A pot of homemade stock gently simmers over the stove as Gilles-Alexandre Salansy prepares his hare stew. “I use the bones for the stock so there won’t be any waste,” he explains, “I cook hare for my family very regularly, but the process for making most French stews is often the same.” The stock is then drained and put aside as the meat is browned in a separate pot. Once the meat is semi-cooked, it is quickly taken out and replaced with shallots and a cup of white wine.
As the alcohol evaporates, the pre-made stock, flour and a big dollop of butter is added. “French cooking right?” he says with a wink, “I prefer using butter than oil.” The cooked hare meat is then reintroduced to the pot along with fresh mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper and left to simmer and reduce.
Salansy, Director of Outsourcing Services at Mazars and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs, like several other members, finds that cooking provides an exciting change of pace from his usual packed duties at work.
When Salansy was studying for his Master’s degree in Engineering, he had to move away from his parents’ home. As a full-time student focused on his studies, Salansy soon realized how costly it was to eat out all the time. He decided to minimize his spendings by trying his hand at cooking. “My parents always cooked at home,” he says, “so I chose to emulate them when I left.”
He formed a cooking club with several like-minded engineering students. Together, they cooked at events to show others that it was possible to cook for a lot of people with a limited budget. “When you do something that you like and people like it too, it makes you happy,” he says.
In addition to his prowess for traditional French cooking, Salansy is also a skilled baker and pastry chef. Instead of purchasing bread from outside bakeries like most families, Salansy chooses to bake his own for his family every weekend. “I’d say flour is my most used ingredient. It’s used for bread, waffles and pancakes for breakfast, and even in my sauces. I use it in absolutely everything,” Salansy explains.
The weekends are a time for Salansy to change his family’s usual Asian diet, and also serve as a means to express himself through cuisine. “I can only cook during the weekends, so I’ll organize my work schedule for only the weekdays, even if it means working longer hours,” he says.
Patience, together with the determination to improve, will always yield positive results. “Having success with a dish made for the first time can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” he advises.
To Salansy, the gathering of family around the dining table is sacred. “Cooking is about sharing and spending more time together with family and friends,” he explains. “You share a passion, an experience and a culture, but it’s also about having a good time.”
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