George Lang | D&T Archive

Gundel re-inventor George Lang dies

Hungarian restaurateur George Lang passed away on the fifth of July in his home in New York City at age of 86.

George Lang was born in a little country village, Tamasi in western Hungary. After completing his school studies, he went to Budapest to study music. Being a perfectionist throughout his life, he had the vision to become one of the best violin players in the world.

His encouraging progress was cut short by Word War II when his parents were transported to concentration camp where they perished. He was taken to labor camp from which he escaped. Having no relatives left in Hungary, he decided to leave the country and even Europe. He carefully planned his escape and was transported to Vienna hidden in a coffin. Soon, he managed his way to New York City where he went on studying music and played in different orchestras.

One night, as he attended a concert by Yasha Heifetz in Central Park and after listening to his rendition of Paganini, he went home, packed away his violin forever as he knew that he would never even be close to the best.

He started to study as a cook in one of the best places and then, he went on to be the Banquet Manager in the Waldorf Astoria where he organized hundreds of functions. In 1975, he rented a space in the Hotel des Artistes. There, he brought to life the Cafe des Artistes, which was for 30 years one of the best restaurants among the tens of thousands of establishments in New York.

In the meantime, he set up a restaurant consulting office, hiring the best experts in different fields and was involved in over 400 projects in several countries. Originally, he had not intended to come back to Hungary but when he wrote the Cuisine of Hungary, he came to collect recipes and stated that life is a bit different to that the one he left.

In 1991, he encouraged Ronald Lauder to create a partnership to restore the fame of the old Gundel Restaurant. With Lauder’s financial background, he invited the best constructors and craftsmen available. Gundel reopened in 1992 and due to George’s tremendous marketing work, so far not seen in Hungary, gained widespread fame throughout the world.

He considered the reconstruction of Gundel as one of his greatest successes, and he was only 67 years old... Although, he did not hide his methods, it was really hard to follow him. The most important things to learn from him along with the hundreds of tricks of the restaurant business were his perfectionism and respect toward the guest. He enjoyed Gundel for fourteen years.

Upon his death, he left behind his loving family, wife Jenifer, daughter Georgina and son Simon.


Gábor Buday

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