Home food business? Celebrity chef Margarita Fores shares some advice
From left: Celebrity chef Margarita Fores; Tokyo Tokyo recently rolled out its own baked sushi versions called Sushi Bake in two seafood flavors, Cheesy California Crunch and Salmon Teriyaki Crunch, which can be bought for take away from the stores or ordered via delivery or GrabFood.
Singapore Tourism Board, Tokyo Tokyo/Released
Home food business? Celebrity chef Margarita Fores shares some advice
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo (Philstar.com) - September 11, 2020 - 6:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — When God closes a door, He opens a window. For celebrity chef Margarita Fores, it is the kitchen window, in particular.

The coronavirus pandemic might have shut down many jobs and businesses, particularly those of many overseas Filipino workers. But if there is one good thing that Chef Margarita has observed, it would be that the pandemic has given rise to entrepreneurial home chefs.

“It’s interesting that the entrepreneurial home chefs have taken a big share of the market. It’s so interesting because people who used to only cook for themselves are now offering new dishes,” the celebrated chef behind Filipino-Italian culinary powerhouse Cibo recently declared in a virtual press launch for Singapore Food Fest 2020.

Related: Singapore’s Michelin-star chefs give masterclasses; celebrity chefs say pandemic redefines ‘convenience’ food

More than making the competition tighter, having more home chefs “actually made the food scene more exciting and interesting,” Fores said.

Likewise, apart from providing displaced workers with alternative livelihood, the home cooking mania is now the catapult behind food fads, said Fores. 

Among such trendy quarantine food is baked sushi. “Who would have thought that it’s also a good idea to bake sushi?” Fores remarked.

Even Japanese restaurant chain Tokyo Tokyo caught up with the trend and recently rolled out its own baked sushi versions called Sushi Bake in two seafood flavors, Cheesy California Crunch and Salmon Teriyaki Crunch, which can be bought for take away from the stores or ordered via delivery or GrabFood. Each good-for-two baked sushi tray comes with nori sheets and tempura crumbs to garnish the dish, which can be easily “baked” at home by reheating on the oven or toaster.

Whether you are someone mulling to join the food business craze or trying to keep your existing one afloat, Chef Margarita has the following pieces of advice.

Carefully plan or rethink your dishes or offerings

Go for dishes that can be easily packed and delivered. This means getting rid of sauces and other condiments or garnishes that could ruin the dish as it is moved from your home to another.

“I think, apart from the meal kits, what is needed is to fine-tune our offerings. (Go for) dishes or offerings that travel better when they’re taken out or delivered,” Chef Gaita advised.

Go for comfort-food-style dishes

Since many people could be stressed nowadays due to the pandemic, comfort food, such as chocolates or drip coffee, is very in-demand, according to Fores.

Make food that stays longer

Since having many home cooks around also means having more competition, the flow of orders might be unpredictable for any home food business. There might be good and bad days.

So to minimize spoilage and losses, venture into food with a longer shelf life like bottled sauces, said Fores.

She gave as example the pasta kits that her catering kitchen has come up since demand for catering has diminished because large gatherings are not yet permitted under community quarantine.

Pack your food well

“Packaging. Definitely, we have to rethink the way we present our food,” said the chef and restaurateur.

Apart from making the packaging attractive and practical for traveling, the packaging should also be closed properly to secure the food from elements like the coronavirus. It would also be better if biodegradable or recyclable packaging is used.

Start small and slow

Singaporean chef Ming Tan, Fores’ friend, also gave some tips during the virtual press launch.

A good friend told him that If there’s a lot of stuff to do, start slow. 

“Focus on things that you can control and work from there,” Tan said.

“Every day is a rollercoaster nowadays in business sales. So start small. Just do what you can, what you’re good at. Make good decisions and don’t freeze.”

Always reinvent

Fores saluted the packaging industry for pivoting to making face masks and face shields. "Pivoting" has indeed become among the most commonly used words this year, she said.

“From my own business, we had to kind of reinvent everything,” she professed. “We started slowly before this ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) started, doing small dinners, small weddings for 20 people. And making sure that there’s less contact as possible.”

What more you can offer to make lives better?

Besides food, Fores is now also into the business of providing live orchids and flower arrangements that last for at least a month, as well as into making her table linens and table ware business more active, “everything that makes people’s home more pleasant,” she said.

Her son also started a business offering disinfecting services for home and offices – and she books for his services for her businesses once every two weeks.

“Always think of what more you can offer to make life more pleasant,” she recommended.

“See what else the market needs every day and be more sensitive to what the market needs.”

After all, a business, said the chef, should not only be for profit but also for becoming a blessing to others.

RELATED: LIST: Celebrity entrepreneurs share tips for starting business during pandemic 

BUSINESS ADVICE MARGARITA FORES
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