How to Quit Your Day Job and Start a Cooking School
If your bookshelves are lined with wanderlust-worthy cookbooks and memoirs from celebrated chefs and food bloggers, a career in the culinary world might just be your dream gig. Whether you love sharing your best cooking tips through a YouTube series or regularly whip up kitchen hacks that your friends rave about, learn how you can turn your foodie fantasies into a thriving cooking school. As the owner of Un-Curry, an Indian food catering company and culinary school, Kaumudi Marathé is sharing her best tips and advice for running a food-based biz with us.
Kaumudi has always had a passion for cooking and writing. When she first came to the United States in 1996, she was limited in the professional options she could pursue, since her spouse visa didn’t allow her to secure a full-time job. Instead, Kaumudi freelanced as a journalist for various India-based publications, all while studying food history and writing several cookbooks. As she cooked her way through different ethnic cuisines, she was also developing her a business idea for a cooking school. This school would serve a single mission: “to show people that Indian food was not curry and to share its rich diversity and history.” In September 2007, Kaumudi was finally granted work authorization in the US. Two months later, her dream business, Un-Curry, opened its doors in Southern California.
As the founder of Un-Curry, Kamudi loves that she combines three of her passions into one job: writing, cooking and collaborating with others. Teaching allows her to share her well-crafted recipes with eager students, and the catering aspect of her business gives her the room to share her passion for cooking with clients.
1. Learn the business regulations for food businesses in your area. Prior to opening Un-Curry, Kaumudi did her research into what the business regulations were in Glendale, CA. She took the California State Food Handlers course to get food-safety training and a certificate, which most establishments (restaurants, commercial kitchens, etc.) require before they rent a space to you. Lastly, she purchased business insurance coverage to protect her business from liability before she opened.
2. Enlist design-savvy friends. Since the food world is all about visual, stunning images of dishes, Kaumudi turned to her friend Uta Briesewitz, a cinematographer for TV shows like The Wire, to take photographs of her best dishes. One of those images turned into her image for her business cards, designed by her architect husband. She and her husband were meticulous about building Un-Curry’s website. She wanted the look and feel of her website to reflect her food as “modern, accessible, sophisticated and healthy.”
3. Create your curriculum. On the creative side, Kaumudi made a list of classes she wanted to teach, like Spices 101, Lentil Life and Meat Feast, along with what she planned to accomplish in each class. She spent a significant amount of time perfecting her recipes and gathering menu ideas. She researched A LOT of the ins and outs of running a catering business to learn about menu planning and costs. “I made up many menus and menu ideas for myself, but did not list those on my site, because one of the unique aspects of Un-Curry is offering tailored menus, created for each client based on their tastes and requirements,” says Kaumudi.
4. Source local ingredients. As an Angeleno resident, Kaumudi has access to quality, fresh ingredients and a plethora of Indian spices. Her class menus change based on the seasons, so the fruits and vegetables she features vary by the time of year. “My commitment is to fresh, local and seasonal organic food for my classes and catering — the kind of food I cook for my family. That, and the small scale of my operation, means that I do not buy wholesale ingredients at all,” says Kaumudi. Instead, she shops at her local Armenian and Indian grocery stores, farmers’ markets and even Trader Joe’s for fresh produce and spices. The only key ingredient she has trouble finding is curry leaf. Her genius solution? Planting a curry leaf tree with the help of a friend’s mother.
5. Answer important questions before you open your company. It may not be easy, but asking yourself these critical questions can be extremely enlightening as you venture into your business plan. You must figure out if you have enough financial resources to support yourself until your company takes off. If your business requires you to interact with customers, you should ask yourself if you’re a people-person and actually enjoy customer service. Make sure you know what kind of investment capital you need to get started. “I started my company with an investment of $500 and an Apple laptop that my husband gave me, so it was quite a ‘small’ business,” says Kaumudi.
6. Keep an eye on the crucial details. While Kaumudi thrives on the creativity of her culinary business, she also knows that to keep her business running smoothly, she has to mind the important, albeit mundane, aspects of her company. “Keeping detailed accounts and documenting all expenses is boring, but critical. Maintaining a mailing list is also important. Kaumudi tells us that, “responding to clients promptly, being warm, pleasant and helpful, is key to getting repeat customers.” She started a blog and hosts a salon every holiday season to feature new products, such as chutneys and jams for her customers to sample.
7. All work and no play makes for a dull life. Kaumudi knows that running her own business is more than a full-time job. It involves publicity, marketing, doing the books, making a product and constantly innovating. She definitely doesn’t advocate working Every. Single. Moment. After eight years of running Un-Curry, she has learned that she needs, “to switch off from work mode and enjoy my personal life. I’ve realized my strengths and I’ve also realized that sometimes it is okay to say no!”
Perfect Your Skills
1. Take Cooking Classes: If you’re located in Southern California, you can learn from Kaumudi herself about the wonderful world of Indian cuisine beyond curry. Take one of her fun classes, such as Spices 101, Exploring the Indian Kitchen or Indian Bread Basket to round out your palate. East coasters can check out classes at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, which offers more than 700 recreational cooking classes in state-of-the-art kitchens that pros use. No professional schools close to home? No problem! YouTube is an incredible, free resource for building your cooking skills. (Un-Curry classes and ICE classes start at $105)
2. Cook With Sur La Table: Turn your cooking interest into a social event and invite your friends along too. At your local Sur La Table, you’ll find classes for all types of cuisines and skill sets. Whether you’re interested in making homemade ravioli or fresh cheeses, or perfecting your knife skills, this foodie gadget paradise has something for everyone’s interest and expertise level. (Price varies per class)
3. Beef Up Your Food Design Skills: Whether you’re just experimenting with your cellphone or you’re ready to take the dive with a fancy DSLR camera, show off all those dishes you’re whipping up. Food photography courses from Skillshare can help you out, or you can check out some of the top tips from the pros. ($10/month for access to all of Skillshare’s classes)
4. Ditch Your Day Job: Career coach Michelle Ward walks you through the step-by-step process of quitting your day job to fulfill your self-employment dreams in this online class. Learn how to create a business plan, save an emergency fund and plug into your existing support system for help. ($99 for an online class)
What career would you like to see covered next in our How to Quit Your Day Job Series? Let us know in the comments!
(Photos via Kaumudi Marathé, Sanjiv Bajaj and Uta Briesewitz)
Artist Dev Heyrana On How Bravery, Resilience and Sunshine Influence Her Work
Ever meet someone who you feel immediate kinship with on a deep almost spiritual level? That is legit every person's experience upon meeting Dev Heyrana, the star of this edition of Creative Crushin'. A fine artist, hip hop dance teacher and constant collaborator, Dev's particular brand of creativity is one-of-a-kind. She manages to be warm, welcoming and woke, with a focus on inclusivity, social justice and motherhood that comes through in every piece of art she creates.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and one of many humans who has benefitted from Dev's boundless generosity and kindness. We first connected at a launch event, then I asked her if she and her family would like to model for a B+C shoot (they did!), then months later, I asked the IG universe if anyone would be down to co-parent with me for a day so I could speak at a conference. Dev said yes! And for those that know her, none of these serendipitous moments are surprising.
Now it's time to delve more into Dev's story, her creative inspiration, her thoughtful approach to parenting and what makes her more passionate than ever about bringing her point of view and artistic voice into the universe.
Anjelika Temple: First, foundations. Where did you grow up? What is your heritage? What did you study in school? Where do you live now?
Dev Heyrana: Born in The Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old. Me and my family are from the island of Cebu and I'm a proud Cebuana. My childhood in the Philippines felt like freedom. I had my swimsuit in my backpack for whenever we decided to swim and I biked everywhere.
Immigrating here at 9 yrs old was a transition, to say the least. My parents had big dreams but the move was heavy on them. It wasn't easy. I had to grow up fast. I took care of my sisters while my parents worked night shifts. By the age of 12 I would cook dinner and get my sisters ready for bed. Something I didn't realize was that kids my age didn't do those things until I got older. We would play these make-believe games to make, in hindsight, our hard situation brighter.
I think this is really when art played a big role in my life. It was something I could escape in and always felt healing.
I witnessed racism towards my family and didn't know how to make sense of it. These events left a mark. I was a quiet kid and observed everything and everyone around me. I think about my grandparents, Lolo Jose and Lola Rita, a lot as I walk through life. When I make decisions. As hard as it feels, you have two choices, do you let it take you down or take it one step at a time forward. I kept going and it really shaped me as to why I am the way I am today.
I studied Fine Arts at The Corcoran in DC. I owe that decision to my art teacher, Mr Giles, in High School. He was retiring and wore a Hawaiian shirt every day during my senior year. He was a curmudgeon and I felt incredibly special since out of everyone in the school he really believed in me. As grumpy as he seemed to the class, he would tell me things like "Go into the other studio and break some glass, then put it on a canvas." He's the reason why my abstract pieces have elements like clay and sand in them.
I've had incredible mentors and all were teachers. Mr. Giles in High School and Christine George in College. Christine was the one who told me to go either to New York or San Francisco because "D.C. is no place for an artist like you." She told me to not listen to anyone, how I can still paint, be a graphic designer, and, if I choose to, have a family. I've never had anyone tell me anything like that before.
I took a chance because of her. Moved and went to Design School in 2006 and I've stayed in the Bay Area ever since, raising two girls with the love of my life.
Anj: You are one of those magical human beings that has figured out how to be a full-time artist. What was your career path like before you were able to dive fully into your creative passions?
Dev: The most radical thing I could have done in my family, I did, I went to college for Fine Arts. A mix of being so young and having to do it on my own, I went with the school that gave me more scholarships. Even then I worked three jobs to be able to get through it. Hard work is ingrained in me.
With my sculpture background, I fell in love with Print and Packaging and why I came out here to San Francisco. I appreciated the security of having a career in Graphic Design. I also learned how to work with clients and the business side of things. Even then, I never stopped painting.
A few years ago I went through a pretty hard time with my health. I dealt with six surgeries in one year and I still have to do some follow-up ones. That experience almost broke me and what got me through was my family and painting in bed while I recovered.
When I finally got back on my feet, my heart just wasn't in Graphic Design anymore. So I made a two year plan. With a toddler and a mortgage, I wanted to make sure my steps were thought out. I put myself out there as an Artist while I still worked in Design. After a year I worked part time as a Graphic Designer and stepped down from my Creative Director position. I loved it, to be creative as an Artist and as a Designer. I looked at 2018 as my year to make the jump. If my work as an Artist balances out with my salary then I would quit in the Summer of 2019. And so here we are. I also am sharing a studio with my good friend, Naomi PQ, and I feel like my creative drive is just beginning.
Anj: What do you love about painting? How do you feel when you're in a creative flow state?
Dev: Like every part of me is free. Free to express myself through the stroke of my hand. How all of it leads back to my heart. These elements I use to paint have a mind of their own and how I need to respect the process.
It centers me and reminds me that the process is just like the life we lead. I know I still have so much more to learn but while I'm painting no matter how it's going, I'll embrace this moment.
Anj: You reference your roots quite a bit in your work. Talk to me more about how your roots inspire your work.
Dev: One of my earliest memories is of my Lolo Jose teaching me how to water mango saplings. He converted to Buddhism when my mother was young, so he viewed the world with love and kindness. I didn't realize it then but watering those mango trees were life lessons. We need to take the time to nurture, practice patience, and respect all living things. I still imagine him walking beside me often, carrying his teachings as I find my way in this world.
Nature and the Sun drive my pieces. My abstract works are fragments of moments. Like the sunset I grew up with when I was seven years old in the Philippines, like how I saw the water in Cebu when I dove in as a young adult, and like when I saw the redwoods with my children for the first time.
I see earth in our skin and especially when I paint people. How our mango trees grew and blossomed because the dark earth was rich with nutrients. I imagine the Sun piercing through these women I depict. I paint their love and bravery because their resilience cannot be contained. I want to celebrate all of it.
This is the beauty of Art, I am able to paint exactly how I see it.
Anj: Motherhood and your daughters are also central themes in your work. How has motherhood changed your approach to creating artwork?
Dev: Everything. I was still deep in my Design Career and I would paint at home. One day Quinn, who was 3 years old at the time introduced me at the park to a mom. "This is my mom, she's an Artist." It struck me that my toddler knew who I was more than I knew myself. That's really when I really owned it. I am more fearless because of my girls.
I own my body, I thank people when they compliment me, and I am selective but fearless when I use my voice. I am more in tune how I speak about myself because of them. When I paint these women I want to celebrate them. I notice how I embrace myself is translated in my paintings.
Anj: What advice can you give to parents who are trying to tap into their kiddos' innate creativity?
Dev: I don't have a lot of guidelines set up. I'll say "Let's draw the biggest fish we can draw" or "how many silly lines can we make" and I let them lead me. They ask me questions, show me things, and I sit there with my coffee watching their eyes wide with excitement. Watching them in their creative process is pure joy for me. Those silly lines can turn into a dragon or waves and next thing we know, we're drawing a big beach scene. My advice would be that you can suggest something to start it off but be open to how they take it. It is such a beautiful window into their minds.
Anj: Shifting gears to HIP HOP DANCE! Talk to us about his component of your creative expression.
Dev: I loved the Hip Hop scene in DC and discovered how much fun the clubs were in college. My friends told me about this Hip Hop Crew I should try out for, I was so scared because I've never taken a dance class in my life. I got in and it was like having another family. We competed all over the East Coast, it was a blast!
I found hipline when I started my first Design Job and needed an outlet. It was exactly what I needed and one of the owners asked if I was interested to teach. I've been teaching there since 2009 and am still going strong. It's a wonderful community of women. Now we're virtual and reaching clients all over.
Anj: What does a typical [pandemic] day look like for you? How does it differ from your rhythm before COVID?
Dev: I've been practicing being kinder to myself lately. Both me and my husband work full time and so having the girls at home is a challenge. Some days we are amazed by how smooth it went and then there are others where if the girls are clean and bellies are full, it's a total win.
Now that we're on month 8 our rhythm before covid felt more chaotic to be honest. I felt like we were always rushing out the door while carrying so many bags. Now my husband and I try to have coffee together, if he has a break from his meeting, and we sit with Quinn before school to see what she has to do for the day. Rowan's preschool closed down but we were able to find a wonderful speech therapist for her and she has an Adventure Pod we go to two times a week.
The one thing we really try to do is go outside once a day. Have some magic in their childhood no matter how small. It could be just going up for a hike by our home and picking up leaves, riding our bikes, or watching the sunset from our window. Seeing how the girls' react to these adventures we have is pure magic.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Dev: I go outside. I go out for a hike or go to the beach. Even if it's 15 minutes, something about grounding yourself in Nature is really healing. I also do exercise where I doodle for two minutes because it feels doable. Judgment-free doodles, always opens the doorway to more.
Anj: I know firsthand that community-building is huge for you. Tell us more about what your support system and creative community looks like.
Dev: I feel a lot of love and strength when I think of my community. My relationship with my sister led the way what women supporting women looks like. It's listening, asking questions, remembering, cheering for all the wins, being there even if it's hard, and taking time to invest in them. The way me and my sister show up for each other is why I have these amazing women in my life. I can talk to them about my family, motherhood, and we're all trying to balance it all while sharing my most recent project. I feel really blessed especially looking back in my college years where I don't know where Art would take me.
Anj: When you need to give yourself a pep talk, what does it sound like?
Dev: I usually take a deep breath then say or think "One step forward". Most of the time, I'm scared (as shit) but the thought of not trying scares me more. That one step forward can be hard as hell and maybe even heartbreaking, but I have to try.