Interviewee: Chef Magdalena Wong
Food Startup Help has reached out to several business owners, chefs, and experts in the food industry to see how they’re adjusting to the changes that coronavirus has imposed on this industry. We have conducted an interview in a Q&A format.
For today Food Startup Help is featuring Chef Magdalena Wong, graduate student at the University of London studying Applied Educational Leadership and Management, pastry chef for 18 years, and former Education Leader in Vocational Education and Training (VET), Hong Kong
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What is happening in your business now given the COVID-19 virus? Are you still able to work?
I left the VET sector last year since I am in the planning phase of building a cafe/bakery here in Taipei, Taiwan towards the end of this year/early next year. Since Covid-19, I am now rethinking my business strategies and plans knowing how disruptive pandemics can be. I feel the immense responsibility that I will be undertaking as to ensure that my business will not only grow, but to be able to sustain through tough days, months, and even seasons. Most importantly, my staff and I can remain secure (emotionally and financially) should another pandemic worse than Covid-19 attacks us.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What are your hopes for the near future in terms of your work?
With great aspirations comes great responsibilities... As a future business cafe/pastry chef owner, I aspire and owe it to my staff and customers to offer consistent and high quality bread and pastries. I have learned from 18 years working in Michelin star rated establishments in New York City, Paris, Yountville/Napa, Hong Kong, and now here in Taiwan that striving daily towards excellence (in food and customer service) always produces rewarding results. F&B is a harsh and unforgiving industry with high turnover so it's not easy to stay afloat but if you persevere, sacrifice, and give back, the relationships/friendships built are everlasting. I believe in and practice transferring my professional experience and knowledge to the next generation of aspiring pastry chefs as a former VET educator and as a future business owner. As I transform through each growing stage of my business, I hope to equip my staff one day to also be an 'edupreneur'.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: If we had not had the virus change our lives, what had you been seeing as the most important food/beverage related trend(s) in what you do?
Enduring times like the Covid-19 pandemic may have transformed us (hopefully for good) as we are no longer the same especially the way it impacts the food service/hospitality industry. I hope this will strengthen our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and our local community allowing us to focus on what is most important in our lives: one another. Food takeout, delivery services, and grocery stores ensure that people, especially the vulnerable, are receiving essential needs. I also believe in using technology and social media platforms to streamline food ordering processes for existing and new customers while being connected to learn about their preferences and needs. I hope there will be more resourceful tech developed to enable all of us to stay well connected to serve customers and our communities along the food supply chain amidst challenging times.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What do you think was driving these trends in the food//beverage industry or educational system? What did people want?
The need to improve communication platforms and being able to stay connected with each other are the driving force to developing new tech and tools in the F&B industry as well as the educational system. Look at 'Zoom' and how it enables us to conduct meetings or teach students online. Relationships (professional or personal) are the most meaningful and valuable assets in our lives and we need to seek ways to maintain and grow them amidst pandemics and other unforeseen circumstances in order to expand our abilities in being selfless.
At the end of the day, we just want to be fed in the stomach and our souls as human beings without discrimination. However, we have become human 'doings' instead of 'beings' by staying busy. I hope we can reprioritize our lives to focus more on our health (mental, spiritual, relational, and physical) with deep intention by feeding and nourish each other's spirits with positivity and our bodies with quality food and exercise.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Do you have any specific hopes or expectations for what will happen when we get through the economic impact from the COVID-19 virus? What do you think people will want?
I hope everyone will use this time to take stock of their spiritual and physical health and commit to loving themselves and each other by making healthy food and lifestyle choices. Take inventory of what is most important in our own lives and commit to it day after day after day. Most people seek to live each day in the path of least resistance towards comfort and happiness, if I may encourage all of us to not be afraid to seek discomfort, yes, discomfort. This is where growth happens to be equipped to face turbulent times like this. In my opinion...exercising consistently, choosing healthy food options with occasional rewards, and sleeping more are the foundations to longevity and living a joyful life. I suppose we just want to be relevant and purposeful by being connected with others, even introverts like myself need to socialize every so often.
I would think that we just want to be healthy so we can pursue life with purpose. Working restaurant hours for many years, I didn't have the discipline and commitment to improve my health as I was stuffing my face with pastries daily. I couldn't run a couple miles a few years ago but with the commitment to gradually train daily, I am now racing in marathons and placing on podiums competing in duathlons around the world with my husband who races in Ironman/triathlons. Signing up for races teaches me how to commit to build grit, work through phantom pain, and mental negativity. These are my greatest rewards to living daily life with more energy and hope for the future even in times like this.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Is there anything else you would like to add, or for potential food industry professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and/or your customers to know.
I've come to learn from all the years working in the F&B industry that individuals who gravitate and survive in this industry are true warriors not afraid of hard work, long hours, and inequality. These personal traits and work ethics will enable us in F&B to come back stronger than before when we are able to serve our communities again.
There will be tough times but if we persevere, support each other, and lean on our community, we can get through this together.
Follow along with Chef Magdalena Wong Instagram: Chefiemag