ArtShine

Close Up Interview with Food Artisan Roselind Boey

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. 

I am currently based in Sydney and have called Sydney my home for 3 years. I was born and brought up in Butterworth, a sleepy industrial town in Malaysia.

I started off as a passionate home cook and saw the niche for Malaysian Nyonya cuisine in the market. I started Rasa Rosa because I wanted to share with Sydneysiders the food that I love. Malaysian cuisine today is a blend of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences brought together by the early migrants of Malaysia. Nyonya cuisine is a fusion of specifically Malay and Chinese cuisines which are reflected in the ingredients, names and the craftmanship. 

I truly believe that the food that I am creating and championing is an artform – where the techniques to master the presentation are as important as the taste itself. 

Roselind & Family

Who (or what) inspires you to do what you love in your own creative business?

I have always loved working with my hands – creating beautiful things. Since moving out of Malaysia, I realise that food is major part of my cultural identity. I feel that I have not chosen my passion; but instead my passion has chosen me. When I am cooking and creating, I feel at peace with myself.

In the background, my friends, family, ex-colleagues and strangers I meet at the markets are a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.

Where do you get your inspiration from when you design/paint?

The memories of me growing up in Malaysia, and how heavily food is featured in those memories. Be it home-cooked food that my mother and grandmother whipped up, street food or the special festive treats come each Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya etc. Growing up in a multicultural society really helped me in collecting a library of sights, sounds and tastes which I constantly draw upon in creating new dishes and in the presentation of my food. I cook emotionally, and I put a little bit of myself and my history into the food that I cook.

Ang Koo
Rasa Rosa Copyright

I love to dine out, try new recipes from all over the world, use ingredients that I have never used before and in some ways they have sneaked into my cooking style. I constantly get A-Ha! moments when I open up my mind and heart to new ideas. I am very spoilt here in Australia, where there is just so much high quality fresh produce and cultures, that its so easy for me to keep on learning and experimenting without travelling!

What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?

Funny, Joyful, Ambitious, Kind, Creative

Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?

My very first job was as a spring roller in a dim sim factory in Melbourne. When I say spring roller, I mean rolling spring rolls. Really.

Green Kuih
Rasa Rosa Copyright

Then, armed with my fresh Accounting degree from Uni was as a financial auditor in Malaysia. The last job I had before I decided to pursue my passion whole-heartedly, was as an auditor in Sydney.

I reached a point in my career where I knew I HAD to give this cooking business a go. I owe it to myself to give it a try, and there’s never a good time. So here I am, a full time Kuih (Malaysian Sweets) lady!

Kuih Kosui
Rasa Rosa Copyright

Describe a typical day in your Kitchen /Cooking Space?

I don’t really have a typical day, but I do check my emails, facebook or twitter accounts first thing in the morning.

As I am renting a commercial kitchen for my main production on an hourly basis, it actually gets quite crazy for the amount of work that needs to be done. On the lead up to cooking day, I do a stock take, shopping run, plan the work timetable and work allocation between my volunteer helpers. I think I spend as much time planning as the cooking itself!

Kitchen Experiments
Rasa Rosa Copyright

More creatively in my home kitchen, I try to experiment with something new each week and hopefully introduce that to the markets.  This involves trawling through the internet for ideas, flipping through cookbooks, cooking and most importantly keeping very precise notes and measurements of the ingredients that went into the final product.

Once I know I have a promising product, I go back to my Excel spreadsheet and cost the product and that will help me determine how to price it.

As an Chef/Cook, what is your biggest frustration?

Its interesting, my biggest frustration as a chef/cook is the same biggest frustration as an entrepreneur – Being a one-woman show.  I know that I could do so much more, and I want to do so much more. Many times, I have to compromise and make difficult decisions to accommodate what is physically do-able as a solo operator.

Pulut Inti
Rasa Rosa Copyright

Tell us about how you prioritise your work. space

I plan/ think about my work in weekly blocks. As I have weekly markets – I need to have sufficient products to sell at the markets. I guess, that is top priority on a weekly basis.

However, I try to build admin and planning days into my routine. Each week I try to cross out something from my ever growing to-do list, such as fix the website, work on costing, work on packaging, financials etc.

When I first started out, I got so overwhelmed by the amount of things that I should do and can do! Now, I try to work on the high priority items. A simple question that I ask myself in prioritising is, “Is this a good to have or need to have?” Another useful one especially if you are in business is, “Will this improve my bottom line?”

I am still working on the discipline to commit myself to my admin/ planning days. It gets so tempting to run away into my kitchen, but increasingly, I realise that these admin/ planning days will make or break my dream.

Can you please tell us about how do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?

I network mainly through the markets. I have been extremely blessed by the abundant advice I got from fellow stallholders as well as constructive feedback I get from the customers.

What advice can you offer other creative people who are just starting out and following their passions?

Don’t give up and don’t be shy to ask for help!

What dreams do you still want to achieve or fulfil in your life?

Win the lottery, buy a tropical island, start a Malaysian Nyonya Kuih empire. In short, win the lottery.

What is your proudest moment so far?

Every time I see customers returning week after week for my food.

Who do you most want to meet and why?

I would love to meet Chef Wan (a famous Malaysian celebrity chef). He used to be an accountant too! He has such an energetic TV personality, and I have always had a hunch that his real off-air personality is a little bit more intense and insightful.

What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?

Don’t short-change yourself! Live life to your fullest potential – because you will be surprised what you are capable of.

What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?

Embarrassed to say, but I have not read a proper book recently other than cookbooks, cover to cover and then in reverse. However, a book that I read a few years back has been a source of encouragement and strength in my entrepreneurship journey – Anyone Can Do It: Building Coffee Republic From Our Kitchen Table. An account of how the brother-sister team started their own business in the food (coffee) industry.

South Sydney Market
Rasa Rosa Copyright

Where do we find you and your products? 

Farmers’ markets and Weekend Markets – Bondi Junction Village Markets (every Thursday and Saturday) and South Sydney Markets (last Sunday of the month).
For special events and platters – contact me on contact.rasa.rosa@gmail.com
Bondi Junction Village Market
Rasa Rosa Copyright

About The Author

I am a Business LifeStyle coach who specialises in working with artists, designers, crafters and all creative professionals. Myself and my partner Stuart Horrex are here to help you to achieve your Life & business goal and dreams. We have had over 20 years experience in finance, retail,furniture,food,wine fashion,crafts and hospitality.