If you go to Midnight Mercato often, you might be familiar with Chef Kevin Mize and his cerveza negra cheesecakes. The beer-flavored cheesecake has gained a following at the night market and the longtime chef wants to see other food entrepreneurs win similar success.
This is where FoodLab Inc. comes in. Mize set up the company with Albert Sotelo and the two have started a food incubator under FoodLab dubbed Incubator Kitchen, aimed at helping other food entrepreneurs expand their market by providing them with space, equipment and advice.
Use of the Incubator Kitchen peaks during the Christmas season, when people who like to sell holiday goodies need a facility that will allow them to make the volume they need for mass selling. “If they stayed home and did little batch after little batch, it would take all week, whereas if they come to my kitchen, they can get it all done in one day,” Mize says, touting the professional oven which dominates FoodLab’s Bicutan, Taguig City base.
While the chef enjoys helping the Christmas sellers who only do it for the season, he hopes people who want to try out the food business use the Incubator Kitchen’s facilities to make their product. “What I’d really like to do is help other people get started, give them advice, and find talented people and help them get their thing going,” he adds.
Here are some lessons budding food ’treps can take from FoodLab and the Incubator Kitchen:
Figure out the logistics before starting.
“I ask what their expectations are, what volume they want to get through, and I go over the recipe and help them cost it out, so they have a more realistic idea of what they’re going to spend and how much stuff they’re going to make,” Mize explains. This also helps make sure that they don’t spend too much on ingredients that will go to waste. Sourcing good ingredients is “everyone’s challenge in this business.”
Make more in less time.
Using the ample kitchen space and numerous tools available, people can make large batches of goods to sell at bazaars or elsewhere. “Last Christmas, we had one guy that did apple pies and another lady that did banana bread,” Mize shares. “Instead of making 10 loaves at a time, she was able to make 60 with us, and so she got into more bazaars and sold five times as much as she normally does.”
Use bazaars and food markets as jumping-off points.
Mize recommends the Midnight Mercato (Taguig), Mercato North (Quezon City), the Eastwood Weekend Gourmet Market (also in Quezon City), and the Legaspi Village Sunday Market (Makati City) for entrepreneurs who want to give the food business a shot. “These places give a good foothold to let people know about your business or product. They’re also good place to test your recipes, because the first time you do a recipe is not the end of it—that has to be developed over several weeks and several batches and messing up.”
The Filipino food market also has peculiarities food entrepreneurs should be aware of: “People in the Philippines are willing to try some strange flavors, but when it comes to what they’re going to buy, they’re going to go to something familiar and means something to them,” Mize says
Update: FoodLab, Inc is now exclusively available in Baguio City through Ozark Diner.
Photo: Dairy Darilag
This story was originally published in the November 2012 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. Subscribe to the print or digital version of the magazine here.