YKRA FACES: DÓRA SZALAI
In our newest edition of YKRA FACES we’re back with a lover of all things sugar, spice and everything nice! Working at an ad agency by day, and as a self-made pastry chef by night, our latest guest, Dóra Szalai decided to venture out into the unknown and follow her dreams. Read on as we have a chat with the founder of Chez Dodo Artisan Macarons and Café to discover her weekdays, what’s in her bag, and of course the sweet world of macarons!
Hi Dóri, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your work and what you do?
Sure, of course! I’m Dóri Szalai, the founder of a small and cosy, colourful café in downtown Budapest, Chez Dodo Artisan Macarons and Café. Chez Dodo also has two co-owners besides myself, Péter Váry and Kata Szalai. Together we run and own the macaron manufactory, and we just celebrated our 6th birthday on December 23rd.
We mostly make macarons, and we’re trying our best to make sure they’re the best you can get! We place a lot of emphasis on making all of our macarons and pastries are made from only the finest ingredients, to the best of pastry chefs' knowledge, and thanks to our standards and quality - to stand out in the market.
We also think of our brand in the same way as a fashion house works, innovating from season to season so that we can always show our guests something new. For example, we might include a book in the collection, like The Little Prince, where we created a namesake macaron, Petit Prince, or we might do a CSR campaign, like the one we did last autumn with MME (The Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society / BirdLife Hungary), and thanks to that collection we managed to place over a thousand bird houses in forests for nesting birds that were displaced from their natural habitat.
When we started our business 6 years ago there were four of us, now we have a team of 23, which is great.
How do you spend your free time?
In my free time, well... When you’re a small business owner, your work hours easily mix into your free time too, so it’s hard to keep the two separate. Plus my boyfriend also works in a similar field, as he makes croissants, so my free time and work hours are pretty much intertwined.
Since Coronavirus came into the picture, we’ve stayed with hiking and local trips, but I really, really, really love to travel! I love going on culinary adventures anywhere in the world, but for now, the trips have stayed within Hungary. I also really like to just spend time with my friends, relax, or go to the Danube Bend, as I was born there and I love the area.
So basically, being with friends, reading, exercising, eating good food, stuff like that.
What about at Chez Dodo, what’s your main role now?
I’m in charge of the products, it's my job to make sure that everything is rolled out smoothly and we’re up to date. I also work closely with Kata Szalai, she’s in charge of our marketing strategy, and leads our marketing communication and business strategy. Peti Váry is our managing director, he’s responsible for the financial part of the business, while I’m responsible for the product, which is closely related to our marketing communication aspects too.
How can we imagine your day? What do you do from morning to evening?
I wake up early, followed by drinking a very big glass of water (practically a bottle’s worth!), and after I have a latte and breakfast. Afterwards, we always read the news with my boyfriend Peti and talk through our plans for the day. After he leaves for work, I do a quick workout, take a shower, and then I’m ready to start work and I head down to Chez Dodo. For lunch I usually go somewhere in the area, and then spend the afternoon working with Kata and Péter, and at around 5-6pm I go home to my little dog and my boyfriend.
How do you spend your evenings?
Due to Coronavirus, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home - and I really love to cook - but at the same time I love going out for dinner and enjoying restaurants, but we haven’t really been able to do this recently. But since the good weather has arrived, we've ventured out once or twice to a terrace to have dinner. Also, we're obsessive cookbook collectors, and there's bound to be a cookbook or two open on the couch at home right now.
We also had a collaboration with Freyja (Dóri’s boyfriend Peti is the founder of the Artisan croissant bakery) not too long ago and it was such a success! So we'll probably do another collab this summer, it’s something we’re working on - another reason why we take our work home with us! Also, in the evening Peti is already at home, and Kata has put her children to sleep, so it’s at this point of calmness that our imaginative ideas come through.
Also, when the weather’s good we like to go somewhere outdoors with our dog, Bread.
Do you have a favourite hiking spot?
Yes, we love to go out to the Danube Bend.
Also, Bread (he's a Whippet, a small greyhound) loves to run long distances on flat terrain, so we go for long walks with him to Three Border Mountain - Hármashatár-hegy. He’s 11 year old, but he’s so cute and acts like a 3 year old! We also enjoy spending time on Óbudai Island if we want to stay in Budapest.
When we go to the countryside, we usually visit my Grandmother in Berkenye (a picturesque little village in Nógrád county) or go on a trip to Vác, by the Danube Bend.
Lastly, what’s in your bag?
Bottle: I love to drink loads of water, it’s something I had to get used to, but now it feels essential for me to feel refreshed, as I get thirsty real quick.
Fou de Pâtisserie: It's a French magazine, and it features the latest innovations of the pastry world, so it’s a big source of inspiration for me.
Lavender Oil: It's perfect for any kind of wound, like small cuts on my hands, and helps the wounds heal super fast, it's great! Plus I love the smell.
Pregnancy Oil: As I’m expecting my first child soon, my sister Kata made me an oil mixture that I can rub on my tummy when it gets a little tight, it’s so soothing.
Apple: An apple is always a perfect, quick snack.
Muesli Bar: ...For when an apple isn’t enough!
Mobile: Because I run my own business I need to be available pretty much whenever, so I always have my mobile on me.
Keys: My keys are super important, one is for the café/shop and the other is for our flat. The spatula key ring is also a fond memory of mine, it was given to me by my English teacher who brought it back for me from New York.
Purse: This is also an important item, as my purse was gifted to me from my best friend, sadly I can’t meet with her often, as she moved to Slovenia as a Sommelier.
Lipstick: It’s perfect for when I’m feeling down, whenever I’m in a bad mood I put some lipstick on, and already, I feel better! It’s in red. :)
Photos by Sára Petrák