Veganism Finding its Path Even in Meat-loving Hungary

Food

S谩ra Salamon

Aspiring vegan David Holzer talks with one of the leading Hungarian plant-based foodies, blogger and YouTuber Krist贸f Steiner, about the spread of the movement here.

Krist贸f Steiner. Photo by S谩ra Salamon

Krist贸f Steiner, the vegan foodie whose cooking I had been looking forward to tasting at Budapest gastro space Borganika, described it as 鈥渢he last normal day of the universe back then.鈥

I was keen to experience Steiner鈥檚 cooking because, even before the news that the coronavirus might have come from an undercooked bat or a snake, I鈥檇 been trying to go vegan. But this was the weekend when the government ordered the universities to close. So travelling up to Budapest from Szeged by train didn鈥檛 seem to be a smart move.

My partner, a vegetarian since her early 20s, was also looking forward to meeting 38 year old Hungarian Steiner, who describes himself as 鈥渁 passionate foodie and vegan YouTuber travelling the world with his husband Nimrod Dagan, holding cooking classes, pop-up dinners, foodie workshops, visiting festivals and markets.鈥

Steiner has published three vegan cookbooks, gives lectures, participates in roundtable talks and helps hotels, caf茅s, bars and restaurants to 鈥渧eganize鈥 their menus, or come up with new vegan dishes that fit with their profile. He鈥檚 also a social media expert helping other vegan, LGBTQ and travel influencers to succeed.

Born in Budapest, Steiner recently moved to Greece, to a tiny village of 12 people, where his lifestyle embraces zero waste, seasonal, locally sourced shopping and cooking with whole, unprocessed food ingredients.  As we couldn鈥檛 meet, Steiner kindly corresponded by email.
BBJ: How did you get into veganism?

Krist贸f Steiner: For many years I was hoping I鈥檇 get to a place where I wouldn鈥檛 be able to make excuses for eating meat. In our age of freely flowing information, ignorance is a matter of choice, so I got into researching and reading. One day I was sitting with my dog on my lap, munching on a huge piece of meat and it hit me: my pet gets everything he needs from me to be healthy and happy but I鈥檝e just ordered a leg of a goose that鈥檚 been slaughtered simply so I can eat. Right then I decided to stop contributing to the meat, dairy and egg production industries. This was 11 years ago, and I鈥檝e never, ever felt like I was missing animal products.

BBJ: Why did you become a vegan chef?

KS: I鈥檓 such a food freak that I couldn鈥檛 turn vegan and give up on my favorite dishes, so I started experimenting. After uploading my food creations online some editors from magazines and TV programs I used to work for asked me to do a column sharing vegan recipes. Not long after this, famous Hungarian food blogger Zs贸fia Mautner visited me in Tel Aviv, where I was living, tasted my food, and said: 鈥榊ou鈥檙e insane for not doing this professionally. You simply must write a cookbook.鈥 It鈥檚 important to state that I鈥檓 not a trained chef. I learn from chefs, just as they learn from me when we cook together. But I don鈥檛 believe in hierarchy in the kitchen.

BBJ: What do you offer people?

KS: Creative plant-based cooking ideas for whoever asks me. I was recently invited to put together the perfect vegan sandwich that included a Beyond Meat Patty for Burger Market Budapest. Sometimes I鈥檒l do a cooking-free workshop featuring dishes that can be created inside 30 minutes. Other times, we鈥檒l start from scratch and create a four-course themed dinner where we don鈥檛 use meat or dairy substitutes or any packaged products. We ferment vegan cheese and make our own 鈥渕ock meat.鈥 Whatever I do, I put my own stamp on it.

BBJ: Why do you think veganism is becoming more popular in Hungary?

KS: The same reason it鈥檚 becoming popular everywhere. We now clearly understand that the system we鈥檝e built and participated in is not sustainable. A plant-based diet 鈥 as radical it sounds 鈥 is still a relatively easy way of taking a huge step towards a more conscious lifestyle.

BBJ: Do you think veganism will grow in Hungary?

KS: I have no doubt veganism will grow all over the world, including Hungary. Major companies are going plant-based. Governments and global organizations support the shift. As human beings become more and more sensitive and intelligent, as we learn more and embrace compassion, the concept of eating animals will cease to exist.

BBJ: How is coronavirus impacting what you do?

KS: I鈥檓 having to rethink everything I鈥檓 doing. I was making my living from travelling the world and sharing food experiences with people. Several of our cooking holidays have been cancelled, as has the night of the museums in Budapest and a big food festival I was going to be part of. Several publications that used to publish my articles and recipes have closed down for the time being. I could panic but I鈥檓 rethinking how I want to contribute to building a society that can live on.

BBJ: How are you trying to mitigate that?

KS: I鈥檓 continuing to share recipes and ideas to help people connect to the joy of cooking and plant-based living. I鈥檓 focusing on what made me love cooking in the first place, creating food at home for Nimi, my loved one, and me.

BBJ: What are you doing for your community and society?

KS: I recently published an article asking people to join me raising money for a Hungarian doctors鈥 organization. My cooking videos and recipes, which I used to be paid for, are now being shared for free. I鈥檓 trying to help people survive and be well. We鈥檙e helping our village in Greece in every way we can; taking care of other people鈥檚 animals and doing their shopping. This is ultimately a time when we need to do things from a place of compassion and empathy.

If you鈥檇 like to experiment with plant-based cooking, Krist贸f鈥檚 YouTube channel is Krist贸f鈥檚 Kitchen. You can follow him on Instagram @kristofsteiner. His blog is www.proudhippieboy.com. His cookbook is here: http://kulcslyukkiado.hu/kristofskitchen

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