Interview with Nicole Shaw-Provillon (Kurly Kurtosh)

By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez
Staff Writer

The Equinox interviewed Nicole Shaw-Provillon, the Founder and Co-Owner of “Kurly Kürtősh®”, a boutique dessert caterer specializing in authentic Hungarian chimney cakes. Chimney cakes (also known as kürtőskalács ) is a pastry with a soft and fluffy inside and a crispy outside (a cross between a hollow churro and donut). She won FDU over with her authentic chimney cakes when she visited our campus on November 18th, just in time to kick-start International Education Week. 

  • Where were you born and raised?

In New Jersey, not too exciting.

  • What first brought you to Hungary?

My husband’s job. He was relocated to Hungary for 4 years. 

  • How did you discover these Hungarian pastries? 

Chimney cakes are sold as street food all over Hungary. When I first tasted them I fell in love! 

  • How did you learn how to make them?

I started baking them over charcoal, which is the traditional method. I initially learned on the streets with the locals.  Then I was introduced to someone who received the master craft award for making one of the best in the country. One thing for sure: none of my teachers spoke English. I learned with the assistance of translators. 

  • What made you realize that this product could be a potential success in the US?

The process, the product and its widespread culture.  The scent alone makes everyone happy. Also, the process and pastry are really unique and there really isn’t any other brand that has my value proposition. 

  • Were there any obstacles of any kind while you were establishing this business?

Yes, first I was trying to find someone in Hungary to teach me. Since the dish is a street food from outside the city, it was really difficult to find someone in the city who knew how to make them. Another obstacle is educating the American public about this street food and my brand. It takes time to gain traction on something that a lot of people are unfamiliar with.

  • How much experience do you have so far?

I have made over 10,000 chimney cakes. I’ve been making them for 4 years total, two in Budapest and two in the US. While I lived in Hungary for four years, I’ve only started making chimney cakes for the last two years of my stay there. 

  • What’s your favorite part of making these cakes?

Just watching the joy in the expressions of my customers, really. My Hungarian customers are elated to see their beloved street food again, and my American customers are amazed at its uniqueness. 

  • Have you picked up/appreciated any Hungarian culture aspects?

Well definitely their diet. The food in Hungary is pure, and their farmers markets were true farmers markets. The majority of my groceries came from these markets because the ingredients were all local and fresh. I also appreciate the custom and culture behind chimney cakes. It is such a beloved pastry in Hungary that there is a festival dedicated to it and its many flavors.

  • What is the best piece of advice that you live by? 

I have two. First, be kind to everyone. This is why my business has grown quickly.  I care deeply about people, and this is reflected in all that I do. People can tell when you have humanity, too.

Second, do what makes you happy. People get so caught up in money or how they’re perceived in society that they end up making choices that leave them miserable. I followed my passion, and I don’t regret a single moment. If you are kind to everyone, and you do what makes you happy, then you will lead a fulfilling life. 
Find “Kurly Kürtősh®” on Facebook & Instagram: @kurlykurtosh

unnamed-1Photo by Jhoana T. Merino

Nicole Shaw-Provillon holding a raspberry kürtőskalács (i.e. chimney cake) with nutella.