Interview with Zsolt Serényi, one of the founders of BPBarBQ

Zsolt Serényi, who is known for many as the ’Tattoed Chef’, once upon a time has come up with the idea of becoming a chef within seconds. He wasn’t one of the best students at school, therefore being accepted to the Catering College was out of his league. He followed the footsteps of one of his teammates instead and applied to a basic cooking school that had two tempting advantages: he only had to attend twice a week and due his studies, his compulsory military services were allowed to be postponed. Thus, within two years he received his basic cooking diploma that qualified him for his first job right after graduation. In a small, family restaurant he became to ’do-all boy’. He managed the business, cooked, washed dishes and did everything else the day to day successful survival required. Zsolt’s philosophy has always been to go with the flow, let life map out his role in it, so a series of interesting and exciting jobs followed.

Somewhere, at the back of Zsolt’s mind the idea of having his own restaurant has always been there. For years on he was looking at places and dreaming about populating them with his business, but the picture just didn’t fit, right up till the moment, when he’s found what we know as the BPBarBQ today. Zsolt believes, it is not the concept of the place that has to be built up, but once the perfect location has been found, the space and its unique character  should define the concept of the restaurant that is to be brought to life there. His original thought was to create a street food buffet, because the location is in a fast-pace party zone. He expected his future customers to ask for take-away sandwiches predominantly, but he’s found out that 99 percent of the time they’d rather sit and consume them on the spot. As for the menu, the foods they offered could’ve been created without a showcase BBQ grill as well, but since there was a space that cried for grill to be built out there, they’ve made it happen. Quite right so, they’ve found eventually, because the grill built became their trademark in the future. Today the menu line-up is quite stable, with a few variant specialties. The cocktail department is Roland’s, Zsolt’s partner’s responsibility; they try to fit them to match the BBQ flavors of their food items and the taste buds of their clients. Strikingly, fermented cucumber and beetroot cocktails are also on the menu.

 

Zsolt became widely known for his many tattoos. It wasn’t until he hit 38 when he started to collect them. Coincidentally the tattoo artist, who drew the most on him, also became his wife in the process, therefore these days he is fine with getting a VIP appointment from her.

As a reflection of his thoughts and spirit, he’s got some gastro-themed tattoos on display, like a chef-skull on his arm. In fact, he devoted his entire left arm to the gastro-project: a bacon, an octopus, grapes, a lobster, a melon, corn, peaches, fennel on the first glimpse. The ars poetica of a master chef is on his chest, displayed by characters that resemble the stick-glued, newspaper clipped ransom note blackmailers usually state their claims on. The slash map of beef has received its space on his calf, as his mocking reference to himself walking through life on beef shanks. Obviously, the BPBarBQ sign had to be commemorated too, it received its honorary placement on Zsolt’s neck for all to be seen.

Since Zsolt took the phrase ’colorful personality’ quite literally, it was obvious for me to ask, originally why did he decide to go with this particular style. He said, he used to stare at rock stars’ colorful tattoos on TV, with the mixture admiration and envy, thinking that they looked so cool, completely out of the ordinary. He wanted to be like them, to stick out from the crowd. Based on that, I’ve imagined that his favorite dish would also be something extraordinary, but the element of surprise came with the realization that his taste is nothing but extraordinary. He claims, he likes everything. Fish soup, traditional meat-based Hungarian kitchen in its simplest form, and if he wants to be thorough and exact, even something as simple, as the freshly squeezed orange juice he can really crave.

 

BPBarBQ is somewhere between the definition of a Fine Dining and Fast Food place on the scale. The two most characteristic foods are Pulled Pork and Reuben sandwich on the menu, the latter one being the customers’ favorite according to the menu. Both dishes contain the specialty of the place, grilled and smoked beef brisket, garnished with sauerkraut and other zesty vegetables. Zsolt really likes to cook at home too, usually using the family as his rootstocks for his culinary experiments, providing them with dishes he wants to test on them before he would introduce them to the public on his menu. For himself, he likes to do simple things, but he wants them delivered with precision. Like a pizza; only a few ingredients, but requiring the mastering of a certain technique and experience of plenty of practice to make the dough taste the way it should.

 

The choice of the Tattooed Master Chef was a simple black apron from array of our vast selection. He let the aspect of practicality prevail, as he expects to work long hours in the kitchen in it, inevitably getting it smudged during the procedure of creating his masterpieces. Further, he’s got a thing for black, as it sets off his colorful tattoos nicely, he said. Whilst the tattoos stay the way they are, his apron day after day has to endure the wear and wash that he’s planning on exposing it to. ’It’s a comfy and practical pro, and once you’ve had it on, trust me, you’d never want to cook in anything else anymore’ he said, while whipping up a 4 course dinner to the company of 20 people,  just to end the night in a stylish way.