Full-time Toronto graphic designer starts up small batch chili oil side hustle
A full-time graphic designer in Toronto started up a side hustle during lockdowns making chili oil, both as a way of reconnecting with his community and providing a role model for people like him to look up to.
"I started making chili oil to give to friends as an excuse to see them again. I'd stop by and have a conversation at their doorway when I went by to drop off the gift. By the summer of 2021, I had received a lot of positive feedback about my chili oil which led me to consider making and selling chili oil as a side gig," Da Jiujiu founder Tim Leong tells blogTO.
"In my circles, none of my friends or peers were entrepreneurs. Everyone was either a professional, in the medical field, or worked a corporate job. There was nobody for the future generations to look up to as a BIPOC/Asian entrepreneur."
Da Jiujiu is a play on words and the name of Leong's small-batch chili oil company.
"I started this business partly for my niece, to be an example for her to look up to. In Mandarin, da jiujiu means uncle, mother's eldest brother," says Leong. "In Cantonese, da jiujiu means big pepper."
He says you can put the sauce made with shiitake mushroom, kelp and Sichuan peppercorn on anything. Suggestions include dumplings, noodles, veggies and pizza. A 250 mL jar is available online for $15.
"I started following Asian American businesses that rose during the pandemic. Brands like Omsom and Fly by Jing are trying to change the narrative about how Asian food products are perceived," says Leong. "Asian products can also be premium products when made with premium ingredients."
Leong has no professional culinary training but feels he's a decent home cook, yet still felt he could make some improvements on traditional chili oil based on personal preference.
"Traditionally, chili oil doesn't have salt or sugar, maybe because neither is soluble in oil? I wanted a chili oil that would taste amazing on its own complete with salt, sugar, spice, and umami, so I set out to create my own," says Leong.
"I wanted my chili oil to be as accessible as possible so I've made it vegan, gluten-free and MSG-free. We use naturally occurring MSG in shiitake mushrooms and Canadian kelp for the umami in our chili oil."
As a full-time graphic designer, Leong mostly works on the business during weekends and nights. His productivity secrets are using a production facility that's open 24 hours a day and setting many reminders on his phone.
"We realized how important it was for people to connect, be with their communities and share a meal. I felt sad that I wasn't able to," says Leong.
"So, we thought, what better way to share life than putting our heart and soul into making delicious chili oil for people to share around the table. Our mission here is to connect with people through food and culture and bring them closer to their communities."
Da Jiujiu Chili Oil
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