MANILA -- “Mana sa mama niya” or “Mana sa papa niya.”
Every offspring will always get something inherent from his parents. In the case of business executive and budding entrepreneur Eric Capacia, his culinary skills were handed down by his old folks.
The youngest and only boy in a brood of three children, Capacia’s mom left when he was only seven, while his dad passed away right after his high school graduation.
“Both my parents were great cooks and could create wonderful meals in the kitchen. No doubt, I got my cooking skills from them,” Capacia told ABS-CBN News.
He started to whip up his first experimental dish when he was barely in his teens -- pancit bihon guisado that was meant as a birthday treat for his best friend. It wasn’t the perfect stir-fry noodles, but he was able to get it done at that time.
“Since then, I wanted to cook and create delicious meals that would remind the person eating how their family would prepare the familiar dish for them,” he said.
From the simplest to the most complicated dishes, Capacia learned to concoct everything from home. However, his job was his top-most priority, that’s why cooking took the back burner. Until the pandemic came.
When the lockdown was declared in March last year, Capacia suddenly had so much time at home. Although he still works eight hours a day, he no longer wastes precious time on the road because of traffic.
“For years, there was little time for me to spend at home due to my corporate life as a BPO [business process outsourcing] manager,” Capacia shared. “I needed to work longer hours in the office then, plus Metro Manila traffic.
“That means very little time and even no time to devote for my love for cooking. Little by little, I regained my momentum and confidence in the kitchen. It wasn’t hard to regain it. It really came out naturally.”
Initially, Capacia started with cooking meals at home. “Then it was sharing meals to my sisters, friends, relatives that I cooked myself,” he said. “I did it for a month or two, then I suddenly realized there’s a clamor to cook more.
“There was a demand. People were even willing to pay for shipping fee, just to have my home-cooked meals delivered to their homes.”
Capacia subsequently named his food business Yaya’s Home Kitchen, after his household help, Ging Ging, who has been with him for nearly four years.
“The odd thing about my food business, it was already serving great meals to family since April 2020 even before it had its official business name,” he granted. “But Yaya Ging Ging played a vital role in my food business name and concept.”
Since the family of Ging Ging was greatly affected by the pandemic, she was burdened by financial hardships. She was forced to consistently advance her salary, so she could share the money with her family in Bacolod.
“Most members of her family lost their jobs and some are in between jobs,” Capacia lamented. “That gave me an idea to create a business that will enable her to earn on the side. Yaya’s Home Kitchen was conceptualized last May 2020.
“Our goal is simple. To provide familiar Pinoy food that is affordable and all-natural. No preservatives or extenders. We want to offer great food to people without hurting their daily food budget. We want our food to make our customers remember how your mom or lola would cook it.”
Capacia said the income he earns from Yaya’s Home Kitchen with Ging Ging, who gets to provide more now for her family in the province. “It’s my way of paying it forward,” Capacia admitted. “I was lucky enough to be able to keep my job and work in the comfort of my own home.
“It has been nine months since we have opened and served Yaya’s Home Kitchen meals to various homes. We may not be a food empire, but income has been good and steady.
“Yaya Ging is able to provide financially to her loved and our home business allowed me to save money myself and upgrade my kitchen equipment. All thanks to our loyal and nice customers who have been with us for the past nine months.”
On a normal week, it is only Capacia and Yaya Ging Ging who run the cloud kitchen from his Parañaque home. “We try to manage orders and schedule delivery ourselves,” Capacia said.
“However, on some occasions, like the recent Christmas holidays, we had to get another pair of hands, Carla, to help us in packaging, so she will also earn an additional income.”
A graduate of AB Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Capacia worked as sales broker for a top Makati company for a good seven years right after college.
He also took up insurance courses at the Singapore Insurance Institute. He attended two years of French class as Alliance Francaise de Manila and Digital Marketing class in CDM (Certified Digital Marketer) Google in 2017.
Capacia is aware Yaya’s Home Kitchen is only good as their last food delivery. “This is my rule when it comes to food quality,” he stressed. “It does not matter how delicious our delivery was two months ago.
“What is important for me is how consistently we are with our taste and quality. Another mantra I apply to our food business, if I personally do not approve and like the food, it’ll not leave our kitchen.”
He is aware that the pandemic made access to ingredients a bit hard. Especially during the lockdown, movement of goods became a real challenge for him and his help.
“There were times we had to cancel or delay orders just because our supplier did not have the goods,” Capacia explained. “We have to be consistently creative on how we cook. At the same time, we never compromise the outcome just to be able to deliver.”
After only nine months of running his Yaya’s Homemade Kitchen, Capacia certainly realized the food business is cutthroat.
“Competition is high,” he sighed. “For you to thrive, you have to stick to your goal and have a sincere relationship with your customers. There are times you will fail. Make sure you own these mistakes and learn from them.
“The mistakes make you tough as an entrepreneur and establish your grit as an online seller. Learn from the experts and apply your learnings in your business. We are never too old to learn a new trick. We are forever students in this world.”
Adapting to the new normal means taking important measures in his personal and professional life for Capacia.
“Whether we admit or not, our lives have drastically changed because of the impact of COVID-19. I miss a lot of people dearly because of confining ourselves at home. We have to restrict ourselves to Zoom meetings or even FB Messenger chat to be able to catch up with people close to our hearts.”
Especially in his cloud kitchen. “How we run our small food business is no different. Our home strictly needs to follow and abide with all the safety protocols.”
He has taken aggressive action to cushion the impact of COVID-19 in his food business. “The impact of this pandemic in our lives has been massive,” Capacia admitted. “It has changed the way we live and do certain things.
“In our own simply ways, want to soften the economic blow to our customers. To save on delivery fees, we try to schedule trips within the same areas where our customers are domiciled.
“This means delivery of food would be much cheaper for the people living in the same area. They save more or less 20 percent from the original cost. We only need to schedule delivery for them and group the orders. Every little saving these days counts a lot.”
Living with inflation likewise became a big factor in Capacia’s food business. The price increase of pork per kilo the last six months, became a major consideration. “Initially, we tried to absorb the price increase and let the income margin shoulder the price hike,” he explained.
“However, we cannot bear it ourselves and sadly, last December, we had to increase some of our costings because then, the business will no longer be profitable if we continue with the previous price lists of our goods.”
Thankfully, to date, they have yet to receive a serious complaint about food preparation or taste. Nothing unfortunate. The usual complaint he encounters from customers is the delivery time caused by delay from the rider, because of unexpected traffic jam along the way.
The most popular orders that Yaya’s Home Kitchen gets during the week are deliveries for pork embutido, pork menudo and buttered garlic chicken. "They are the top three orders being requested by customers repeatedly,” Capacia offered.
“Most of the bulk orders we get are for parties and celebrations at home. They make us feel special that the meal we cooked in out kitchen is part of somebody’s important celebration. We feel that we belong and we’re part of the celebration in some ways.”
To answer his other clients eager to replicate his dishes, Capacia posts cooking tutorials on his YouTube channel, Fierce Vlogs, every Sunday.
He recently invested in newly purchased air filters in his kitchen. Food-safe sanitizers for him and his Yaya Ging Ging to spray on delivery goods before sending the orders through the riders before their customers.
Naturally, they have masks and hairnets while preparing the food, from the mixing to the cooking to the delivery. “These are extra measures we take to make our customers safe,” Capacia said.
However, Capacia has no choice but to also face the downside of his food business. Through the nine months that he has been running Yaya’s Home Kitchen, he has understandably encountered headaches.
“Taste is subjective,” he said. “That would highly depend on the person trying out our meal. What’s good for Peter may not be acceptable to John.
“So over time, I came to accept the fact that you cannot please the palate of everyone. You simply have to accept that some may not find your food delicious. That’s totally fine.
“We all grew up knowing different kinds of adobo version. I simply interpret mine to the taste I’m familiar with. We are accustomed to a certain type of taste and mix.”
Balancing work and his personal life has not been too tough for Capacia. At present, he is juggling two hats, that of a corporate executive and an entrepreneur.
“I am also very happy how my company dealt with the pandemic and how they made sure employees are safe and taken care of,” he said. “I am simply glad I am able to manage both and deliver the demands of both worlds. So far, so good.
“It also works that my corporate schedule is after lunch. That means I can wake up early on weekdays and prepare food for our home business. Weekends are devoted to stocking up for the coming week. That has been our game plan ever since the orders increased.”
Capacia has been admirably juggling his time of late and he has no complaints. He keeps the faith that his unselfish venture of Yaya’s Home Kitchen will prosper even more this year and who knows, bring in more opportunities not only for him, but for the people he works with.