shifts, only a dawn shift, and I like to be here first and see how the pastries are coming along. If something goes wrong, or there’s some sort of mistake then I like to be around as I'll probably be the one to come up with a solution. Otherwise, in the mornings, I take our dog for a walk before I come to work, while Dóri is with Rozi, and she takes her to nursery. I'm usually here until about noon, I’ll also do kitchen work, until the others arrive at 6am, and then I’ll hand over the tasks and we’ll discuss what needs to be done in our morning meeting for the day.
The other half of my day is more about planning, and how to prepare for different days, bank holidays, national holidays etc. As our pastries don't have a shelf life, probably about an hour daily is spent trying to decipher the indecipherable. How many customers are we going to have? Is it going to rain, will there be tourists coming our way? So it’s a guessing game.
Once I’m home, I’ll take the dog out for a walk again, do some grocery shopping or I’ll head out to our local swimming pool in the afternoon. I also collect Rozi from nursery, and then we spend a few hours at the playground. In the evenings we’re all together at home, and after Rozi’s put to bed, Dóri and I like to have a glass of wine, and relax a bit before we head to bed as we both have an early start.
What's in your bag?
Recipe Notebook - I like to keep my recipes on paper, instead of going digital. As our hands are “dirty” in the kitchen, we don’t take our phones out often, so it’s not a great idea to check recipes on them. An old fashioned, handwritten recipe book does the trick.
Norwegian Dictionary - I spent a month working in Trondheim, Norway two years ago. I really liked working there, but it wasn’t the best because I didn't know a word of Norwegian. I’ve been studying the language for over a year now, and I enjoy it. Trondheim will be the host of Bocuse d'Or Europe 2024, so we’re super keen to go back with Dóri next year for a week or two.
Cream Scraper - I always keep a few with me in my bag, because it’s something that keeps going missing in the kitchen, we use them a lot.
Perfume - This was a present from Dóri, and she expects me to use it (Peti laughs). I don't get dressed up when I go to work in the kitchen, but Dóri does, so with me using perfume is where we meet halfway.
Swimming Pass - I love being in water, and swimming is my go-to sport. We visited Canada last summer and went swimming a lot, although the water was so cold we had to swim in neoprene.
Baby Dummy - This is also for Rozi, she’s now a year and eight months old, so she’ll have to give it up soon.
Moncsicsi Baby Doll - It’s one of Rozi’s favourite toys. This was actually my mum's from her childhood and Rozi inherited it from her, she loves it.
Madzagdog Leash and Collar - I’ve been a proud dog owner for eight years now, and this leash and collar is for my whippet, Bread. It was a wedding present from our friend Melinda.
YKRA MATRA MINI LS WHITE - I like things that are sleek and simple. I drink espresso coffee, I eat plain croissants with butter, and I'm always looking for things that fit in with my style and support simplicity. I'm not that great with colours, or what goes with what, so this white bag is my jolly joker. I can wear it with anything, and the best part is that flour stays invisible on it, which is the number one ingredient that gets on all my stuff!