Madam Glutton: An online food business in Kuala Lumpur launched during Covid-19 | Eat/Drink
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Life is full of obstacles. Any food and beverage (F&B) entrepreneur will tell you that, given the vagaries of the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown. Yet for some, the obstacle is also the opportunity.
When Mel Tan and her husband Jason Koong, who run a successful wedding photography firm together, realised that the current Movement Control Order (MCO) would result in postponed bookings, they decided they needed to pivot fast.
Tan shares, “We decided to start Madam Glutton (or ‘Shí Fū Rén’ in Mandarin), an online kitchen that sell all types of home-cooked food that is MSG-free.
“Our concept is to make a variety of dishes sold in vacuum packs that will allow busy workers to enjoy a good meal in minutes.
“It’s for those who do not have time to do grocery shopping or cook, or those without the skills or equipment to cook.”
Growing up, Tan’s palate was nurtured by her foodie father’s curious tastebuds. She recalls, “My father would let us try all types of cuisine and different types of food. He introduced the joy of eating to us.”
Despite her affinity for food, Tan didn’t even cook until she furthered her studies in the UK for a masters degree in human nutrition. She says, “I couldn’t get the home-cooked taste in Sheffield so I started to cook with the recipes that I googled. My flatmate would knock on my door and ask for permission to finish up the tiramisu I left in the fridge! I felt happy to see people enjoy the food I made – it is like sharing a good book.”
Tan met her future husband when he was an engineering student in the UK and an avid photographer. They travelled around Europe savouring the different styles of cuisine across the continent.
She says, “Jason wasn’t a foodie at all when we met. So travel was eye opening — and mouth watering! He began to appreciate food and I bought a lot of local recipe books from every country we visited.”
When they returned to Malaysia, the young couple did what was expected of them and worked in their respective fields. They found no job satisfaction in that, however, and decided to branch out: Koong as a freelance photographer and Tan in digital marketing.
The mix of newfound skills and experiences led to the duo partnering up to start a photography studio covering wedding, commercial and food photography. It was a dream come true and a business they both enjoyed. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Suddenly they had to adapt their approach to doing business, and pivot quickly. Tan says, “We had to rethink about the stability we used to have. We were in a comfort zone without foreseeing any potential risk.”
While their initial plan was to produce all manner of frozen foods, Tan soon observed that potential customers were craving for dessert and foods that couldn’t be easily made at home.
Hence the pivot from solely doing frozen foods such as meatballs and vacuum-packed marinated meats to starting a bakery goods line.
In times of distress, people want to satisfy their sweet tooth: cookies, madeleines, tiramisu and other desserts. Madam Glutton’s take would be “a concept of convenient food but home made, with reduced fat, sugar and salt. We don’t use the word ‘healthy’ as for most people, healthy food can be tasteless; we wanted our food delicious like the happiness that comes from your tastebuds to your heart.”
Tan, who likes to involve their almost three-year-old son Daniel when she prepares their meals, sees this as a way to inculcate a love for food from a young age. She says, “Our son wasn’t very interested in eating, not even ice-cream. So I had him cook with me — cracking the eggs and whisking them. He began to learn the joy of cooking and, from there, eating.”
Madam Glutton is also a way for Tan to return to her roots. She explains, “I hadn’t really wanted to give up my expertise in nutrition, but I do not like the idea of giving consultations and selling supplements.
“People ought to obtain their nutrients from food; that had been a desire of mine to share but we had been busy with our photography business. Now is as a good a time to make this idea a reality as any; in fact, we wouldn’t have done anything if it weren’t for the MCO.”
Switching to online food delivery isn’t without its challenges. As newbies to F&B, their biggest headache was time management: from receiving the order to handing it over to the courier on time.
Tan says, “Before, we didn’t need to serve a few customers at the same time. Now we have to prepare different foods for multiple orders simultaneously.
“We really need to keep an eye on everything to prevent any dishes being over- or undercooked! But the satisfaction from customer feedback makes it worthwhile.”
Tan plans to continue their business even after the MCO is lifted. She says, “We foresee everyone will require a little more time to get back to their usual lives. But they have gotten more used to online shopping, just a few clicks to get their cravings to their doorsteps.”
As such, Madam Glutton plans to develop more food products to make their menu more complete. They may also set up a central kitchen to distribute their frozen packs to convenience stores.
As author Ryan Holiday puts it, “The obstacle is the way.” Tan and her husband have certainly found their way in a time filled with obstacles… and opportunities.
Madam Glutton 食夫人
Visit www.instagram.com/madamglutton/ for their full product range. Order by calling or WhatsApp 019-3210268.
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