Open Mic: 12-year-old aspiring chef Alfred Moisan on writing his first book
"Hello, my name is Alfred and I am 12 years old. When I am older, I would love to be a chef."
Can you remember what you were doing when you were 12? I would go to school in the morning, study in the afternoon, and play football or basketball with my mates. That's it. I certainly wasn't busy writing a book or winning cooking competitions. Which is what 12-year-old aspiring chef Alfred Moisan has, amazingly, managed to achieve so far.
During the latest English lockdown, award-winning young cook Alfred, from Kent, decided to combine his passion for food with the goal of raising money for charity. He interviewed a wide range of known personalities within the global food and drinks industry – including names like chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli, Sandrine Garbay of Chateau d’Yquem, Pascaline Lepeltier MS, and Jancis Robinson – and collated all interviews into a book.
In Conversation with Alfred is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of behind the scenes, stories, and anecdotes from some of the world's greatest food and wine professionals (plus one not that great, yours truly). It's also a love letter to the food and hospitality industry, a much-needed positive story at this very difficult time for the sector.
After such a remarkable achievement, I caught up with Alfred (and his supportive dad) to learn more about his project and asked him some of the questions readers would find inside his book.
How did the idea of writing this book come about?
After trying to find things to do during lockdown, I thought about ideas to combine my passion for cooking with raising money for charity. I thought of original questions to ask rather than the same ones that journalists usually ask.
I searched online on various websites about chefs, but mostly I used the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. My dad helped me with the vineyards. Then we looked for the email addresses and messaged them the questions.
[Publishing a book] definitely isn’t as easy as it seems; you have to put in so much effort. I came up with the idea in the middle of January during lockdown and the book was finally published at the end of June.
Tell me about your passion for food?
I have always loved food and the industry surrounding it. I was inspired by Stephen Harris (chef and owner of the Sportsman in Kent) when I read his cookbook.
What about the Kent Young Cook competition that you won in 2019?
You had to cook the dish in 90 minutes and keep to a budget of £2.50. I practised at home many times. Also I emailed Stephen Harris to ask for advice with the presentation of my dish and he kindly invited me to his kitchen. The whole experience confirmed I love cooking.
[In the future] I would love to be a chef and have my own restaurant or maybe more than one so I can do different cuisines.
Now let's give readers a sense of the kind of questions you asked in your book. You take one year off to go travelling around the world to discover new cuisines. What countries would you go to and why?
I would go to Thailand and India to discover the diverse cuisines of Asia. And also the Middle East to learn about the culture as well as the brilliant food.
Who are the four people you would dream about having dinner with and why?
Virgilio Martinez (chef and owner of Central restaurant in Lima and who features in the book) to discover his adventurous cooking.
Kylian Mbappe because of everything he’s done to raise money for charity as well as being a great footballer.
Anne Sophie Pic so she could explain how her family’s restaurant has evolved over generations.
Barack Obama to learn about everything he did when he was president.
I would cook a great dinner for them!
What's the most memorable dish you've ever had and why?
It was a magret de canard (duck breast) on the barbecue in Dordogne in the south of France. It inspired me to do my duck dish for the Kent Young Cook competition. It was seasoned perfectly.
Alfred's book can be purchased here. (paperback £9.99; e-book £5.99).