Power parents of Shanghai: Crystyl Mo and Anthony Zhao

A true power couple of the city's food and drink scene share their journey together

Yang Xiaozhe
If you’re in the business of food in Shanghai, chances are you’ve heard of Crystyl Mo. Now an Academy
Chair for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and partner at Bon App, she’s been covering the city's food and drink scene since the early 2000s for everyone from Condé Nast Traveler to Food & Wine – and she's also a
life coach. A restaurateur and chef, Anthony Zhao met Crystyl in 2004 when he was working at Three on the Bund. Now he runs popular hotpot spot Holy Cow and has just launched new restaurant concept The Rice Garden. But probably their biggest project together? Five-year-old Phoenix.


Before we had Phoenix I did a lot of inner work, my own inner work and processing. Then together Anthony and I read a lot. We talked a lot about how we wanted to be parents and what kind we wanted to be. We were very intentional about it. By the time she was born, we felt really so united in everything about our philosophy of raising her.

I have a lot more self-compassion after having a child because when you look at her as a two year old, a three year old or a five year old and then you think about what you went through at that age and how your parents were there or were not there for you, and you can see how much of an impact everything you do and say has on her. You can really have compassion for what you went through yourself in a new way because you can see how vulnerable she is. So that was very powerful for me. It continues to be. I continue to learn more about myself.

Because Anthony and I work for ourselves, we can have a flexible schedule and we both spend a lot of time with her and with each other. We live a frugal life in order to have total flexibility and to spend more time as a family. Our priorities are our relationships, independence and only working on projects we’re passionate about.

We were together eight years before we had her. We worked through a lot of stuff in our relationship. We weren’t having fights about understanding who the other person was or what they wanted from life. We’d already done all that work. That made a huge difference in what kind of parents we could be.



Having a child changed so much for us. We've learned so much and worked through a lot of our own issues stemming from childhood.

One unexpectedly fun part was right before Phoenix was born. We knew she was coming so we did so much preparation. Painting the house and organising… You don’t know what she’s going to look like, what she’s going to be like, how she’ll sound. You don’t know anything, but you really want to know. It’s very curious.

Crystyl and I’ve always done so many exciting things together but over time, we started to feel like it wasn’t interesting anymore. Good restaurants, travel. A lot of things just over and over again. But since we've had Phoenix and we've been sharing these experiences with her, it’s been a totally new plane of happiness.

There aren’t too many challenges in raising Phoenix, but I am worried about school in China. I don’t know what to do about this, but otherwise it’s really very easy. I only have fun with her. So much fun.

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