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Xpat Interview: András Szabolcs, Owner, Funky Pho Vietnamese Restaurant

Xpat Interview: András Szabolcs, Owner, Funky Pho Vietnamese Restaurant

I didn’t have much to do with the hospitality industry until opening Funky Phofour months ago. I have M.Sc. in economic studies and after graduation I started to work for large accounting firms in Budapest, specialized in information security.

After having spent six years at Deloitte and KPMG I took a position at Coca-Cola at the Company’s global HQ in Atlanta. My job required heavy travel world-wide, in those four years with Coke I had the chance to gain work experience in 18 countries and to visit around another 20. Working for Coke with all this travel was an amazing experience.

Still my wife and I have moved back to Budapest in 2008 with the aim to start our own restaurant business, in the long run. But first I’ve joined an IT consultancy start-up then helped to take a marketing agency start-up to the next level until after a very long preparation phase we’ve opened Funky Pho in May 2013. I had the chance to try myself in different job positions in different countries during my career years but I must say that building a restaurant brand from scratch is far the most exciting, intellectually challenging as well as the most rewarding task I’ve ever done in my life.

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kaposvár that is a medium-sized town in the south-west of Hungary. Quite regular childhood, nothing too extreme.

2. If you could be an expat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I’ve lived the expat life with my wife Éva for four years, working for Coca-Cola in the US. As my position required heavy travel my wife and I had the opportunity to spend periods of 2-6 months in 15 different countries in Asia, Africa and in the Americas. The top places we could imagine spending a longer period of time are Uruguay for its kind people, Berlin for its cool atmosphere and Japan for its out-of-this-wordiness.

3. What would you miss most if you moved away from Hungary?
As we’ve actually moved away from Hungary for a while we definitely know that we’d miss our friends and families most.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
As a restaurateur I’d obviously say that tasting some well-prepared Hungarian food, followed by ruin pub hopping and visiting a Turkish bath the day after to relax are the top must dos.

5. What is your favourite food?
That is a tricky one. My favorite food keeps changing - as does my favorite movie or music. Right now my favorite is sharing a huge slice of cool, super-sweet water melon with our baby-girl. Oh, have I mentioned Pho yet? Eating it every day and just can’t get bored at it. And I really mean that.

6. What is your favourite sport / form of exercise?
Doing kettlebell exercises. It’s a very intense form of work-out so I can usually manage to fit in even two trainings a week. Always feels great having survived a training session.

7. What is your favourite place in Hungary?
We love the outdoor, so our favorite spots are in the countryside. Maybe the small villages in the hills to the North of Lake Balaton.

8. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
Well, I’ve worked for large multinationals in and outside Hungary, in the field of information security. Then I was managing two startups in Hungary, one being an IT consultancy and the other a marketing agency with a social media focus. Now I concentrate on this restaurant startup, Funky Pho and I like this one definitely the most of all. A good restaurant is a much happier business than all the others I’ve experienced so far. I wouldn’t change it for anything else as of now.

9. What’s a job you would definitely never want?
Doing three shifts in a butchery? I just cannot stand the night shift :-)

10. Where did you spend your last vacation?
It was a mix of business and leisure back in the spring to Israel. I was quite impressed by the creativity of the Israeli folks in the field of information security as well as in the restaurant scene. Despite watching restaurant experiences through totally different eyes now, visiting a restaurant I still count to the leisure part.

11. Where do you hope to spend your next one?
We’ll take some time off in the summer, just trying to relax some as our 15 month old baby-girl and 3 month old restaurant allows. But the one I’m really looking for would be a trip this coming winter to Vietnam together with all our four chefs. The purpose would be to get more inspiration for our work and of course to relax too.

12. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
I was a Nirvana kid. Man, I think I even cried when Kurt Cobain shot himself almost 20 years ago.

13. Apart of temptation what can’t you resist?
I absolutely cannot resist smiling when our daughter is chasing cats shouting meow-meow really, really loud..

14. Red wine or white?
I love wine, has been visiting vineries in and outside Hungary for 15 years now. I love both, depending on the mood and food.

15. Book or movie?
As above. Ah, as for the food stuff, I mean peanuts vs. popcorns…

16. Morning person or night person?
I used to be a night person but with the kid and the restaurant I’ve turned into a morning person.

17. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
Huhh, I’d say politics in Hungary in general, as it affects all the social issues in my close surrounding. And it’s very a disturbing feeling I must say.

18. Buda or Pest side?
Pest for all the action and creative vibe.

19. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased about?
So far it’s the work experience at Coke. Just after couple of days joining the Company I was sitting sipping a good Suntory whiskey with my wife on the balcony of our high-tech 21th floor apartment in Tokyo, overlooking the city with Tokyo tower in the not-so-far distance. I was pretty much pleased then. Hope to be as pleased about this restaurant venture as well in the very close future.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?
Decide who you want to be, then roll up your sleeves and be it.


15.08.2013

 




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