Some people are surprised to find out that Hong Kong celebrity chef and cookbook author Norma Chu has never attended formal cooking classes. She learnt her way around the kitchen from her parents. “They’re my mentors,” says Chu, 38.
Her journey in the culinary world began when she moved to the US at age 12. She spent a lot of time at home, so her parents taught her how to cook traditional Chiu Chow dishes like oyster pancake, steamed flower crab with Chinese wine, and braised fish maw.
Chu says she loves Chinese food because of its wide variety, especially Cantonese cuisine, and she loves the spicy characteristics of Sichuan food. There are two American staples that she hates though – mustard and ketchup.
“I don’t really know why. When I was growing up, I never liked condiments that came out of plastic bottles,” she says.
After spending 12 years in Seattle, Washington, Chu moved back to Hong Kong to be closer to her parents. “They had already moved back to Asia,” she explains, “and I enjoy life in Hong Kong very much because it’s where I call home.”
Though Chu worked as head of equities research for a multinational banking group in Hong Kong, her passion for the kitchen never cooled. In fact, she wanted to create a culture that incorporates home cooking as part of a quality lifestyle choice.
That’s when she came up with the idea of a cooking show for TV. “I’m very proactive and I like to take action, so I pretty much started DayDayCook in my apartment while working in the finance industry,” Chu says.
She eventually quit her day job to devote her time and energy to the show. “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’s all worth it,” she says.
Her gamble has paid off as the series has becomes a huge hit. DayDayCook targets viewers between 21 and 45 years old.
“About 70% of our audience are no older than 30 years; the rest are college students and more mature women,” says Chu. “The core underlying themes for the programme’s recipes are easy, convenient, creative, healthy and tasty.”
A session on cooking with children was also popular with mums. In DayDayCook’s ground business, her kids cooking classes get a very good response too. “Young parents love finding ways to spend time and connect with their children. Cooking is a fantastic way to bond,” she says.
Chu’s role in DayDayCook has since evolved from content creation to being the key opinion leader. She spends most of her time now on strategy, business development and people management.
“We have a team of chefs and editors designing recipes in Hong Kong and Shanghai. I still make a video from time to time, because it’s something I really love, and I usually shoot them in Hong Kong,” she says.
Chu sees tremendous opportunity in building the DayDayCook brand, to provide unique experiences and quality products to their audience. “In 2017, we launched an e-commerce solution across several content platforms, including WeChat and our own app,” she says.
“We also opened our first retail store in Shanghai in December that year. At the DayDayCook shops, customers get to experience the joy of cooking hands-on with their loved ones and even meet new friends.”
In the last 18 months, the company has opened six other locations including Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan. Chu’s husband and family are still in Hong Kong, but she spends most of her time in Shanghai because of the show.
“I really love grocery shopping and cooking with my husband when I go home,” she admits.
Chu has also published six cookbooks, five in Hong Kong and one in China. She says, “It’s a small passion project of mine, and I want to publish at least one cookbook a year.”
Despite her culinary success, Chu 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,” she says.