GRATITUDE CAN TRANSFORM COMMON DAYS INTO THANKSGIVINGS, TURN ROUTINE JOBS INTO JOYS, AND CHANGE ORDINARY OPPORTUNITIES INTO BLESSINGS. WILLIAM ARTHUR WARD
Every family has their stories. They get passed down from generation to generation like old charms we glide our hands over until they feel smooth. They comfort us. They give us hope. Some make us laugh while others make us cry. They connect us to our history, ancestral blood that runs through our veins, that helps us feel we are not alone; a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
Some stories get elaborated on over the years, but most love stories, at least at its base, remain the same.
I heard such a story the other day…
The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach!
“My father came to Budapest to research his family heritage, to see first hand where his father was originally from and to see where his life story began.”
This boy’s grandpa left for New York City from Hungary like many families escaping communism in the sixties. It is such a painful part of history for most Hungarians who still remember, having already lived through Nazi terror of WWII. It is something that most families rarely talk about.
“So there he was exploring the beautiful city of Budapest in 1999, a decade after the communists left, visiting the monuments and retracing his family heritage.
One day he finds himself in a gym, pumping iron, when he met this interesting man from Israel and they began to talk.
After a fascinating conversation, this man invited my father to a party at his home the following night.
Happy for the company, not knowing anyone in town, he eagerly baked his chocolate banana cake to bring to the party.
At the party he met the family of this man. Some were living in Budapest full time for school and others were visiting from Israel.”
It was here he would meet his future wife, a mysterious woman with long dark hair, and beautiful eyes. She was very outspoken and strong, and he was instantly taken by her.
However this love story had a small hiccup, “She had a boyfriend back home in Israel.”
“At the end of the evening my father served the cake.”
In turn he gave everyone a slice of his true confections, saving the last piece to give to this very intriguing lady. He rested there and talked to her while she ate the cake.
“As legend has it, it was unlike anything she had ever tasted before. He told her how he made it, how he had spent the last year in France. He told her about his dream to open a restaurant of his very own one day…”
Something inside her knew at that very moment that this was the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with.
From that day he pursued her until she became his wife!
Perhaps it was something in the cake? A taste that brought a sense of comfort, that signaled to her, “This is the one!”
“Thank goodness he didn’t make pumpkin pie! Who knows where we would be?” Ethan, oldest of their three children.
Eva’s food memory…
As a kid, I remember visiting our family bakery in Canada. Fresh bread would come out of the oven, big bowls of whipped cream waited to be used up on cakes and pastries, puff pastry stretched out on Dad’s baker’s block ready for his savoury sausage rolls, and meat pies. Everything baked to fluffy tender crisp perfection. Of course there were deep fried donuts full of custard creams, chopped oranges and apple cinnamon then dipped in sugar glaze. The showcase full of Black Forest and carrot cakes, cream slices, peanut butter cookies and rich dark chocolate brownies. It was a kid’s dream!
He would come home from work and I would hug him. Flour would get all over me as I smelled all the yummy desserts and bread he had baked.
Growing up in a bakery was a gift.
So when I met David, the owner of Baraka and he told me he bakes all the in house specialty breads; I understood his passion instantly.
Baraka in Judaism is a blessing usually recited during a ceremony. In Islam, it is the beneficent force from God that flows through the physical and spiritual spheres.
Many of us share the desire to eat delicious foods, to play with flavours, and to reinvent old recipes to make them our own.
Once you visit Baraka the restaurant here in Budapest, you will feel blessed to partake in the sinful foodie pleasures. Dishes are visually stunning art that plays with all your senses. It is an experience, not just a meal, and chef uses only the finest ingredients available to him to create exceptional fine dining.
Their menu boasts items like seared goose foie gras with poached pear, port, and peanuts or Brittany Blue Lobster duo poached and tempura with lemongrass, and ponzu.
Main courses include Omaha Black Angus Filet Mignon, smoked black onion, with sweet potato or Hungarian specialty fusions like deer “Spring Roll”, vegetable “Opera”, sweet chili salsa.
Baraka has rave reviews on Tripadvisor !
David’s wife Leora runs the back end of the business. The books, the ordering, the hiring and finding the right ingredients from all around Europe that she brings to your table in their fine-dining restaurant.
Together they make the winning combination between style and flavours, business and passion that make up Baraka; a hidden gem in the downtown core.
Getting to know them on a personal level through our children, I find them an amazing source on how life should be lived.
They are a good example of a happy life. And that’s why I had to share their unique expat story with you!
Here’s the interview…
Who are you?
We are Leora Levy-Seboek, originally from Yehud, Israel, and David Seboek, born in New Jersey and raised in New York State.
How does a girl from Israel and a boy from New York City end up in Budapest, Hungary?
We met here in Budapest but both of us were visiting at the time, so we didn’t actually move to Hungary, but rather we stayed for an indefinite amount of time.
Leora was visiting her brother who was a medical student at Semmelweis University in September 1998. She decided to stick around a bit longer than originally planned to make a go at the real estate boom which was taking place in the late nineties in Hungary.
I arrived on March 16th 1999 after one year spent in Angers, France working as a stage in a pastry shop.
Budapest was my stop on the way home because I always wanted to learn about my Hungarian roots and to speak Hungarian; a language I heard my whole life but never learned.
Did you experience culture shock?
The culture shock I experienced was basically due to the lack of understanding the language. The sound was very familiar to me, but not many people spoke English back then, and this is one of the reasons I learned to speak quite quickly.
Otherwise, I already spent one year in Europe so the change was not that much of an impact then if I came straight from the States to Hungary. I was already used to the smaller automobiles and parking spots, different siren sounds, and amazing architecture from many years before The United Stated was even a thought.
Did you do anything since deciding to stay in Budapest that you never expected?
Since deciding to stay in Budapest and start our life together, we opened a restaurant, which was always a dream that we never thought would come to fruition; especially in a Central European country.
A lot has happened over the past eighteen years that you could say was unexpected, but I guess I can say that staying here for more than three years is the most unexpected thing I’ve done here.
As a couple, we are starting our 7th three year plan of leaving and starting over somewhere else…
How do you keep busy in Budapest?
We are restaurateurs. We own Baraka, one of the best fine dining restaurants in Budapest.
I bake the homemade bread and Leora is the manager. We take turns in the evenings hosting guests from all over the world.
We are also the parents of three children, which keeps us unbelievably busy!
What do you do to integrate into your community?
We actually don’t integrate too well to the local Hungarian community, except when frequenting our favorite coffeeshop down the street called Matineé.
We do however connect with many other expats through the children’s French private school where they attend in District II.
We are also members of the local Hebrew school, and are a part of the Jewish community here in Budapest.
Most of our friends are mixed couples, either one Hungarian married to an Anglophone from somewhere else, or an Israel married to a French etc… It seems we connect best to people who have travelled around and share similar experiences to our family.
Tell me a little known fact about Hungary
Hungary produces the best quality goose and duck liver in the world. Even France imports a lot of foie gras from Hungary.
France also imports snails from Hungary, sold as Burgundy escargots.
What’s the worst thing about being an expat?
Actually, I don’t feel like an expat often after so many years living and working here, this is simply our home.
The worse thing about living here and not being Hungarian is being asked from Hungarians over and over again…”Why are you here? Is the USA not better? Why would you live in Hungary when you could have a great life in New York?”
Of course, I miss my family and friends and all the celebrations of birthdays and holidays and anniversaries and births and monumental moments in the lives of close ones.
And Costco!!!! Who doesn’t love Costco?!
Other than that, being an expat is not too bad….
Favourite thing about living here?
My favorite thing about living here is that I can pretend that I don’t understand what’s going on here politically, which most of the time I’m not pretending. We can tune out the local b.s. and concentrate on our bubble, which hopefully won’t be popped by any local influences.
Leora, What advice would you give fellow expats when moving to Budapest ?
I think David would agree, but I would suggest for people to live in the heart of the city centre, where you don’t need a car and everything is steps away from your front door.
We live in a large apartment in Pest in the 6th district in a picturesque neighbourhood that is on a very quiet tree lined street with sidewalks. It is mostly local traffic parked outside.
It feels safe to let the kids go to the park or take a walk, and often we visit local restaurants and take them on activities. It really is a very special place to live.
We all have bus passes and know the city by transit very well. Everything is well planned out, like most big cities in Europe, and it is often faster by transit than by car.
Also my advice for expats living here, is to put your kids into everything! Another great part about living in Budapest is the cost of extracurricular activities for our three children. They are in fencing, dance, math clubs, swimming, handball… and for a fraction of the price in The States or Israel. This is a blessing when keeping the children active outside of school.
The children are by far our biggest joy.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working to make Baraka the best restaurant in Budapest and for it to be able to run to its full capacity at all times of the day, everyday.
Then we plan on opening a very casual place where we will have a bakery, café and delicatessen to sell simple but great quality food and, of course, the best bread in town!
Visit their website Baraka
Eva’s side note,
Alfonz and I had the rare occasion to film in their restaurant this past week! Baraka is where we filmed our decision scene for House Hunters International our story about why we left southern France for Budapest Hungary.
We ate croissants, sipped cappuccinos all while enjoying the beautiful decor of Baraka. I watched David make bread in the back and he served coffee to the film crew. He was very charming. The production company was so taken by him they asked him to be on film. David happily obliged. A star is born!
For all David’s family back home in the big apple, stay tuned for our episode! It is sure to be good!