Some people would be surprised to know that celebrity chef and cookbook author Norma Chu did not attend any formal cooking class. Instead, she learnt how to cook from her parents. “They’re my mentors,” said Chu, 38, from Hong Kong.
Her journey in the culinary world began when she moved to the United States at the age of 12. There, she spent a lot of time at home and that’s when her parents taught her how to cook.
Chu learnt many traditional Chiu Chow dishes from them such as oyster pancakes, steamed flower crabs with Chinese wine and braised fish maw.
She loves Chinese food due to its wide varieties, especially Cantonese cuisine, which emphasises on using the freshest ingredients. She also loves the spicy characteristics of Sichuan food.
There are two things that the chef dislikes though – ketchup and mustard.
“I don’t really know why. I guess when I was growing up, I never liked condiments that came out of plastic bottles,” she said.
After spending 12 years in Seattle, Chu decided to move back to Hong Kong to be closer to her parents.
“At that time, they had already moved back to Asia. I enjoy life in Hong Kong very much because it is where I call home,” she said.
Chu worked as head of equities research for a multinational banking group there, but her passion for cooking remained. She felt she wanted to create a culture that incorporates home cooking as part of a quality lifestyle.
That’s when she came up with the idea of a cooking programme.
“I am very proactive and like to take action, so I pretty much started DayDayCook in my apartment while working in the finance industry,” recalled Chu.
Eventually, she took a gamble by quitting her job to devote all her time and energy into the programme. “I don’t like to live a life of regrets. I wanted to do my best to create something which can improve the lives of others. It was, and still is, risky, but it is all worth it,” she said.
Indeed her gamble paid off, as the programme became a runaway success. DayDayCook’s target audience is between 21 and 45 years old.
Said Chu, “About 70% of our audience are no older than 30 years; the rest are either college students or more mature women. The core underlying themes for the programme’s recipes are easy, convenient, creative, healthy and tasty.”
A session on kids cooking was also quite popular amongst new mothers. Even in DayDayCook’s offline retail business, the kids cooking classes receive very good responses.
“Young parents love finding new ways to spend time and connect with their children. Cooking is a fantastic way to bond,” she said.
Eventually, Chu’s role in DayDayCook evolved from focusing on content creation to being the Key Opinion Leader (KOL) for the company.
Now, she spends most of her time on strategy, business development, people and management.
She explained, “We have a team of chefs and editors designing recipes in Hong Kong and Shanghai. From time to time, I still make videos (because it is something that I really love doing) and I usually film them in Hong Kong.”
As Chu and her team continue to build the DayDayCook platform and brand, they see tremendous opportunity to provide unique experiences and quality products for their audience.
“In 2017, we launched both an e-commerce solution across several content platforms, including WeChat and our own app,” said Chu, who destresses by exercising regularly.
“In the same year, we also opened our very first retail store in Shanghai in December. At the DayDayCook store, our customers get to experience the joy of cooking hands on with their loved ones, or even meet new friends.”
In the past 18 months, the company has opened six new locations including in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Wuhan.
Although Chu’s husband and family are in Hong Kong, she spends most of her time in Shanghai due to her cooking show.
“Whenever I go home, I really love spending time grocery shopping and cooking with my husband,” she said.
Chu has also published six cookbooks so far – five in Hong Kong and one in mainland China.
“It is a small passion project of mine and I want to publish at least one cookbook a year,” she shared.
Although Chu has attained culinary success, she humbly brushes aside her fame.
“I really cannot consider myself a celebrity chef. I see myself as an entrepreneur dedicating everything I have to add value and bring happiness to the lives of our fans and customers,” said Chu emphatically.