Jenny Chan is a professional in the culinary arts and she shares a passion for films as she does for food. Through her spare time, she manages MISE – a culinary business that aims to pair films and food to inspire the senses. Clients choose the movie and MISE will do the rest by transforming the venue and providing guests with dishes inspired by the movie for an unforgettable experience.
Name: Jenny Chan
Suitless Pursuit: MISE
MISE is such a unique concept. What inspired you to come up with the idea?
During exam time at culinary school, I took a break from studying by watching a movie called Simply Irresistible. In that movie, there’s a specific scene where the main character makes these caramel éclairs that everyone just falls for. After the movie, I thought it would be a really fun to make caramel éclairs for my friends. As I kept thinking about it, I thought it would be even more fun to make all the other dishes from the movie. From there, the idea of MISE just kind of came to me. I’ve always wanted to experience food from movies and I figured I might as well try doing this on a regular basis.
What was your first MISE event?
The first one I did was a trial run for my friends. The movie they chose was Pulp Fiction and everyone loved it. My friends spread the word around and that’s how I got my first official client. For my first official client, we did Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. One of the dishes I prepared was a bacon ice cream inspired by Kevin Bacon even though he was only in the movie for five minutes!
How do you come up with food dishes for each client?
The client tells me the movie that they want me to do, and I watch the movie and take notes. Some movies are easier than others. For example, some movies have dishes that I can recreate with my own twist to it. With other movies, I need to figure out the small food references and work with that. It’s fun to have different variety so that I can work both inside and outside the box.
Creating a MISE event for your client seems like a lot of work. Can you walk us through the process?
In terms of logistics, we first start by sending custom made invitations to guests on behalf of the host. The day of, we pack everything in a van and head to the client’s home or venue a couple hours earlier before the event starts. We set up the venue by reorganizing the furniture and set up our mini-screen and projector for the client to watch the movie. Before the guests arrive, we start cooking on site. Once the guests arrive, we provide them with a detailed menu. From there, everything is good to go and it’s show time.
What’s been your favourite event so far?
The Jurassic Park MISE event is my favourite because I was able to play around with the dish decorations. I used bamboo and banana leaves, which made the plates look amazing. I also enjoyed coming up with new ideas for the food dishes. In one scene, there’s someone talking about Chilean sea bass during a meeting. I took notes of what the ingredients were and flipped the dish to create my own variation.
MISE isn’t your full-time gig right now, so how do you manage your time with your day time job?
Although, I’m currently working every single day, I do use the rest of my day to work on MISE. It’s challenging, but I’m lucky enough to have friends and family who help me. However, recently, I’m trying to really learn from each event to make sure the next one is an easier process than the last.
I read your biography on your website and you actually left the Film and Television industry to start a profession in culinary arts.
Yeah, it was a really scary feeling. It wasn’t an easy thing to leave an industry that I was doing well in. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was scary to go back to school after being out of it for so long. I thought about silly stuff like whether or not I would make friends or if I could handle school. Luckily, I made a lot of friends and I had a great experience!
What was your family’s reaction from transitioning from one industry to another?
My friends were very supportive and encouraging. My family was happy for me, but obviously a little bit nervous. I feel that Asian parents love it when their children go back to school. My mom kept telling me that I should learn as much as I can. She’s really cool that way.
Are there any lessons you learned from all the events you've done?
Every event teaches me something new. It’s a big whirlwind. No matter how much you prepare, the day of always becomes chaotic. Time management is a big hurdle for me because you don’t have a lot of time to do prepping, cooking, transportation, loading in, loading out. Through each event I’m learning to manage my event better. I also learned a lot more about food costs. I used to buy more food than I needed and now I can manage it so I’m not wasting food. In the beginning, friends and family helped me a lot, but now I’m learning to not to depend on my friends and family and to see this business as something bigger. I want to hire, server, and hosts.
In 5 years time, where do you see MISE as?
I would love to have my own store space kind of like a Chinese tea shop. Every week, I would have a MISE event for everyone to enjoy!
Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own culinary business?
I think it’s good to jump in like I did if you have the financial means to do it. The scariest thing to do is to actually start something. So many things will deter you, so you might as well just start it before you never try. I also think that having a partner would help you shoulder the burden of having the whole weight of the business on your shoulders.
Let’s play a game. I’m going to choose a movie and you have to think of a dish inspired by the movie.
Lord of the Rings
I would definitely go with a Chocolate Molten Lava Cake to represent Mount Doom.
Wizard of Oz
I think of Ruby Red slippers and I think of a savoury strawberry dish. I would probably use homemade strawberry jam to go with a roasted turkey.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I would definitely pick a dish from the eighties. I love retro things. I would do an old school French dish like Pommes Dauphine (fried potato dish).
Book your event at the MISE homepage: http://www.misetoronto.com/
MISE Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/misecatering
MISE Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiseToronto