Being a newcomer can be quite challenging, especially if you need to learn the language, adapt to a new lifestyle, and start your career over. But, what if the key to success would be actually sharing some of your own culture? Meet Qi Li. He is a newcomer in Sweden and is making money with a home cooking app called Gastronaut. Basically, he gets paid for cooking delicious homemade Chinese food. Also joining the interview is Shu Wei, founder of Gastronaut.

how to start a food business
Qi Li, 44, is a cook with an app job.

Why did you move to Sweden?

I came to Sweden two years ago because my wife came here for work. So, I came with her and I take care of the family and the child. I was an Engineer in China for 12 years. But here it is very hard to find a job, you must study Swedish every day.

How did you start working with Gastronaut?

I stated one year ago, when I had a chance to do it. I like food, I like cooking by myself, and my child likes it too. So I thought “I can do that. Chinese food is the tastiest in the world and I can make it better, so I do that!”.

How did you find Gastronaut?

A friend told me about it. We studied Swedish together at SFI (Swedish For Immigrants). One day I met her at the pendentålg (train station) and she asked me “what are you doing now?”. I said “nothing”. And then she told me “you know, there is this job, you can be a cook!”. And I said “yes, why not?” So I tried. I made a demo to show her. She tried and thought it was great, like hometown taste. “Please join us”, she said. Then I did!

Can you tell us about how you make money with Gastronaut app?

I get all the orders in the Gastronaut app: what date, the dish, and how much food you should prepare. So, I see if it is possible to me. If I can do that, I accept. One day before the delivery, I go shop for fresh ingredients, prepare the food, keep it warm, deliver it to Gastronaut’s office and they deliver to the costumer. I get paid after that, of course!

What does this job mean to you as a newcomer in Sweden?

Money, yes! Also that I can give the costumer the traditional Chinese taste, because I can’t find it in Sweden. It’s hard to find it because they always change it here. I just want to keep the original taste, the hometown taste, the way I remember. It’s the memory.

how to start a food business
Shu Wei, co-founder of Gastronaut.

Why did you found Gastronaut?

It’s very difficult to find authentic Chinese food in the Swedish food market. If you go to the restaurants around the street you will see sushi that is made by a Chinese. You see kebab and pizza, but these are not the original version. And this is a big gap because we know that people appreciate the original one. But there are very few people supplying that. Another huge gap is that we see a lot of good cooks that happen to be immigrants. They come to Sweden and they want a job but it is very hard to get a job. There are statistics telling us that it can take 7 years for a new arriver to find a job and that’s horrible.

So, these people have a good competence and what they can do is appreciated by the market. But somehow there is a missing link in between. And that’s why we started Gastronaut What we do is that we help the immigrant chefs to understand how they should do this business from their own kitchen. How to pay tasks, how to get their kitchen registered, how to pack their food, and how to tell their stories in an attractive way for the clients.

How can people become home chefs with Gastronaut using their phone?

The practical process is that the chef needs to apply via email or via our online form. There are some basic questions related to work permit and others. After that, we test the food, we check the kitchen, and help them apply to be microentrepreneurs. After the documentation is ready, we have an app, where the cook will receive all the orders there, all the schedules, all the requirements, and that’s it.

Do you have any stories to share from Gastronaut cooks?

We have a chef who followed his wife here and he was a Sales Manager for a large international company. He couldn’t find a job in Sweden, just impossible. He doesn’t know Swedish, doesn’t really know the culture. So, he couldn’t find a job to be a salesperson. Fortunately for him, also for us, he loves cooking. Crazy about cooking. So he started to work with us and in a couple of months time and he opened his own company, he started making money, and he is really happy. So, this compared to the 7 years average time to find a job and get an income is completely different.

There is also a lady, who was quite shy the first time we met her. She had been living in Sweden for a while but she didn’t quite feel that she was part of the society. But we started working together, she was quite open. After a while, she got a lot of followers and became much more confident. And we get a lot of stories like that!

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