The story has started in 1857, when the son of a Bavarian baker left his home to try his luck in Budapest, better to say Pest at that time. Johann Adam Michael Gundel was 13 years old, and there was exactly 30 marks (currency in Germany before the EUR) in his pocket. He came to Pest by reason, one of the family’s distant relatives offered him a job as „piccolo-boy” in his brewery („piccolo” was an unique measure of beer – 2 dl – in the peacetime Budapest). 12 years passed by, and the diligent Gundel went as far, that in 1869 he bought the Wiener Beerhouse in the Király street, and after another 2 years became the owner of the legendary Blumenstöckle (literally „flower’s shrub”) in the downtown of the city.
According Kálmán Mikszáth, the big anecdote writer of the Hungarian literature, the story continued, like this: ….” being Gundel had no kids, he collected a pretty fortune, and retired from the business, saying: ‘God, you gave me money, but did not gave me children, why should I plod myself?’ But God was more clever, and after his retirement children started to come one by one. So, Gundel said again: „God, you gave me kids, but did not gave me money enough to support them. And he went back to the business, and rented out the Hotel Grand Duke Stephen.” As Mikszáth tributed to Johann Gundel, also Gundel tributed to Mikszáth – the famous „palóc soup” first was prepared as a suprise for the writer’s birthday, by Gundel’s own recipe.
The next generation of the Gundel family did not went under level either in the field of gastronomy. Charles Gundel took over the Wampetich Restaurant located in the City Park in 1910, and, of course named Gundel Restaurant. The Gundel became a big hit, not only in Budapest, but all over Europe. „ The Hungarian Brillat-Savarin” – wrote the papers – „Hungarian cuisin, and Hungarian hospitality. The first master of the Hungarian gastronomy, warm atmosphere, delicate tastes, treats of Lucullus – all dirigated by a genious chef and host- this is Gundel”.
Gundel continued to develope his own recipes too. The most known of them is the Gundel-pancake, but he had almost 20 gastronomical classics. Charles Gundel’s first book was published in 1926 – it was a bestseller of the age! – , and his Gundel Cookbook (1937) was translated during the years to 9 languages, and was published 140 times.More, than 2 million people learned to „cook in Hungarian” from it.
Gundel became internationally famous representing Hungary at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939. When the communist era came to Hungary, Gundel was run by the state. By the early 50’s all private businesses in the country had been nationalized, but because Gundel remained a symbol of Hungarian cuisine and culture, and received dignitaries from around the world, the government was anxious to use it to create the appearance that life was great and even better than it had been before the war. So Gundel remained glorious, even as much around it decayed under communist misrule.
During the decades Gundel Restaurant saw numerous famous guests, celebrities, actors and actresses, politicians and presidents, between them Jennifer Lawrence, Queen Beatrix, George Bush, Lady Di and Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Pope John Paul II, Roger Moore, just to mention a few. Gundel Restaurant caters the Hungarian Parliament’s official dinners and the Operaball of Budapst too.
In 1992, the restaurant was reopened by two American businessmen, Ronald S Lauder (the son of Estee Lauder, the cosmetic industry Queen) and George Lang (the owner of a famous restaurant in Lincoln Center in New York City, named “Café Des Artistes”). The same man who created the famed “I love New York” logo designed the logo for Gundel.