Don’t mess with Kristine Lotilla. She is a Taekwondo black belter. She is also a kitchen goddess/ chef who loves to travel and eat.
A merit scholar and cum laude graduate at Enderun, she earned another scholarship (jointly from Enderun and the French government) to take her training in Paris at Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse for six months then worked with Fairmont Hotel as Pastry Commi for two years.
You will find her in the July 2015 F&B Report‘s Chefs on the Rise, 2017 PDI Chefs to Watch Out For and many other publications as she spreads happiness through her culinary creations among the food brands she and business partner, Chef Miko Aspiras, conceptualized. They both went into business at Tasteless Restaurant Group in November 2014, Chef Kristine taking the role of Pastry Chef Consultant. She is also part owner of concepts like Scout’s Honor, Le Petit Souffle, Workshop by Le Petit Souffle, Freezer Burn, Milktrade, Poison Donuts, and more to come.
In support of #lovelocal, they want to be able to showcase unique homemade concepts which showcase how much talent there is in the Philippines.
Here is my chat with the beautiful, talented chef:
Why the name Tasteless Food Group? The Food group is called Tasteless because our concepts don’t just cater to one taste but they’re all unique and different in their own way. The restaurant group is very unconventional. Like our doughnut and coffee concept is called Poison because we’re actually the store/office front of a design firm called Hydra (Hey Hydra!). So as nourishment of the villains to the common people, we have dangerous coffee, deadly donuts… Just a big range of creativity in the group.
When and how did you know that you wanted to go into the food business?
I was working in the hotel industry for a few years and I realised that I didn’t see myself in that type of environment long-term. So when the opportunity to handle a business came up, I took a leap of faith and tried it out. Something I envisioned that I was going to do at 30, I was able to do at 24. Sometimes, you really never know until you try.
Was there someone in particular who inspired you?
When it comes to baking, it was my mom who started it all. She was constantly baking at home from cream puffs to carrot cakes and strawberry shortcakes, so it wasn’t a surprise when my sisters and I all picked up the hobby as well. She used to make us assist from menial jobs of just pouring things in the bowl to mixing but it was good enough to start the interest. Started baking on my own and would constantly give friends my baked goods to try until finally, an opportunity came to pursue it in college.
What was the most memorable experience you had that sealed for you that the food business is where you want to be?
Pastries, in general, was something I’ve had an interest in for so long but having my own food business allowed me to help more people around me. Aside from the recognition we would get from different people, publications, etc., the most memorable experience for me was seeing our very first employee grow with us through the years. She started out as our barista then eventually became our manager, and is continuously growing with us. I like to hear employees’ stories and if we get to see potential in these people, give them opportunities. I knew I could help and influence more people in my position now.
What was your most memorable experience when you were studying to be a chef?
My fondest memory when I was studying was when I took my internship. To work and live in Paris had only happened in my wildest dreams and when I was able to do so because of the scholarship I got from Enderun and the French government… as soon as I saw the Eiffel tower, I couldn’t believe that I was there. When it finally all sank in, I knew anything is possible as long as I keep my mind and heart in it.
What is your most touching experience in your work?
When I talk to my staff and they say how much they’ve grown with us that even they and their families would include us in their prayers.
What are the greatest rewards in your work?
Greatest rewards are the hands-on learning, non-routinary schedule, and whole working experience. At 24, when I started business with my partners, I thought to myself that maybe I needed to get an MBA. Someone advised me though that I am in a better position to actually learn from the businessmen I get to work with plus get a hands-on experience of what it is really like to handle a business. Three years into it, I have grown so much through all the difficulties and triumphs we’ve been through. It’s a constant battle to stay afloat but it just makes us wiser and stronger with each wave the passes.
How do you balance your work/ personal life?
I balance work and my personal life by making sure I get to maximise my time. There is always a right time and place for things and I believe that as much you as you work, you also have to take breaks to enjoy life. The people around me as well are very supportive in the things I do which makes it easier for me to balance. You have to be able to also teach your team well and trust that they can be able to manage on their own so they too can grow.
KRISTINE LOTILLA’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP TIPS FOR WOMEN:
What considerations would be important for women before going into business?
– Study the industry, market, and craft you’re getting yourself into
– Confidence in oneself
– Being open minded to ideas, work, and learning new things (humility)
– Flexibility with schedule and work hours
– Health (since it’s not going to be easy especially the stress that you’ll get yourself into. So your body must be prepared for it)
– Passion (knowing what you want to pursue and having the drive to go through it through the challenges and hardships that come with it)
How can they equip/prepare themselves?
I guess it’s being aware that not everything will always play out right. So with this in mind, you mentally prepare yourself that you are ready for the challenges.
What mistakes to avoid?
– Handling staff will be tough but I always believe in treating my staff fair and with kindness. Not a lot of people manage their staff well but if you treat them well, they will also take care of your business.
– The customers aren’t always right and when you see that people disrespect your staff, don’t instantly agree; hear the side of your staff as well.
– Arrogance. With every business, you have to be open to feedback.
What do you look for in staff?
– Being open-minded with work (willing to multitask and learn)
– Positive perspective in life
– Honesty, integrity, and sense of family
– Hard working
What/who inspires you to do what you do?
– My family who supported me through the hardships I’ve had in my culinary career
– My business partners who are also passionate people (Charlie Paw, Miko Aspiras, et al)
– My team: the people who execute our vision (all our staff from all our concepts plus supporting departments like the commissary)
– God (to whom much is given, much is expected)
What are your success secrets?
– Be good to your people because you guys can share the dream of your business and they will take care of you
– Do you best in everything you do whether it’s baking or even washing dishes.
What tips can you give to a woman who would like to go into business?
-You only live once. Go for it and do your best. Sometimes we get too scared to try something risky like putting up a business but if you put your mind and heart into it, anything is possible. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies because a lot of struggles will come your way but you have to find all possible ways to survive and thrive.
Anything else you would like to share?
Well, what I tell people is when something gets hard, I always pray and it helps and motivates me that everything will be okay. Always be nice to people whatever their background whether they’re your customer or your staff, no one has the right to be mean or rude.
Chef Kristine Lotilla on IG: