ALEX SANTAU was born in Romania and grew up in Munich, Germany, before moving to the United States in 1996. This mother of two daughters—Victoria (6) and Emilia (4)—works as a Director of Academic Excellence at the Institute of Food Technologists, the professional association for everything food science. Along the way to her current position, Santau has built an impressive resume—from studying microbiology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and molecular biology at Purdue University, to earning a PhD in science education from the University of Miami and working as a professor of science education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for nine years. “In my work, I’m passionate about bringing science to all and making it about understanding the world around us rather than memorizing facts,” she says. When she isn’t working, Santau enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, Chris, their daughters, and their dog, Ali Baba. “I’m passionate about inspiring our girls to be authentic, kind, and thoughtful. We are a multicultural family, and we place high value on education. I’d love to see more of the world and expose our kids to many cultures and languages.” Although Santau has had to put travel plans on the back burner during the pandemic, she has stayed busy taking classes on cooking and wine, and is working on that perfect pepper steak she learned to cook from Wolfgang Puck’s Master Class. As for volunteer work, she is a member of the Hinsdale Junior Woman’s Club, involved with the foundation named Feeding Tomorrow, and a supporter of a dear friend’s foundation ICU Baby in Miami. She shares some of her favorites in the country and on the town this month:
Mantra? Make good decisions. Best grooming tip? Start eye cream in your 20s. Guilty pleasure? Donuts. Grissini. A good tempranillo. Favorite foods? Cherries and anything truffled. Music you love? Anything that takes me back to Miami—Latin, reggaeton, electronica. Best advice ever given to you? Know your worth. Best advice you’ve given? Don’t waste time turning mediocre into great; focus on turning great into exceptional. Earliest memory? Summers in the Romanian mountain village Văliug with my grandparents. When you wake up, you? Hug my family, rub Ali Baba’s belly, and enjoy the perfect cup of coffee Chris makes for me. Before bed, you? Fall asleep on the couch. What’s on your bookshelf? Science and law books. Too few “fun” books, but I am reading I am Malala, finally. You can’t live without? My family, friends, and workouts. Love to escape to? The Maldives but would be ok with Tulum for now. Advice you would give to your younger self? It will all happen differently than you think, so let it.
WHEN IN THE COUNTRY
Your style is? Classic and comfortable. In my mind: cashmere and jeans; in reality: Sweaty Betty. Can’t leave the house without? The dreaded phone, now mask. Transportation? The Bavarian mobile, representing Munich. Driving music? Anything but princess music. Place to eat? The usual suspects—Nabuki, Vistro, Fuller House. Shop? Mostly online but love My Sister Kate for the girls. Best thing about country? Uniquely Thursdays. Running into friends. Worst thing about country? Waiting for freight trains to end. The perfect day is? In the summer, outdoor/pool time with my family, a backyard barbecue with friends, then a nightcap with Chris.
WHEN IN TOWN
Your style is? Elegant. Can’t leave the house without? A good pair of footwear. Transportation? Metra or Lux Tux Transportation. Driving music? Currently J. Balvin. Place to eat? Elske is interesting. Shop? Oak Street. Best thing about town? The lake. Worst thing about town? Getting there. The perfect day is? Day date with Chris—coffee at L’Appetito, shopping, Pho for lunch (love 777!), couple’s massage and pool time at the Four Seasons, dinner, and drinks.