Life here in Beijing can be a joy or an ordeal for any expat. And the so-called “China days,” or the moments when everything seems impossible and frustration overwhelms us, are potent enough that they could suck the life out of the most optimistic of us.
But as they say: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
And such has been the mantra of the professional chef and former beijingkids mommy reporter Pauline van Hasselt. Coming to Beijing with her gift of the gab (and her impeccable cooking skills), Pauline has brought verve and humor to the pages of beijingkids. She also set beijingkids‘ social platforms on fire, with her hilarious, personal viral narratives, including her Big in Beijing journey. She even turned that proverbial lemon into her successful brand: Pauline’s Cuisine, where she conducts bespoke cooking classes.
While Pauline ventured out into new adventures, including forming the Beijing Mother’s Guild in 2017, running her cooking classes since the autumn of 2018, and hosting clothing auctions for women, she also documented for her network how she overcame several health issues like depression and obesity.
More than three years since she arrived in Beijing, Pauline says her “expat life has come full circle” and she’s ready to take on new adventures in London, together with her family and her dog Charlie. But before their big move, we caught up with this intrepid chef-turned-writer-turned-community builder.
bjk: What will you miss the most in Beijing?
Pauline van Hasselt (PvH): Besides DiDi, WeChat, Taobao, and speedy food delivery, I will miss my friends and the community that I have built around myself and my family in Beijing.
bjk: What’s next for Pauline’s Cuisine and Beijing Mothers’ Guild?
PvH: Pauline’s Cuisine might set up shop in the UK where we are moving to. The Beijing Mothers’ Guild WeChat group will be taken over by one of the core members, and beijingmothers.com will see new faces of mother bloggers, and hopefully flourish while I am not in Beijing anymore.
bjk: What’s your advice for people who want to build a brand or a venture in Beijing?
PvH: First and foremost, check if there is somebody with the same idea. Other than that, marketing and promotion are key on WeChat. Anything is possible in Beijing and if you have a great idea, go for it!
And speaking of “go for it”, catch up with Pauline and listen to her stories while learning cooking skills and new recipes in her last few classes in the city. See the schedule below.
Pauline’s Cuisine: Protein Power, Mar 29
Want to bulk up or just looking to add a little more protein to your diet? Pauline’s Cuisine has the class for you. Learn to make fresh ricotta, chickpea salad, a frittata with spinach, honey sesame tofu, and sweet cashew dip, and then sit down to lunch on the delicious food you’ve made. Adults. RMB 420. 10am-1pm. Pauline’s Cuisine, Lido. (WeChat ID: paulus155)
Pauline’s Cuisine: Tea for Two at EAST Beijing, Apr 6
Join Pauline for a fun Saturday at EAST Beijing, and learn how to create the ultimate afternoon tea: scones with clotted cream, homemade jam, chocolate mousse, and finger sandwiches. Adults. RMB 420. 10am-1pm. East Hotel.
Pauline’s Cuisine: Pop-Up Lunch in Lido, Apr 10
A special lunch with Pauline is waiting for you! Come and join her last pop-up lunch in Beijing before she rides the rainbow-tailed unicorn to London! Adults. RMB 350. Starts noon. Pauline’s Cuisine Lido.
Pauline’s Cuisine: Chop Chop Knife Skills, Apr 14
Are you a budding chef? Is cooking your passion? One of the main cooking skills that you need to master is the art of handling and using the knife. Pauline will teach you how, in her last class before she goes on to another adventure! Adults. RMB 420. 10am-1pm. East Hotel.
Photos: Dave’s Studio and courtesy of Pauline van Hasselt