DINERS in Shanghai certainly aren’t starved when it comes to world-class restaurant options. But there’s more to eating than just satisfying your taste buds. If you’re a real foodie, there’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and making your own culinary creations.
Here’s just a sampling of the places in Shanghai where you can unleash your creative culinary energy and delve deeper into the fine art of food preparation.
It’s no surprise that the Zotter chocolate factory is often described as a real life Willy Wonka’s. It’s a comparison the Zotter family doesn’t shy away from. In fact, they even endorse it. On one of its brochures for the first factory the Austrian chocolatier family built outside its native country, birthday parties are advertised as making kids feel like Charlie at the chocolate factory. The major difference would be that Zotter won’t let any children disappear, of course.
In Austria, Zotter’s experimental chocolate bars have garnered a cult-like following. Flavors like apple and carrot with ginger, basmati rice with saffron, cheese-walnut-grapes or coffee plum with bacon have helped distinguish the company from its fellow confectioners. More traditional flavors like caramelized nut, thousand layer nougat and walnuts with marzipan are also available.
“My family isn’t really known for doing what’s easiest,” says Julia Zotter, Josef’s daughter.
The factory in Shanghai, which opened in 2014, is the family business’s first attempt to expand operations beyond the borders of central Europe.
China isn’t exactly known as a major chocolate consumer, Julia says, so to make their products more attractive to local consumers, the Zotter’s came up with the idea of DIY chocolate as part of a guided sampling tour through the factory.
At the factory’s MiXing Bar, located half way through the two-hour tour, visitors will be invited to create their own chocolate with help from expert chocolatiers. By this point, they will have already learned how Zotter’s organic and fair-trade chocolates are produced. They can dip a little ceramic spoon into a number of chocolate varieties, like soy and rice milk, golden millet or smart and fine bitter, which run down from chocolate fountains. You can then pick a chocolate casting mold, which come in the shape of cows, fish, stars, hearts or a mouse and chose some of your favorite types of chocolate.
This is where the real fun starts: Making your own chocolate at Zotter leaves you with thousands of different combinations. There’s cardamom and chili powder, droplets in strawberry or passion fruit flavor, crushed rose petals, lavender, dried raspberries, and just about any nut you can think of. Pick your favorite ingredients and stick them onto your chocolate or drizzle them on top — no matter your choice, chances that your chocolate is absolutely unique are high as the combinations seem endless. The chocolate is then cooled, wrapped and placed in a pretty little chocolate box. At the end of the tour, you’ll be able to take home your own, handmade chocolate.
Venue: Zotter Organic Chocolate factory
Time and price: 180 yuan for the tour and 60 yuan for the chocolate
Address: Shanghai Fashion Center, No. 2866, Bldg 9, Yangshupu Rd
CHAR steak class
The steak appreciation class at CHAR in the Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund covers everything from animal husbandry and choosing the perfect cut of beef.
Presented by Chef Willmer Colmenares himself, the class also delves into visual indicators of quality such as marbling, color and texture. Participants will sample some of the world’s highest-quality beef as they learn. In the end, students will cook their own steak with the help of Colmenares, who will share his secrets on how to prepare a quality cut in the pan, in an oven or roasted over a flaming grill.
The class includes samples of 11 different varieties of steaks including Tajima Wagyu, Black Angus beef and David Blackmore beef. Tender, succulent, and devastatingly rich, a slice of David Blackmore beef will melt in your mouth like a pat of butter. And as if that weren't indulgent enough, CHAR serves the Blackmore fillets with foie gras, lobster, sautéed wild mushrooms, and shaved truffles. Students are also welcomed to enjoy a menu of creative gourmet indulgences inspired by the cuisine of Asia, the Mediterranean, and Latin America to complement the steaks.
Venue: Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund
Time and price: Every last Thursday and every Saturday of second week, 1-3pm in CHAR for 350 yuan per person, which also includes a light lunch. Reservations are highly recommended.
Address: 585 Zhongshan Rd E2
Fissler is one of the world’s leading cookware brands, and its self-branded academy is designed to promote both the joys of cooking as well as interest in healthy living.
At the academy, visitors can study the culture of Chinese and Western cooking. They can also learn about table manners, coffee, tea, wine and nutrition.
Fissler Academy is an ideal venue for team building events and birthday parties. Its private kitchens are also a great place to learn and have fun with friends.
The cooking menu changes based on the season and suggestions from students. Next month, the highlight of the menu will be yanduxian (a typical Shanghai soup with bamboo shoots, salted and fresh pork, usually served during the Spring Festival), koushuiji (steamed chicken topped with chili sauce), as well as wine and smoked salmon salad.
Meanwhile, the special kids menu includes orange radish salad, bruschetta Bolognese, mango pudding, chocolate cookies, fruit tarts and fresh squeezed juice. Of course, parents can also join in the excitement.
It’s not all fun and games at the academy though. It’s also a platform where professional chefs can come together, learn and exchange ideas.
“I have attended many cooking schools around the world, and Fissler Academy shows the most interesting parts of cooking rather than boring rules in recipe books,” said Paul Pairet, an advisor to Fissler as well as the chef at Ultraviolet and Mr & Mrs Bund.
Address: 5G04A, No. 1368 Expo Ave.
Address: Rm 219, No. 333 Tianyaoqiao Rd
Tel: 6121-3608 ext. 108
Address: 6/F, 1438 Hongqiao Rd
Please check the menu on website: www.fissleracademy.com.cn