Dedicated to serving safe and healthful food, Thought For Food is the flagship restaurant inside the urban holistic wellbeing centre the Living Room by Octave. The organic restaurant pays special attention to the sourcing of ingredients, and each dish is mindfully curated with an onsite nutritionist, underpinned by values of sustainability and well-balanced nutrition to nourish your body and soul. We had the chance to sit down with the restaurant’s executive chef, Alexander Bitterling, to find out what really makes Thought For Food tick.
Atlantic Mackerel, Carrot, Turmeric, Sour Cream
First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I came to Shanghai 2 years ago and I was working in Thailand and Australia before. I’ve always been driven by cooking and its endless possibilities and after working with some great chefs and gaining experience, I found my own way of providing hospitality. I enjoy being forward-thinking and evolving through food, ingredients, techniques, as well as building relationships with likeminded people.
How did you get started cooking and when did you know you wanted to become a chef?
No one in my family worked in hospitality, but I was influenced by growing up around nature, fishing and my mother and my grandparents’ cooking. Later, it was the idea of “creating” something with ingredients that really inspired me. I helped out at an Italian restaurant before going to culinary school and it was at my first real job where I met other chefs from great restaurants and learned about the various possibilities with food.
Tell us how you’re trying to do things differently at Thought For Food.
It is my first time working with a nutritionist and I am excited! I’ve always wanted to learn more about the nutrition of ingredients as it’s a unique way to include in our cooking methodology. We look at balancing meat and vegetable protein in dishes and portioning – it’s very important not to have too much fat and sugar intake. Our eating behavior is also very much related to our minds and so it’s also where it starts, one must be ready to make a change in their lifestyle and look in more detail at what they eat. That’s also why The Living Room by Octave is an integrated well-being centre because we also offer assistance and services from nutritionists and life coaches.
You provide food with a big emphasis on mindful preparation. How does one go about doing that?
We provide food that is balanced. We always think about integrating raw foods and lots of greens while maintaining a base of animal protein. We want our guests to enjoy their meals without sacrificing taste because being“healthy” doesn’t mean having to eat tasteless food. The ingredients we start with are what’s most important. We often use fermentation techniques and turn things like lacto-fermented cucumbers into tasty sauces for fish. We use special cutting techniques for fermented vegetables that are incorporated into our dishes. When making recipes and dishes we follow our principles and try to use natural sweeteners, fats, fermented foods and balance the dishes well.
What are some of the challenges you face in getting responsibly-, safely-sourced ingredients in China?
We face challenges when it comes to the traceability, transparency, infrastructure and availability of products. Furthermore, because many of us don’t really think about the origin of foods we consume, it’s most likely a matter of awareness and education. We have to start thinking ahead and spend more on good products rather than cheap chemically treated and grown foods. That’s why it’s important for us to know where our ingredients are from and what they have been through before arriving at our kitchen. We have to further connect and support the local producers that are serious about their products, and we are very glad to see that traceability is becoming more and more important in Shanghai. It’s an extensive process but we are happy about every new relationship with people and producers that care just as much as we do!
Moulard Duck Breast, Mountain Peach, Barley
For the uninitiated, what’s the one thing anyone must try at Thought for Food?
At TFF we are in harmony with the healthy living lifestyle and so all our offers are based on seasonal, traceable products that are presented in a natural way. There is something for everyone, but try our Green Asparagus Hummus, TFF Vesper Platter, Venison Shoulder & Siam Fragrance.
What’s your favourite healthy place to eat at in Shanghai, other than Thought for Food?
In general, I like to try Chinese vegetarian restaurants like Da Shu Wu Jie and places that are serious about their ingredients and cooking. For me, healthy food comes from the mind of the Chef and his approach to cooking.
357 West Jianguo Road
Killara Wagyu Beef, Red Apple, Watercress, Parsnip
Meyer Lemon Curd, Baked Buckwheat Ice Cream, Bee Pollen
Corn Flour Waffle, Milk Gel, Chinese Dates, Milk & Honey Ice Cream