11-Year-Old Chef at Wine & Spirits Expo: An Interview

Alexandre Passalacqua will be leading a "Cooking With and For Kids" demo this coming Sunday, February 26, at 6 p.m. in the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event is part of Blazing Kitchen, an ongoing interactive series of culinary demonstrations, seminars, and tastings within the second annual Miami Wine & Spirits Expo being held this weekend -- an alternative to those who may not have tickets to that other food festival also taking place.

Alexandre, a Miami native who attends Somerset Academy, will be demonstrating how fast, easy, and safe it is for children to prepare their own meals. On the menu: Croque-monsieur, macaroni-and-cheese, and pita pizza. "Romin and Yasmany (cooks from LouLou Le Petite Bistro) will help me a little bit," concedes the young Passalacqua, whose love of cooking comes from his father Victor Passalacqua (Culinary and Special Events Director of Miami Wine & Spirits and long-time Miami chef/restaurateur/consultant). We asked Alexandre about his specialties, favorite restaurants, and what cooking means to him.

New Times: At what age did you start getting involved in cooking?
Alexandre Passalacqua: When I was 7 my dad allowed me to come into the kitchen to prepare my favorite breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. At that time I was allowed to crack and beat the eggs. I then discovered that food was a pleasure to not only eat but also to make.

What are a few dishes you can cook now?
Mussels marinieres, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni-and-cheese, and salads.

Do you have a specialty?
Breakfast-like pancakes with fruits and whipped cream.

Any favorite chefs besides your dad?
I like Philippe Ruiz's steak-and-fries. He would make it for me when I was little at his restaurant (Palme d'Or) in the hotel (Biltmore).

Do you have a favorite restaurant?
I like Moonchine's brunch buffet. I liked the now-closed Botticelli.

Is your goal to become a professional chef?
No, I would like to be a professional athlete.

I really didn't expect you to say that. What kind of athlete?
A football player.

Who are your favorite players?
Ted Ginn Jr. of the Dolphins, but they traded him. Also Mark Sanchez.

What is it about cooking that you like?
Cooking makes me happy and I love the anticipation that comes before trying something I prepare. It is a lot of fun, and brings me closer to my dad. During the holidays, my cousin Maxine in Canada told me that I was lucky to cook with my dad and I said, "I KNOW!" And as he says, "A family that cooks together sticks together!"

Thanks Alexandre.
Thank you.

If you'd like to see your kids become a bit more proficient in the kitchen, bring 'em down to the Convention Center on Sunday (ticket info is on the website). If you're lucky, you'll get to taste Alexandre's macaroni-and-cheese.

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