As world leaders do, she rolled up with a convoy of black SUVs and an entourage of bodyguards.
But it was really just a casual visit, as Hungarian President Katalin Novak stopped in for some tasty treats from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Budapest Bakeshop.
For Todd and Anett Kane, owners of the bakery, who brought Anett’s Hungarian roots to the business, it was an honour to host Novak in their Hungarian-inspired bakery.
Anett is Hungarian and moved to Canada 10 years ago. Together she and Todd started their business based on chimney cakes, a traditional Hungarian dessert, but with a twist.
While the hollow light bread is usually only a sweet treat, covered in sugar and cinnamon, they took a savoury approach and make theirs with cheese, bacon sausage — you name it.
They said Novak was thrilled to see them carrying on Hungarian traditions in Canada.
The whole visit was sort of a whirlwind — one they had to keep on the down low.
“We got an email from the Hungarian consulate in Toronto,” Todd said in an interview.
The email, with official letterhead, asked them to phone to arrange up a visit to the bakery.
“So right away, we call,” Todd said.
They were told a special delegation of about 25 to 30 people would be coming through with security.
“We asked, ‘Who’s coming?’ ” Anett said.
Todd said the two had their “jaws on the floor” looking at each other when they found out it would be the president of Hungary.
They were told Novak had heard great things about the bakery from people who work at the consulate and had visited before.
“What was also so cool about this was that Anett’s mom has been with us visiting since the middle of September. So here she is in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, visiting us, and she got to be there to meet the president of Hungary — of her own country — at the bake shop.”
Before Novak arrived, Todd said heavy security checked things out.
“Security came through the store and looked through everything, checked the back kitchen, checked (the business next door) and they were behind by our patio like between us and Treadwell,” Todd said.
“Within that five minutes, all of a sudden four of these big black Suburbans pull up on Queen Street right in front of the store. And the first two are security, the third one she gets out of, and all of a sudden, she’s walking into the shop.”
Novak was with her son and the Kanes said it was almost like meeting someone they’ve known forever.
“It felt like we know her. She was very, very friendly. She was shaking hands with everybody. It was amazing,” Anett said.
“She went to each of the staff and shook all their hands, introduced herself,” Todd added.
The highlight of the visit was being lauded for bringing a bit of Hungary to Canada.
“She was so proud that we were doing this traditional Hungarian pastry in Canada and bringing Hungarian culture across the ocean and carrying those special traditions on. She was really, really proud,” Todd said.
He said she spent about 45 minutes in the store, with the whole delegation trying lots of different items.
Novak, the youngest president Hungary has ever had and first female president of the country, tried the classic cinnamon sugar, but took home an Oreo, a sausage and an aged cheddar bun while she was there.
Anett said she was “shocked” by the visit.
“I would never in a million years think I would meet the president. And it was an amazing experience. And a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“My mom was calling my dad and calling everybody in Hungary. They just couldn’t believe it.”