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Millennium Hongqiao Hotel’s Alexander Reilly

Alexander Reilly hit the ground running when he arrived at Millenium Hongqiao Hotel in September to take over the executive chef position, landing in Shanghai a mere five days after his wife gave birth to their son. Despite spending the past two months on holiday buying prams, building playpens and preparing for the new family member, Chef Reilly is ready to take on the challenge of managing three of the four dining outlets at the hotel.

“It’s all been happening in one week for me – new job, new baby. I cannot wait to get hold of that teppanyaki,” Reilly laughs, referring to TKNY, the hotel’s Japanese teppanyaki restaurant. “I’m gonna do wonderful crazy things. I’ve been looking at new age teppanyaki – like sashimi and Bocconcini.”

Trying new things seems to be Chef Reilly’s style, and his career has been a study in continent-hopping. From football clubs in Glasgow, to five star hotels in Saudi Arabia and local restaurants in Thailand, he’s cooked it all. But his culinary beginnings were slightly humbler.

“I spent four years in a Pizza Hut-type restaurant. Everything was all simplified in to bags and packets, frozen and pre-stirred,” he says. “I thought to myself, I’d like to see this on a professional level. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere!” After four years in corporate fast food, Chef Reilly joined the ranks of budding chefs at the Glasgow College of Food Technology and started learning the ins and outs of the kitchen, but his real culinary education came on a trip through Asia.

After working throughout the United Kingdom for almost a decade, Chef Reilly backpacked around Thailand and Bali and realised there was more to cooking than just the food. “If you want to be a good chef, you have to understand the people, the culture, the religions – everything! Food is food, passion is passion,” he says.

After returning to Scotland, he knew he’d caught the Asia bug, but couldn’t find anyone hiring a chef with practically zero international experience. So he packed up his bags again and took a leap of faith, returning to Thailand and Bali and banging on the doors of local restaurants until someone took him in and taught him the tricks of their trade. His perseverance paid off and he's spent the past decade working in some of the finest five star hotels throughout Asia and the Middle East, a role he’s come to embrace.

“I like the big challenge of working in hotels. The food, the products, the ingredients, the scale – you have to be so versatile because there’s so much happening,” says Reilly. “You adapt, you evolve. I mean, a Scotsman in a teppanyaki restaurant, fantastic! I love that.”


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