Frigyes Bott’s name may primarily ring some bells for wine fans. The son of the winemaker in Former Upper Hungary, Frigyes Bott Jr. also started from grape, but finally ended up at artisan breadmaking and opened his own bakery near the border, in the outskirts of Komárno. Interview!
The wines of your father, Frigyes Bott are known and loved not only in Former Upper Hungary, but all across Europe. Initially you also set out to be a winemaker, but then you turned towards breadmaking due to your time spent at Pipacs Bakery and a study trip to Burgundy. Could you tell us how all this happened?
This whole bread story, like many others, started out as a hobby. I always loved tasty, fine brad, but I never really saw into how it was made. I visited several bakeries in Budapest to get a firsthand experience of all the things that are needed to make a really high quality bread. This is how I ended up in the workshop of Jacques Liszt, and I also had the chance to learn from Panamanian baker Claudio Perrando, who held a master course in the Skanzen in Szentendre earlier.
The final push was given by my friend Márton Tóth in Pipacs Bakery: he introduced me to French baking culture. I went to Burgundy for the wines, I spent two harvests there, and I ate the same thing as the locals: I was more and more swallowed by the milieu and the way the French think about bread. This is what I wanted to bring home: I wanted to create a place at home where people get to taste good quality, tasty and nutritious bakery products just like in France. This is how the story of Bott Bakery started.
You studied the profession for one and a half years, and then you opened the bakery in the outskirts of Komárno, in Hadovce. What hopes and fears did you have when you started this big adventure? On the one hand, the coronavirus started to paralyze everyday life around this time, and on the other hand, while artisan bakeries are no longer regarded a novelty in Budapest or Bratislava, in a town of 33,000 inhabitants in Former Upper Hungary, this might be perceived as something unusual…
I had no fears, I just felt that I had to do it. Of course I was hoping time would prove me right. I does not view the genre of artisan bakery as something fancy that needs to be shoved down the throat of locals: I was merely driven by making products on a daily basis in identical quality that people would consume gladly. In this area, bread culture was completely chewed up during the Communist era, and people settled for the products available in the stores. Our sourdough breads can be consumed for up to a week.
I think, in opposition to wine, bread is easier to comprehend and interpret for people: it is a basic food product that is with us every day, and we don’t need to learn all about it to know what good bread is. We just need to taste it.
What kind of bakery products do you create, and are there any important partners whose products you sell? Do you have number-one sellers or do you perhaps experiment with novelties?
We bake all kinds of bread: in addition to wholegrain and spelt breads, we saw that our customers preferred puff pastry delicacies the most. There aren’t any places around here where one could buy really good croissant, so we did it: we use half kilogram of butter for one kilogram of flour, which comes from France. There was a time that a customer wanted to buy crescents, but we said we don’t make them, and they were happy to switch to baguette. Those with a sweet tooth really like our cocoa and walnut rolls, and we also had Scandinavian-style cinnamon cakes before. We are perfecting our rye breads, and next time we’ll add walnut into the dough.
The bakery has a small deli section, where the wines of my father, Frigyes Bott, are available of course, together with various chutneys and mineral waters. As we rent the place from Green Plantation, a local coffee roastery, good quality coffee is also given.
The packaging design and brand identity of Frigyes Bott wines has been created by Unger and Partners for years. How important is it for you to make sure that not only the products show high standards of expertise and quality, but the entirety of your brand, and that the logo and the packaging also gain the trust of customers?
Zsolt and his team (Zsolt Unger, the founder of Unger and Partners, whom we have already introduced – the Ed.) are building the Frigyes Bott brand on a pro level, and I absolutely trust his expertise. However, Bott Bakery is a different story: on the one hand, we are talking about a very young business, which is primarily a local brand, and has to operate accordingly. The people have to come to our bakery and I and our products have to be authentic here, while the Frigyes Bott wines have to sell themselves, anywhere in the world.
Our indicator is primarily the quality of the products, visual identity is only secondary, which of course still needs to be taken care of professionally, but should not be overthought by any means. Customers primarily come to us because here they can buy good bread and not because we have a sophisticated visual identity. Nevertheless we try to maintain a unified appearance and authentic communication both on the various social media platforms and in our shop.
Even though it was you who learned the tricks and tips of creating fine sourdough bread, you don’t run the business alone: your wife helps you. It must be an exceptionally challenging task to work seven days a week to fill your shelves with fresh and high quality bakery products on six days a week. How are the tasks divided in your team?
When we opened, my wife Lilla helped a lot in all the daily tasks, and she still works a few days a week in the bakery, however, she is a mother and thus she spends most of her time raising our son. Luckily now we have a small team who work in the workshop and help us in sales – this lightens my load a lot. I am responsible for carrying out the various management tasks, keeping contact with suppliers and procurement, and of course I spend a lot of time in the workshop, too, as I still have plenty to learn.