Parenting and being a chef are similar in certain ways. You might feel pressured to cook something fresh every day when your kids are“starving and need to eat now”, but chefs deal with that situation all the time. What if a chef happens to be a parent? We wonder what super powers it takes to deal with both picky kids and picky customers. Our blog series Chef Papa and Chef Mama finds out.
37-year-old Franck Istel is the Executive Pastry Chef with The Opposite House. A French sweets veteran who has worked in several Asian cities including New Delhi and Bali, Franck now lives in Beijing with his Indonesian wife Syenie and daughter Julie (3). As much as Franck enjoys reading and table tennis, he prefers to spend more time with his family. He is also excited that Julie is going to kindergarten starting this September at The French International School of Beijing.
Have your cooking habits changed since you become a parent?
My cooking habits have not changed much. However, as parents, both my wife and I pay more attention on the products and groceries we purchase.
How has your career as a chef influenced your children?
Julie is still too young but she is already a big fan of chocolate, like her father.
How has your family influenced your cooking?
Every time I had school holidays, I would spend time in my godmother’s farm. The farm produced cheeses, sausages, and had a beautiful garden where you could find all kinds of nice fruits and vegetables. This helped me understand that even if you are the best chef, you cannot do anything without great products.
What is your first food memory when you were a kid?
Near my house in Strasbourg, we had a chocolate factory. I will always remember the amazing smell that was coming from the place every time I passed by.
What’s in your fridge now at home?
Milk, butter, fruits, vegetables, and lots of Indonesian condiments and food.
Is there a guilty-secret ingredient in your kitchen at home — something you’d rather not be spotted using?
What’s your favorite go-to ingredient?
Eggs, like many people, you can do lots of dishes with it and my daughter is a big fan either an omelet or simply fried with some steamed rice.
What’s your daughter’s favorite food?
In Alsace we have something call “spaetzle”, our version of pasta, it is served with a “knack sausage” and my daughter loved it when we were there. Fried rice is also on top of the list.
How would you help kids who don’t like veggies?
I would mix them to make a potage, sometimes adding a little amount of cream.
On your day off, what do you tend to cook for the family?
We like doing Raclette cheese with lots of side dishes to grill (though not really for summer), it is fun and convivial. My wife also cooks quite often; she likes to cook Indonesian food.
Do you teach your children about nutrition and food origins?
She is still a bit too young to understand nutrition but we make sure to tell Julie the origins of the dishes she eats. Having a French father, an Indonesian mother, and living in China (India before moving to Beijing) helps to explain the difference between foods.
Which are you and your family’s favorite restaurants in Beijing?
Photos: courtesy of The Opposite House