Sometimes, in our life, we need to press the restart button and look for old-new passions. This is what Ping, an expat based in Stockholm, did. She first started out as a pet sitter using an app, but a conversation at a Christmas party organized by AppJobs gave her new ideas. Today she works as a home chef with Gastronaut, a Stockholm-based company. If you also want to work from home and love cooking, becoming a home chef is a perfect alternative for you to earn extra income, and eventually start a full-time food business. AppJobs asked Ping about how the daily reality of home chefs looks like, and her answers can certainly help you get prepared for your own food journey.
Ping in action: something delicious is about to be made.
Ping, please start off by introducing yourself.
I was born in Malaysia and I moved to Australia when I was eight. My parents are both chefs, and now I have become a chef too. I grew up in the kitchen, I started out as a garnishing girl. So the kitchen is somewhere I feel very comfortable. I enjoy being quietly in the kitchen, not like in a full-on restaurant… I do not want to live in a restaurant!
Now you work as a home chef.
Yeah, I work as a home chef and I love it. I love that I’m able to just work from home and manage everything from there—without having to wake up and catch a train. I just roll out to my kitchen and cook.
So where do you live now and how did all this start?
We’re based in Stockholm, we came here five years ago. We were working on electronic products and then after three years I’ve decided to… Actually, I found a job by an app. That’s how it started. But then I found AppJobs because I was invited to your Christmas party, where I heard about Gastronaut. That’s when we started a conversation [one of the guests was already cooking with the platform], and then I decided I wanted to cook. I’ve always wanted to cook! It was an opportunity, so I pushed my way through, met up with the crew [at Gastronaut] and organized a tasting for them. And they loved my food. My cooking is really Southeast Asian cooking, influenced by Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai food. The basic ingredients we cook with are Malaysian, so turmeric, coconut milk, coconut sugar, lime, kaffir lime. All the fresh ingredients that I love cooking with. You can’t find this food here. It doesn’t exist, so you have to order it through me. Well, the dishes have been sort of adapted, since I use ingredients I can find in Stockholm. I would say it’s my take on my culture’s food.
Let’s talk about the process a bit more. You heard about Gastronaut, and then what happened? How did you decide on the food to make?
You have to submit why you want to be a chef. I love chicken—I grew up with our home sort of family cooking that we sold a lot, which was grilled chicken—so I made chicken and sambal. That was my first tasting with them. I also made pulled pork but cooked in lemongrass and tamarind. It is really nice, but it’s pork, and now everyone wants to eat vegan, so the pork is kind of sitting on the back burner. But I love pork, I’m Chinese. Obviously, all the founders have to like the food, and you should have a good chat with them. After that, I think within a week, I got an order. My first order was like 23 servings of my vegetarian dish and my chicken dish. A week later, I started making curry puffs, which is my favorite thing, and barbecue pork buns.
Would you say it took a week from being registered to get started as a chef?
It was really quick, I was lucky, but they have a big waiting list. It depends on the food you’re cooking and the requests. They have a broad community of chefs, from different nationalities, so you would never find the dishes offered on the platform on the streets of Stockholm.
Did you have a traditional job before?
I worked in advertising. My background is in photographic production, and I worked in it for over 25 years or so. I’m actually a trained photographer, but I never did photography, I became a producer instead. However, I’m over advertising. I think advertising has to change, and this is a new way of advertising. And I’m learning the whole circular economy [economic system aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources] that we’re all facing today.
Since you’re working with an app job right now but had a traditional job before, I want to make a little bit of a comparison. What are the main differences between the jobs? Are they similar in any way?
One of the great things about these apps is that you can just instantly pick up cash if you really want to. I think that’s really good for most people. It’s not just adults, but also teenagers who want to make pocket money. It gives you the freedom to move forward. I loved my traditional job, I used to travel a lot in different countries. With this job, I can’t travel obviously, it’s very stagnant, but I love cooking. So that’s the difference. But I needed to change career also because I didn’t believe in advertising any more. It was my getaway!
Just wondering… What are your experiences of making food for a larger number of people?
I helped my parents since I was eight in the restaurant, like a child labor slave, and for most of my teenage life until I was probably like 16. And at 19, I ran away from my parents. No more restaurants!!!
But when I was living in Singapore, I already started cooking for people from my home actually. So I have kind of extended that now to partnering with a catering company, which makes a big difference. It’s a great platform for one to start a business without a huge overhead, which is the best way to just test out whether it works or not. And if it does, you can decide to invest more time in it.
What about the delivery? How does that work with Gastronaut?
You don’t deliver to the clients but to Gastronaut. In the case of a big order, I take a taxi. I’m lucky that I live so close to their location, so it’s not difficult, thank God. Otherwise, it would be a nightmare because transport is so expensive here.
And how does the payment work with Gastronaut?
Once you made the food, you invoice them. But first you actually have to put your money out, to buy the groceries. That’s your cost. So you have to invest, and then five-ten days later, you get paid from that order. You have to make sure that you’re registered as a sole proprietor or as a company, and you also need a bank account and, obviously, a personal number in Sweden. [The requirements for home chef jobs differ from country to country.]
Do you think it’s worth doing it?
Sometimes yes, sometimes you just do it because you know you have to build a relationship first, even if you earn only 500 SEK (~$52). Sometimes you make more than you thought or spent, but you can’t win all the time.
Do you think, since we are talking about money, financial stability is possible with a job like this? Just having this kind of income?
Maybe, but you need to expand. The moment that you want to turn over 20,000-30,000 (SEK) per month, you have to find a kitchen that is large enough for you to grow. One kitchen is not enough, but it’s a good start.
So this is the way for you to experiment and see if you like the day-to-day of being a home chef, and then later on, if you like it, you can keep on… To do this kind of job, you use an app. How much do you need to be online?
I’d say the online part of my job is minimal, like 5 percent, for invoicing, writing emails, etc. Getting the orders through the app is so simple. It comes in, and the app allocates the time and the order itself and how much you’re getting. I think 80 percent of it is really planning and scheduling. It’s quite difficult that it’s all on you.
Do you get feedback from your clients? Can they review you as a chef?
Generally, it takes them a while to get back to you, but most of the time if you don’t hear from them it’s actually a good sign. If you do hear from them, it means they got something to complain about.
You started your day in the kitchen today, so I’d like to ask you about your day-to-day work. What do you do on a typical workday?
Every day I have two orders so there is a lot to do. Well, I started cooking yesterday and I didn’t finish till 1 this morning. Today I woke up at 5:30, and then delivered the food at 11:30. After this interview, I have to go and make more food for tomorrow’s delivery. It’s great but busy.
It looks like you have a lot to do, which you kind of want when looking for a job. But, at the same time, you work with something you like, which might be more rewarding than your advertising job.
It’s definitely more satisfying as you make something with your own hands, and it’s all yours. You’re the boss, there’s no one else to blame but yourself. As long as you have enough time to produce your stuff and be organized, you won’t get stressed out.
I’m just curious. How do you get informed about deliveries and how many do you need to accept?
There are times when I can’t do all of it, so I have to say no. I pick the orders that work for me.
So it’s quite flexible.
Yes, I do what I can handle.
You’re an expat living in Stockholm. Do you think language is a barrier?
Language is not an issue at all, everyone I dealt with was speaking English. Food is universal.
Finally, what has been your experience working with an app job, a variety of which one can find on appjobs.com in many different categories and in many different cities?
It’s been an amazing experience for me to work with an app job, I mean, I’ve actually made a living from it. It’s not as much I used to make, but it’s enough to invest and pay for groceries. Right now it’s good enough, and you just need to get going if you really want to grow the business.
Find your own dream job on AppJobs!
Whether working from and getting a cooking job is on the top of your to-do list or you’re interested in another type of app-based job, AppJobs.com is a good place to start.
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The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.