05/11/2008 - 22:00

Food-loving couple spice things up

05/11/2008 - 22:00

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LEAVING the corporate cocoon to set up their own gourmet food store was challenging for the owners of the newly opened Turban Chopsticks; but the former human resources advisor and accountant don't miss their former life.

Food-loving couple spice things up
Mei-Sann Yong and Suresh Chandra left the corporate world to follow their passion for food with Turban Chopsticks

LEAVING the corporate cocoon to set up their own gourmet food store was challenging for the owners of the newly opened Turban Chopsticks; but the former human resources advisor and accountant don't miss their former life.

Mei-Sann Yong and Suresh Chandra made a radical career change eight months ago when they resigned from their jobs to start a food store that would specialise in exotic home-made condiments, rice, spices and teas.

Ms Yong had been working in human resources for five years and Mr Chandra in accounting, but the couple wanted to be their own bosses in the industry they loved - food.

"When you leave school you don't know what to do and you do whatever your mum tells you to do, you just want to get a job. But food has always been a passion for us," Mr Chandra said.

"When you start a business from scratch you really have to pick something that you're passionate about because you're in it for the long run," he says.

Ms Yong's family has several food related businesses in Malaysia.

"My uncle is a baker and my dad a chef. They have a factory in Malaysia and they also run a school there, the Malaysian Institute of Baking," Ms Yong told WA Business News.

"That's why I have always been involved in that when I was there [Malaysia] on holidays there was always something baking, donuts, pumpkin bread I was always in that space, I've been brought up with it."

Most of the products sold in Turban Chopsticks have been created from scratch by the duo.

"We love creating new things, we have over 40 products here and each one has been created over the stove, in the oven, by hand," Ms Yong said.

"Some recipes have been handed down by my family but everything else we do all ourselves, that's exciting for us."

While they want all the food to be hand-made, Ms Yong and Mr Chandra quickly found that the hardest thing in running their own business was that all aspects of the business were under their responsibility.

"We do everything ourselves and that's something we learnt, because it's just us and you can't really afford as a small business to pay someone else to help you," Ms Yong said.

"Whereas before, where I was working, if I had problems with my computer, there's IT...the whole organisational structure is so supportive, whereas here, you're on your own."

The passion-driven couple found the perfect venue for their outlet, on 324 Bulwer Street in Northbridge, in between Torre Butchers and a high-end barber; and, they say, both neighbours bring a lot of clientele to the area.

The owners said it was important to find an outlet that would showcase the open plan kitchen where all the food is made.

"We wanted to have a space where people could see where we make the food, rather than find the product in the grocery store. We wanted to have that point of difference...and have the retail," Mr Chandra said.

"We want to build a really good reputation with the brand that would be supported by the shop."

Turban Chopsticks has a different dish available to taste every day, made with the various ingredients sold in the shop.

The products have a strong Indian and Asian influence, as well as more western-style products such as jars of BBQ onions and jams.

The couple sells packaged dry rice and lentils that include a spices mix to cook it with.

"We have biryani, it's an Indian rice dish and all the spices are in there already... people don't need to go to the shop and buy 15 different spices to make something Indian or Chinese, we do that hard work for them," Ms Yong said.

"We tried to educate our customers but we were surprised to discover how well Australians really know their stuff. And they're very open to trying new things."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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