At the exclusive members’ club, Shanghai Town & Country Community in Puxi, guests can enjoy luxurious facilities and high-end dining. Culinary Director Alexandre Molina brings years of experience and expertise to the dining area of the club, and on March 29, he is hosting a kids’ cooking class with Urban Family and STCC.
Alexandre started his formal culinary training at the School of Hotel And Tourism in Nice in 1983 with apprenticeship training at the Restaurant La Vie du Cros, Cagnes sur Mer, France. With a career spanning over 25 years of experience in the culinary field, he has worked with several Michelin starred chefs in Europe and extensively around Asia including Tokyo, Singapore and now Shanghai and the US. He has worked at hotels, independent restaurants, on cruiseships and even a stint as a private chef for a family in Connecticut, US.
We sat down with him to talk about the event as well as food and family in general.
You have worked in the culinary field in Europe, Asia and North America. Do you change the style of the food depending on where you are or do you try to keep a specific identity?
I do keep my personal identity, but at the same time, I mix different styles. I was born in France but my cooking is influenced by the Mediterranean cuisine as well; for example, I don’t like to use too much butter and cream as I prefer olive oil. I also like to add some Asian influences, although I wouldn’t call it a fusion as I don’t go to any extremes.
How did you become interested in food?
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I realized that I was interested in cooking and that I wanted to be a chef. I used to watch my mother and my grandmother cook and I enjoyed helping out in the kitchen. My grandmother was from Spain and she used to cook traditional comfort food but always with a twist. She taught me a lot about food and gave me some influences from her home country.
Do you get a lot of inspiration from Nice, your hometown?
Yes, although I am influenced by different cuisines, I remember the different flavors and dishes I grew up with and they will always influence me in my work.
From around the world, what is your favorite cuisine?
Of course I would say the French, but I really like Chinese food too. Not so much the really oily dishes, but dim sum, sweet & sour and spicy dishes are always favorites.
Have you discovered any new ingredients you like to use since you started working in China?
Yes, there are a lot of ingredients to discover here, for example all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. There are also a lot of different spices and sauces that I find interesting. I discovered that instead of using pasta dough when making ravioli, I could use wonton skin to stuff with meat or whatever I put inside.
At STCC I imagine there are a lot of different nationalities. How do you cook for such a diverse crowd?
When we offer a six or eight course meal, I like to compose a mixed menu. A mix of Western, Chinese and Japanese dishes gives everyone an option, and I’ve noticed that especially Germans love the concept of mixing western dishes while adding some Asian elements such as a Japanese soup.
You have three children and now you are hosting a cooking class with parents and kids. What is it like to let kids take over your kitchen?
My children are 8, 9 and 10 years old and they really enjoy cooking with me. I don’t see it as a problem because whenever I cook with children, I get to show them and teach them things and they enjoy helping. Although their favorite thing to make is usually pastries!
Tell us your thoughts on the menu you have prepared for this event.
The day before, we are hosting an eight course lobster gala dinner centered around ingredients from Nova Scotia. The cooking class will follow the same theme and we will be making lobster risotto from Nova Scotia, blueberry muffins and more for the lunch for children and parents.
What do you and your family eat at home?
I always cook because my wife is working a lot. We usually eat western food, but my mother-in-law who is Singaporean has taught me a few things I sometimes apply to the dinners at home. I always put effort into the food I make for my family because I don’t want our meals to be boring.
Can you give any advice to busy parents who want to give their kids good home cooked food?
Kids are always a bit difficult when it comes to fruit and vegetables. My tip is to incorporate a lot of vegetables into the food in a way that the children won’t notice it. When my kids were babies I used to mix homemade puree from fruit and vegetables. I used to freeze it like ice cubes to always have something healthy to just defreeze. This idea has stuck with me and I still make mashed and mixed vegetables in different forms. When kids see a whole vegetable in its original shape they might refuse to eat it, but when it’s hidden in some way, like chopped into small pieces and put into a lasagna, they can’t tell and don’t have a problem eating it.
On March 29, Alexandre Molina, STCC and Urban Family are hosting a cooking class event for kids and parents. If you have a child above the age of 10, you have a chance to win a slot where the two of you get to cook (and eat!) an exclusive 3-course meal including lobster risotto and more (includes 2 hours play in the kids zone). Parents of the winner can also attend STCC’s 8-course lobster gala dinner on March 28 for free. Nine other contestants win a free day pass for the family at STCC. How to compete:
- Take a picture of a dish you’ve made with a description of the dish with the heading #Little Chef at STCC#. Post it on Wechat moments.
- Screenshot that moment and send to STCC’s Wechat (Search STCC2013 for Chinese or DDISTCC for English).