THE IMMIGRATION STORY
Lot’s of people ask me where I came up with this idea or if I am Magdalena, so I thought I would write a more personal story starting with her. This story obviously starts, way before I was even born. It starts over 60 years ago when my grandfather rebelled against the Soviets during the Hungarian revolution. My grandfather had to flee the country for these actions to avoid prison and likely death when my father was an infant. He would eventually leave this world never again having set foot on Hungarian soil. My father didn’t meet his father until he and my mother fled Hungary themselves when they were in their late 20s. And my grandma Magda never saw him again.
This was clearly during a time of flux in Hungary and my grandmother had two children to take care of and no way to do so. A few years later, she met her husband who was an entrepreneur. (I don’t know the whole story here). They had a few small businesses, which was a big deal during communist times. One of these businesses was a kurtoskalacs shop at a market. These markets are still very popular in Europe. People go to separate stores for bread, cheese, meat and veggies and the markets have most of these in one spot, so it’s convenient for people to do their shopping here. Especially in small towns like where they lived. When people shopped, they of course wanted food to eat there, so their stand was very successful in the 60s. The smell wafting from their shop probably didn’t hurt either.
So fast forward a couple years to my father and mother meeting at a furniture store they both worked at. My father had lived in East Germany for a few years, which was a bit better off than Hungary at the time. He wanted a better life for himself and his family. His father was just across the border in Austria, where it was “free”, and they decided to try to go. For those who don’t know how communism works, this was highly illegal and my dad was in the military at the time, so getting caught or coming back was not an option. Even friends and family who knew could be punished if they didn’t “tell on them”. I guess bravery runs in the family, my grandfather escaping, my grandmother starting a business, and my dad deciding to flee and taking my mom with him.
During this time there were organized trips to the “outside world” for people who could afford it, so my parents saved up and went on a ski trip to Austria. They strayed from the group and headed to meet my dad’s half-brother and their father. I am not sure of the details here, either, I will have to ask. But long story short, they ended up in a refugee camp for two years. At these camps, you didn’t get to pick which country you were sent off to. Friends went to America, Canada and some even to Australia. They wanted to stay in Austria since it was close to their family in Hungary, and of course my dad’s family who he never really met before this lived there, so they had some ties. Before google, they thought if they had a baby in the country, they would be able to stay, so alas, here I am, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. A couple months after I was born they were sent to Canada. With no money, no ties to the country, no way of communicating and a small room guaranteed to them for three months my parents somehow made it work. but as you can imagine, it wasn’t easy.
This is another part of the inspiration of the business. My parents gave up everything for their family to have a better life and opportunities to do things they didn’t have the chance to do. One of the reasons I starting Magdalena’s was to one day be able to give something back to my parents. Either in the form of a retirement business or monetarily. I feel super fortunate to now be an American citizen, in the situation I am in, and am a firm believer in the abundance mindset. I suppose everyone could say this about themselves, but without the events that transpired over 50 years ago, or even 35 years ago, I definitely would be living a much different life. Feel free to reach out and ask questions, I know a bit more but I didn’t want to bore you all with tiny details!
Starting a food business 101
When I had the idea of starting this business, the most daunting piece seemed to be getting started. I read a ton of books, talked to a ton of people, did a ton of online research, but there didn’t seem to be much concrete information out there. I also get a ton of questions around this topic, so I thought it would be useful to write about how I approached this, some of my lessons learned and what I would do differently for my next business ;)! You already have the background of why, so I’ll focus on the how in this post.
The legal stuff. This part was a little scary for me because I am super rule follower and I didn’t want to mess anything up. For any business, you need to decide how to structure your business. I would suggest talking to a lawyer or accountant because this piece will greatly depend on the type of business/the risk of litigation, whether you have partners or not, and what your finances look like. I learned about all this about a year too late, during my MBA program, but thankfully, I didn’t mess anything up too badly. I decided to structure as an LLC because I serve food (so there is a risk of litigation), I wanted to be able to file a single tax return, and I am the sole owner for now. If it wasn’t a food business, but let’s say a consulting business, I would have chosen a sole proprietorship. After you decide on this, you file for an EIN with the federal government and also file with the state. Now you are officially in business! Once you have all these numbers, you can open accounts, credit cards, and accept payments via square or whatever you choose. Another important thing to consider is obtaining liability insurance.
The next step in the food world is to determine if you fall under the department of agriculture or health department. For us, since we don’t use “high risk” food products like meat or fresh vegetables, we fell under the department of agriculture, which is MUCH simpler than the health department. But because we make ice cream, we did have to apply for a special frozen dairy license that requires an annual inspection and a commissary kitchen, which wouldn’t have been required otherwise. A commissary kitchen is a shared kitchen space where you can dispose of gray water, wash dishes, prepare food, and a lot of other stuff. There are a couple around the triangle area that you can google or ask me about. I can’t speak to health department requirements (YET), but once I can, I will be sure to post about it. I contacted the department, they came out and inspected me and I was ready to bake!
During all this, I needed to come up with a logo, a name and some marketing collateral. I tried going the cheap way and bought a few logos off Fivver, but wasn’t super happy with them. I guess this is where I can talk about a lesson. Changing your logo and all your marketing material is VERY annoying and expensive. So- if you splurge in one area of the business in the beginning, this is where you should do it. But fortunately, since we started as a small, proof of concept business, I didn’t have too many things to change when we rebranded in 2019. All we really had was a tent, some tablecloths, business cards, and social media images. Luckily no vehicle wraps, shirts, or anything expensive had been done at that point. Speaking of social media images – having someone who knows image types and how to order depending on what you are doing (as in a logo on a shirt versus a logo on a trailer wrap) is EXTREMELY important. Who knew?! And working with someone who has connections in the industry you will be working in is also a plus. Since I don’t know much about this stuff, it would have been difficult for me to use the images I got via email to design let’s say, a trailer wrap. Luckily James @ Bennett Creative Group has tons of experience with this and walked me through all of this (aka did it for me). I got all my social media up and running, started posting regularly and with the help of a few key friends, pretty quickly went from 300 to 1000 followers in a few months!
But wait- I didn’t have any events to bake for. I started via google, applied to a few local events, paid, and waited. Since we started so small, we only did 2 events a year the first two years we were MagDough. We did this tent and table style, but as I mentioned in previous posts, it got me confident enough in the product and concept to take the next step. I would recommend anyone who is starting a business to start small before making any large investments. For example, if you want to start a dessert shop, start at a commissary kitchen and sell your product at some farmers markets, then if you still love it and it’s successful, maybe branch to some larger events, a food trailer or start wholesaling. THEN think about making an investment in something like a brick and mortar or food TRUCK. (I will go into the differences between the trailer and truck later). In my short 3 years as a business owner, I have seen MANY businesses start HUGE without thinking through things, testing the concept, or doing any market research. Don’t quit your day job, don’t assume a small business will pay your bills (EVER, let alone the first few years) and except to spend every spare moment you have to go toward building the business. If I were to do it all over, I would get a part time weekend job working on a food truck to learn and experience what the day to day operation is like. This should be easy, we are always looking for good help in this industry. I would recommend anyone starting a business to do this for 6 months to a year before diving in. It will save you a lot of heartache, I promise. Or help a friend who owns one. Someone real smart that I know is doing just that with me right now.
Once I decided to take the leap from tiny to small business, I had to decide how I wanted to sell. Out of a food truck or a food trailer. I was back and forth a lot during this process, but ultimately decided on a trailer for a few reasons. Cost was the first reason – not only is a trailer much more economical from an initial investment perspective, but the insurance on a truck is astronomically higher than on a trailer. I didn’t want to be paying $500 a month for commercial truck insurance when I was planning to only do 1-2 special events a month. The second reason was the maintenance. I am not handy and can barely even change a tire so if this truck broke down, wouldn’t even know where to begin. So trailer it was! Obviously, this was before I knew my handy business partner. But even still, I think we would have made the same decision together. But it was a little scary thinking about pulling it and parking it (it still is since I am lucky enough to have an amazing partner who does it for me). There are also some limitations, like we cannot participate in some events because they don’t allow trailers, only trucks. But for our purposes and business model, it made sense and still does. While we are on the topic of trailers, one interesting fact I learned is that trailers cannot be insured since they don’t have an engine. They are always insured by the vehicle pulling it. I called about 25 insurance companies before I believed this. I assumed anything driving on the road could be/had to be insured. Also - don’t forget to title any vehicles you purchase in the business name for tax and liability purposes. This was another lesson I learned – thankfully not in a hard way, but in an expensive way. I titled the trailer with lifetime plates (which are not transferable, duh) in my name and had to change and pay all over again. D’oh!
Next – building out the trailer. All I really needed to do was come up with an efficient layout and mount all my equipment. The hardest part was the electrical needs in a mobile kitchen. Generators are something I became very familiar with and I am on my second, almost 3rd , one in 2 years. Not because they break, but because I made decisions based on the now instead of on the future. But now I know all about electricity and power requirements, so that’s a plus!
By the time I got all this situated and the trailer wrapped, it was APRIL. I thought this whole process would take like a month. Another lesson, always double the time you think it will take if you haven’t ever done it before. Granted I was only working on this project on weekends, I knew nothing about anything, and this was “pre business partner” who knows what to do/can talk me through literally anything and everything, (a time period in the business which I shorten to “PM” for pre-Matt), so it took me way longer than it should have.
I started applying for events in April, but I had missed the deadlines for most of the big, summer events. So, we spent much of the year searching for events and just trying things out, but it was actually a good thing, because we had a ton of practice, worked through a lot of issues, nailed down a process and most importantly learned a lot about each other and the industry. Our first couple events were insane, and things came up that I never would have thought of. Of course always during our busiest times when we had people waiting. But what are you gonna do?! I am super excited for 2020 and hope to see a lot of you out eating chimney cakes!!
Feel free to email me if you have any questions or want more information on any piece of this. I love to “talk shop” and help people!
Well it’s been about two years since I’ve written, so I wanted to do a (not so little) update. It’s been a crazy 2019, but I finally feel like chimney cakes is all coming together. I have a lot to say about this experience, but the one thing I get asked about most is why I started this business, how I came up with the idea, how I got the nerve to do it, where I find the time and what my experience has been like. So….I thought I would use this as an opportunity to address all this.
So first off, I definitely didn’t come up with the chimney cake idea. I wish I could take credit for this century old dessert, but if you check out our “about us” section, you can read about the various theories surrounding this addictive little pastry. In the past couple years, it’s become more and more popular to fill these pillowy carbs (thanks for this one Barb J ) with various sweets like Nutella, jam and most recently even ice cream. I posted a blog a couple years ago about how we “got the idea”, but basically I’ve always been a dessert addict, and in particular, ice cream addict. Every time I go to Hungary (or really anywhere), I experience the culture with my taste buds. Although my waistline doesn’t appreciate it, I think it’s the absolute best way to travel. Hungary has some really unique foods and desserts and I always miss the food when I come home (well once I run out of what I bring back with me). It was always interesting to me that there are so many different cultures represented in the form of food here in the US, but you don’t really see Hungarian restaurants or bakeries. My family and I always talked about this from the minute we left Europe, so it’s always been a dream of mine to bring some Hungarian culture here.
Let’s go back a few years to when I graduated with my chemistry degree. I started working in the pharmaceutical industry in 2008 when the economy was terrible, and I went through many rounds of layoffs at a few different companies. Since I am first generation American, there wasn’t exactly a college fund waiting for me when I decided to continue my education and with loads of student loan debt, the thought of unemployment was super scary. I’ve always worked in restaurants on the side, so I am pretty familiar with the industry and always loved it and the people that worked in it. Long(er) story short, I finally found myself in a stable place where I had the time to think of a way to not be 100% dependent on someone else staying in business or working off tips. In this crazy insta-famous world we live in today, I thought what better way to feed my inner fat girl than start an instagramable Hungarian dessert business. AND my grandma already had the recipe and the process nailed down, so it seemed like a “piece of cake”.
I wanted to start small, so I started doing some research and reaching out to a few existing chimney cake business owners in 2017 and ended up being a proud owner of a chimney cake oven and ice cream machine shortly after. (You can read more about this in the “life, liberty, and pursuit of doughiness post). To test the market before investing too big, I decided to try my hand at chimney cakes at the annual, 3 day International Festival in Raleigh. I made ~70 cakes for the first day and was going to be super excited if we sold those. Well…we did. In the first 30 minutes of the festival. So….I went home to bake more, called a few friends on the way to help me for the weekend, and we ended up selling almost 1000 cakes that weekend. I guess you could say the market responded well. This was in October, about 2 months into starting my Master’s degree. We did two more events as MagDough the following year, both equally as insane. Once I graduated I decided to rebrand and start building a food truck since the concept proved itself worthy of a bigger investment. (And because it was pretty annoying to load and unload a 300lb ice cream machine into the back of a small SUV).
In December of 2018 I bought a used trailer off Craigslist and built a great relationship with the previous owner. He really got me started and answered soooooo many questions for me and introduced me to tons of resources and people in the industry. Without him my start would have likely been much more rocky. Since I was already permitted to sell food through the department of agriculture in North Carolina, the “hard” legal stuff was pretty much out of the way. I started the process of physically building out the empty trailer with all my equipment, rebranded and took up many, many hours of Bennet Creatives’ time. I also, worked on increasing my social media presence and started reaching out to events in the area to get on some calendars. By March we had secured some events, an amazing partnership with Andia’s Ice Cream from a random sample drop done a year prior, and by April I was pretty much ready to roll (pun intended). Now came the scary part. When I started this, I didn’t think about that fact that in addition to being a baker, I also had to be a photographer, an accountant, a small engine mechanic, a plumber, a content writer, and the list goes on.
This is the perfect segue into the sappy, gross, barfy part. If you know me, you know I am a bit of an ice queen, so this is really uncomfortable for me to write. My heart is actually pounding thinking about what I am going to say. Of course there are tons of people I have to thank for helping me like friends and family who have worked on a 100 degree trailer all day, Ryan for putting up with my shenangians, etc. But there are a few people I’ve met or become closer to in the last 8 months that this small little passion project would not have happened without. Three people in particular. I won’t name any names, but you all know who you are. The first person has been in the food truck industry for a while and did all my design work, helped me with countless other things along the way, and now I am grateful to call him my friend and a mentor. The second person I have known for years and when I started, he helped me work some events, helped me with writing and speaking content, and other creative tasks like social media and general business advice. Now he is one of my best friends, and he’s probably dying and cringing reading this entire post. And finally, someone who I am having trouble even putting words around what he’s done for the business in the past 3 months. I mentioned having to be all those things in the last paragraph that I didn’t anticipate, and he’s not only been a support, but has taken over a lot, ok most, of those tasks like they are his own. It’s rare these days to find people who care enough even about their own stuff to give 150% everyday, let alone do it for someone else’s stuff. He’s changed the way I think about a lot of things, but mainly about the value people can bring to your life and friendships you can build in such a short amount of time. The bar is set high now! I am beyond grateful to have all these people in my life and there would be no chimney cakes without them. I’ve learned so much in the past 8 months, but most importantly this experience taught me how important relationships, leadership, perspective and teamwork is in not only business, but in life.
It has been an insane 8 months, and really 2 years now that I think about it. I have NO idea where I found the time to keep up with my full time job, run and start a food truck business, have a social life, and keep up with things like fitness and travel. But it’s been amazing and I am sooooo excited to see where this experience takes me from here.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR GRANDMA’S NAME?
I talked about my life changing trip to Hungary on my great grandmother’s 100th birthday in another post, and I was reminded of that time by Facebook, because it has been 5 years, almost to the day since then! Both my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s “name days” were also recently, so I thought it would be interesting to write about this Hungarian tradition. Hungarians not only have a birthday, but a “name day” as well. Birthdays are usually celebrated just by your immediate family. Name days, however, are widely known and celebrated. Common first names are assigned to one or more days of the calendar, based on religious traditions, historical events, the birthday of a famous person who had the same first name, or on other facts. Name days are celebrated in work places, among friends and in the family. People usually gift flowers, desserts (like CHIMNEY CAKES!) or other small gifts. Sometimes there are even parties thrown to celebrate. On a day with a popular name, you will see people with flowers all over the place. One of my name days actually falls on my birthday, but my parents said it was just a coincidence! Different countries can celebrate the same name on different days. When is yours?
Since we are on the subject of names, another interesting tradition is that, the first name is the last and the last is the first. So for example, I was Papp Viviane, and that is what people would actually call me, not just like here when your write your name “Papp, Viviane”. Once I got married, I could do the “modern” Hungarian name change, which is the same as here, and become Moravick Viviane. Or I could have picked the traditional Hungarian custom. To do this, I would have taken the entire name of my groom with “-ne” suffix at the end. (“Ne” is the equivalent of “Mrs.” in Hungarian). So I would have been Moravick Ryanne! Even though people who knew me would call me by my previous first name, Viviane, you wouldn’t know my “real” name from my legal name! And vice versa!
Funny story about this- about 5 years ago, my aunt in Hungary asked me my grandmother’s name and I had absolutely no idea what it was. I only knew her legal name, (which was my step grandfather’s name) from seeing it written on mail, and since I just called her “grandma”, I never learned her first name, even though she is probably the closest I am to any relative. And now that name is the business namesake! My aunt found this totally hilarious and we still hysterically laugh about it every time I go visit.
THE GAME OF CONES
This weekend we hosted a friends and family tasting to test our process and get feedback about our product. The response was amazing and overwhelming. We created a FB event for our friends and family to come by and sample our chimney cones, and got about 60 RSVPs and 25 maybes. So Ryan and I got up in the morning and made 80 cones, based on RSVPs, in preparation for the day. This way they were still fresh, but cool enough to put ice cream into them without immediately melting it. People starting coming around noon, and by about 1, we were already almost out of cones. Shout out to the people who got thirds and even left and came back later for more!!! (Disclaimer: we do not have insulin on hand!)
We had planned to do the event from 12-6 and we were already out of cones within the first hour!! Ryan had to take over customer service, ice cream, filling and toppings, the grill AND taking orders, while I made more dough and rolled them onto the spits. It was pure insanity in the most awesome way. Ryan handled it all amazingly, especially for our first run through.
Meanwhile, I could only make one batch of dough at a time, because we learned that fresh yeast is VERY sensitive to heat, and since we are in North Carolina in the dead of summer, it is hot and humid outside. If I made two batches, by the time I rolled the first one onto the spits, the second batch would be over-proofed, making the dough difficult/impossible to work with, not to mention it would make a less “springy” and delicious final product. By the time I finished rolling all the dough that I had made onto the spits, we were almost out and I would start from the beginning with the dough again. Ryan was grilling and pulling them off almost to order!!
Thank you so much for all who came, made suggestions and passed along great ideas. Keep em coming! We learned so much from this experience and everyone there. We had opened a box of 250 count containers and when the day was over, we only had one left in the box. Over 200 chimney cakes made and served in 6 hours. It was such a fun day and we can’t wait to do it again!
Last time I wrote, I was headed to NYC to pick up my equipment to start the business. Boy was it an exciting adventure. Ryan (my husband) wasn’t able to get time off work, and it had to be picked up this particular weekend, so I went alone. Obviously I set aside some time to eat all the instagram famous foods I’ve been watching for months. Starting off the trip, the flight into Newark was delayed about 4 hours due to thunderstorms, so they put me on another flight into Laguardia. During this switch, somehow my luggage got lost. Not a great start, since I only had one day, now half a day, in NYC to explore and eat all my things. Many people who know me, know I keep lists for each city of things I want to do. Below is my list for NYC. Insanity:
Fronuts from Donut Project
Frozen Smores from Dominique Ansel
Milk & Cream Cereal Bar
Soft Swerve Ice Cream
The Doughnut Plant
Russ & Daughters
375 Thrice Cooked Fries
Union Fare Gastrohall
Gotham West Market
Ample Hills Creamery
Yes, I ate at every.single.place in half a day. My top picks are Ample Hills Snap Mallow Pop, Milk & Cream soft serve, DunWell, Gotham West Market, and not listed above, the Bagel Train in Mahwah! On a previous trip I also visited Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, which was a top contender also. I am a big fan of the food halls, as you can hit multiple vendors without walking for hours. You can check out all my photos of the foods on the Mag_Dough instagram page.
Now onto the more relevant stuff. After this food filled day, I finally received my luggage at 2am, just in time to leave at 6am to catch a bus up to Suffern to meet the guys selling me the equipment. They picked me up from the bus station, took me to get a U-Haul and then we went back to their place, where they taught me how to assemble, clean and use all the equipment I was buying. Not to mention tons of other trade secret business tips they were kind enough to share. This was an opportunity I could not pass up. We even started from scratch, making the dough and the ice cream base. I learned so much in one day, it probably would have taken weeks or months to figure all of this out on our own. I even improved my Kurtos making skills in just a couple hours under their watchful eye! Check out the first batch vs the second batch in the photos below. They even took me to the amazing bagel place in town (mentioned above) and for real NY pizza after we baked and loaded the U-Haul. Not that I needed to be eating more food after my previous night on the town. I stayed the night up there and then drove the 8 hours, which turned into 11 with DC traffic (ON A SUNDAY), in the morning, all the way to NC.
I had SUCH a fun time learning, I can’t wait to get even more creative with the recipes and ideas and bring this deliciousness to the southeast! Now I just have to teach my husband and family how to bake so they can help with the hard labor!!
On another note, my health inspection is coming up tomorrow afternoon, so things are moving in the right direction. If you made it this far, thanks for reading my novel!!
THE AMERI-CONE DREAM
Our trip to Hungary was amazing! We stayed with my grandmother, who lives about an hour outside of Budapest, for 10 days. It was 10 days of eating, cooking, washing dishes, and repeat, until bedtime. Preparing food and cleaning up is a little different when you have a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher. My grandmother is 84 years old and has been doing things her own particular way for a long time. Like me, she likes order and cleanliness to the extreme. Because she can no longer stand for a long time, or get around very easily, she directed me around the kitchen, which made for a great learning experience, but also some funny frustration at times. I didn’t get as many photos of us making the kürtős as I would have liked, because she kept yelling at me to “pay attention and put my phone away” while we were cooking.
Everyday we got up early and stayed up late chatting, it is amazing how we never run out of things to talk about, and she always has funny and interesting stories to tell. She told me a lot about when she started her business and we even searched for some photos, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any. Her set up was a more permanent location, in a rural market, during communist times. In addition to experimenting at home, she tried and practiced onsite for 2 weeks to perfect the recipe and process. Her and her husband even became frustrated at one point, because the recipe wasn’t working, and she said her husband threw the whole batch on the ground and said they were done with this business, in front of the other vendors! Imagine all the wasted dessert!!
The most difficult part of this process for me, has been the legal paperwork, permitting and dealing with the department of agriculture. I asked her how all that worked back in communist Hungary, assuming it was much easier. But apparently, during those times, all the permitting, health inspections and tax auditing was very intense, and you had to be very careful with every aspect. She said undercover auditors would come count how many you sold in one day, a couple times a year, to get an average, in order make sure you were claiming the correct amount of money each year! One of the most important realizations I came to on this trip is that everyone goes through a learning curve when starting a business, and I need to remember to be patient.
Because the basic yeast dough that kürtős is made from is very common in Hungarian cooking, grandma thought that it was “too easy to practice more than 3-4 times”. So, in addition to a couple rounds of making kürtős, she taught me how to make a few other things. Pörkölt with nokedli, túrós csusza, pogácsa, somlói galuska, meggyleves, madártej, gesztenyepüré, and beigli, were just a few of the dishes I learned. If you aren’t Hungarian and want to know what these are, feel free to ask!! I am happy to share the deliciousness with the world.
In addition to tons of discussions and practicing with my grandma, we visited (and sampled of course) a couple other street vendors in Hungary and Austria. We were able to watch their process and ask a few questions, like thickness on the roller, time in the oven, etc. People were actually very helpful and excited that kürtős was going across the pond!
I am happy to say that after all that, we did perfect the recipe, and even came up with some exiting menu items! Next step is going to New York next weekend to pick up my equipment. The gentlemen selling everything to me are kind enough to show me the process with the actual equipment I am purchasing, to help ease some of that learning curve. I can’t wait to bring everything home and get things really started!
On another note- check out how beautiful her garden is- she can barely walk and she still does this all herself!!
EXPERIMENTING IN THE KITCHEN
To continue from my last post about Ryan and I experimenting and researching Kürtős, in the summer of 2016 we decided to try a few recipes from my great grandma’s recipe book. We didn’t have the proper equipment, so being the daughter of an engineer, I figured I could fashion a device from some simple items from the hardware store. After a few epic fails (and a couple edible ones), pictured below, I called my grandmother and she walked me through a few recipes and tried to teach me her skills over the phone. I do have a bachelors degree in Chemistry, but this apparently does not transfer to baking. It is definitely more of an art!! We found it difficult to describe the texture and appearance of the dough, especially with the language barrier. Although I am fluent in Hungarian, it is more conversational and some would call it Hung-Lish (Hungarian-English). Being that my grandmother speaks 0 english, these recipes were becoming a bit frustrating.
By this point I had put together a business plan, did my market research, even wrote a menu and brainstormed names for a possible business. I had even been in contact with a few other businesses in the US that had been selling Chimney Cakes. The recipe was the only part that was still not quite right. So, the only thing left to do was go to Hungary and stay with my grandma to learn! Ryan and I will be traveling overseas tomorrow to do just that (and of course some market research and taste testing)!!
My grandmother’s name is Magda, and I definitely wanted to use her name in my business name, but I couldn’t decide what to use, as I don’t have one creative bone in my body. That is more Ryan’s strength. One night we were brainstorming names, and Ryan came up with MagDough, after I had said Madga’s Dough out loud. The business was born!!
Through high school and college, I became busy and wasn’t able to take as many trips to Hungary due to school, schedules and finances. In 2012 my great-grandmother turned 100 years old, so my father and I took a trip to celebrate her birthday. I definitely couldn’t miss that one. This trip quite literally changed my life. This is when I first realized how fortunate I had been growing up how I did and how many opportunities I had, that might not have existed if my parents stayed in Hungary. That story will be for another post. Her and my grandmother’s stories rekindled my excitement and passion for my Hungarian culture and since then, I have made it a point to go every year to visit family and explore the country.
Although I had seen a lot of the sights during my visits growing up, it is absolutely a different experience as an adult. When I met Ryan, my now husband, in 2014, I knew I had to take him there for him to fully understand who I was. In 2015, the day after Christmas, we left on our first European vacation together. We explored Budapest, Ryan met all of my extended family, tasted all the foods and drinks, and fell in love with the culture. On New Years day, Ryan proposed in the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular, and the rest is history!
One of our favorite treats, while eating our way through the Christmas markets, were the Chimney Cakes. I had been eating these my whole life, as they are a very popular central European street food, but this was new for Ryan. When we got back from our trip, we reminisced about all the foods we ate and wished we could get them here in the states. My whole life, when I would talk to others about Hungarian food, I always wanted to be able to provide a taste! One discussion lead to another, and that summer, we decided we wanted to bring the Hungarian food culture to the Triangle, and started experimenting with making chimney cakes at home.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Food is a big deal in Hungary. In the 1960s my grandmother started a business making Kürtőskalács in Budapest, as she always loved to cook and bake, especially desserts. This was passed on from her mother, my great grandmother. I decided to continue this family tradition here in the United States. I traveled to Hungary every summer growing up and spent months in my grandma’s kitchen learning the ins and outs of Hungarian cooking. 20 years later, this tradition continues and at 86 years old, Magda is still teaching me new tricks in the kitchen.