Nicole Shaw-Provillon, a resident of Bergen County, brought a little piece of Hungary back to the United States after four years in Budapest.
When Provillon traveled to Hungary with her family in 2013 and tried kürtőskalács for the first time, that’s when she really fell in love with the country.
“I was completely fascinated by this pastry,” Provillon said.
She explained that she didn’t understand why the pastry was not popular in the United States. After doing her research, she found a store in Queens and another in South Jersey that offered her new favorite bakery, but that wasn’t enough for her.
In September 2021, she opened her bakery Kurly Kürtősh, located in Nutley, to give people the chance to taste one of Hungary’s most famous street food, kürtőskalács also known as chimney cake. It’s a not-so-sweet dessert that can be topped with the right ingredients to add just the right amount of sweetness.
“For me, I can’t eat a lot of sweets in the United States because they’re too sweet and highly processed,” Provillon said. “I was able to go there and eat these pastries without any problem. And then I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to leave the country soon, what am I going to do?’ …and I said I was going to bring this back.
She said chimney cake is a unique pastry that she spent years learning to make. She learned on the street from locals who didn’t speak English and from an authentic chimney pastry chef who received a master craftsman award for making the best in Hungary.
She then traveled with Hungarian and Romanian friends to Transylvania, known to be a main origin of chimney cake.
“I said, ‘If you want to learn this, you have to learn it and do it right,'” Provillon said.
She then joined the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park to complete her experience and master the use of yeast.
Provillon brought chimney cakes to the United States in a unique way. She brought it back as an experience where customers can come to the bakery and see the process firsthand as everything is baked fresh in front of them.
“The culture behind it is amazing when you’re there, not only is it good…you see them cooking in front of you, they personalize them with a variety of flavors,” Provillon said. “So it’s almost magical, and when you eat them, they’re amazing.”
She said a lot of people don’t know that Kurly Kürtősh is a Hungarian company, and by providing this experience, it gives them a taste of the culture.
The slogan behind the whole experience is “unkurl your sweet spot”.
Provillon did some market research in Hungary and with the help of friends and a designer she finally settled on the name Kurly Kürtősh.
In 2017, when Provillon returned home with her family, she started baking chimney cakes at fairs and festivals to see if people would be interested in baking and if there would be a demand. She then began doing pop-ups at her Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Williams Sonoma locations to win foodie clientele.
When COVID-19 hit she was punished and in 2020 she decided to rent a small cafe space in Hackensack where Kurly Kürtősh stayed for a year. Word spread and the Hungarians were heading to Hackensack.
In Hungary, chimney cake is made on charcoal with nothing inside. However, Provillon said Americans aren’t the biggest fans of the plain dessert.
She decided to add an American twist to her chimney cakes and offers a variety of spreads and toppings to the delicious dessert.
Chimney cakes are baked in a rotisserie oven, and customers have the option of enjoying them plain or frothing the insides with Nutella, maple butter, or three-berry butter dip. The exterior can be covered in cinnamon, Oreos, edible sprinkles or a limited edition mulberry topping and can be enjoyed with a scoop of ice cream.
Aila Jaeromero, who has worked at Kurly Kürtősh since April, expressed her enthusiasm.
“I love working here,” Jaeromero said. “Honestly, I think that’s the people I meet here, they’re all so interested in the product.”
Provillon wanted to create a space where individuals can come with their sweet tooth, their family and their good energy. It’s a non-judgmental place where you can meet new people, have a good time and enjoy a good dessert.
She also offers a Hungarian-inspired lemonade she calls Sparkláde, “a fruit-flavored premium sparkling lemonade.”
When customers enter the bakery, they receive a warm welcome from Provillon and Jaeromero. They ask customers if it’s their first time at Kurly Kürtősh and if they answer yes, they educate them on the history of chimney cakes, the culture behind them and how they are traditionally made.
“I live my life on kindness, and I also try to make my space where everyone is welcome, where you can have a good time,” Provillon said.
One of his biggest assignments was serving the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC for two years in a row. She has also supported and partnered with Nutella, Google and Citi Global Headquarters.
“While the company is really designed to celebrate and sell Kürtősh,” Provillon said. “We’re really focused on, we’re kind of really in the business of spreading happiness.”
Davaughnia Wilson is a trainee journalist for Northjersey.com. Contact Davaughnia at [email protected]