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Starting a food business: The JC The Foodie story

07 November 2017

By Jo Campos
Jo before food she cooked for friends

I am JC The Foodie. I started using this name on my blogs on social media and as a food writer for Food Trip with The SUN. Being a food lover myself, I would usually take pictures of the food that I ate with friends when we’d go out for lunch or dinner. When there was a dish that I particularly liked, I would try to cook my version of it at home, then post pictures on social media.

Having had quite an ample experience in cooking Western and Asian cuisine during my 31 years in Hong Kong as an OFW, I had always dreamed of setting up my own food business on my return to the Philippines. This finally happened in December 2016, when I packed all my bags and headed home, for good.  I told myself, “This is it! It’s now or never!”

Soon after coming home, I started selling home-cooked meals at our housing subdivision’s Sunday market. It was an instant hit, and I started gaining regular customers. Occasionally, I would accept food orders for delivery at nearby areas. Sometime I would help my niece, Mae, in the catering business that she, her husband and a couple of friends owned, called Miss Cuisine Catering Specialists. Sadly, this collaboration ended when the partners decided to part ways so they could pursue other businesses.

Mom-to-be Pauleen Luna with Jo and the catering staff
After this, we had a long family talk and we decided to continue the catering business, and this was how JC The Foodie Catering and Food Services was established. It is a family enterprise, with investors, cooks and service crew all rolled up into one small company. I am now a partner of the business along with my niece, Mae Maghirang Tovera who is an Enderun College Culinary Arts Graduate, and owner of “The Pink Chef by Mae”, which specializes in customized cakes.

Our first dry run/kick off event was a baptismal party for Mae’s daughter Pia at our residence. From then on, with the help of relatives and friends’ recommendations and “word of mouth”, JC The Foodie company gained more clients and contacts.

Among the big events we organized and catered were my sister’s 25th wedding anniversary and renewal of vows. We also do regular “Sparty,” or spa party, at Nail Mama on Gilmore St., in Quezon City, and a few corporate lunch buffets. Recently we were recommended to cater a baby shower for celebrities Nikka and Patrick Garcia at Rockwell Towers in Makati. It was a party for 70 with a pink ballerina motif.

JC The Foodie’s biggest challenge so far, and also served as its main launch, came when we were chosen to cater for Pauleen and Vic Sotto’s Hawaiian luau-themed baby shower at One Andrea Tower in Quezon City. It was a full-themed buffet party for 100 people, including all of the “dabarkads” or cast and crew of the longest-running noontime variety show, “Eat Bulaga.” The menu consisted of chicken cordon bleu with mayo wasabi and dijon honey dip, salisbury steak in creamy mushroom gravy, fettuccine carbonara, chop suey and fried rice. For desserts, we served coffee jelly shots, buko pandan jello and cupcakes by The Pink Chef by Mae.

We were so pleased that everyone loved the food. Joey de Leon was the first to try the carbonara and praised JC The Foodie, while his wife Aileen requested for our name card. Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo enjoyed the desserts and the chicken, while phenomenal star Maine Mendoza enjoyed both the fettucine and the chicken.

Anjo Yllana couldn’t get enough of our coffee jelly shots that he consumed about 11 in one go!

I was pleased to note that the rest of the guests had seconds at the buffet table, while Pauleen Luna Sotto showed delight with the set up and food. Vic Sotto personally thanked JC The Foodie on Eat Bulaga.

The hosts and guests like Ryan Agoncillo and wife
Judy Ann Santos loved JC's  food
This early, JC The Foodie already has a confirmed booking for a 300-person event in Marikina in December, another celebrity baby shower in January 2018 and a 200-pax 60th birthday party slated for March 2018.

To cater to the more discerning tastes of our clients, Mae and I always do kitchen tests on the food that we are going to serve, a few weeks before the event. This is to make sure that everything is done well, and to the client’s specification. We personally prepare and assemble all the equipment for the catering, including table linens and napkins, food warmers, cutleries, glasses and plates. If needed, we make several trips to Quiapo and Divisoria for the things we need and to Taytay textile market for the table cloths and napkins. We choose good stylists and outsource our chairs and tables to ensure quality and variety.

Mae and I spend hours in the kitchen preparing all the food, from purchasing the ingredients to preparation, cooking and transporting to the venues. We pick quality ingredients and use fresh herbs from my herb garden. This is to make sure that we maintain the best quality of service and food that we serve our clients.

Catering is a daunting task; it requires a lot of hard work, perseverance and innovation in food preparation. There are already a lot of catering service providers in Metro Manila alone, with quite a few already established, so for a newbie like us to stand out, we have to concentrate on being unique and on serving only high quality food.

This we try to do by turning a common recipe into a unique dish that will surprise and please the client. We also try to put our personal touch to our food, like blending herbs and spices to create something special out of the ordinary.

In this business, it also matters a lot if you have good connections, and the best way to strengthen your reach is to ensure that your clients are satisfied with your service. Clients would most likely recommend your services if they are satisfied.

Staying firmly in the race for recognition is a challenging, but at the same time, a fulfilling task. But at the end of the day, there is only one thing that should matter, which is pleasing your client.

But wait, there’s more…. Another JC The Foodie Quote:

“What I’ve enjoyed most, though, is meeting people who have real interest in food and sharing ideas with them. Good food is a global thing and I find that there is always something new and amazing to learn. I love it!” – Jamie Oliver

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