Grace Lee loves to cook, and making meals for her family and friends is also her way of showing her affection for them.
She said, "That’s my love language. You know, preparing food, and that’s my form of expressing love to the people that are around me."
So when the idea of turning her passion into business began to spark, she grappled with it.
"At one point, I said, 'Maybe this is just a hobby of mine.' Right? Cause I just love to cook.
"Nag-struggle din ako diyan, e," the former radio jock and TV host revealed to PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during an interview at last year’s Globe Star Bazaar.
She recalled, "But I have seen so many people fail doing what they love to do. Parang quote and quote, 'love.' Na parang sana they retained what they loved doing as a hobby.
"Only because once you fail at your hobby and something you ‘love’ to do, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, di ba?
"So I didn’t wanna lose that. I didn’t wanna lose that passion for cooking, and being able to cook for my family, and the joy that I feel when I watch people eat my food."
Grace also knew that jumping into entrepreneurship was not an easy task. What made her take the jump?
She said, "I’m actually a chef by training, I went to Global Culinary Academy while I was working for GMA at that time.
"After my college, I even took a diploma course in culinary. And so, I took the culinary course only because I really love cooking for my family and friends.
"I think the turning point really was, when the desire was not a momentary, in-passing thing.
"But as I prayed over it, and I thought about it over and over, this in the course of years, and it was still there.
"Then I knew that I had to at least give it a try."
Grace’s first venture was Eum Ma Ne, a modern Korean restaurant and soju lounge that opened 2015.
In 2017, their space in Estancia at Capitol Commons, Pasig City, transformed into Nikuya, a Korean and Japanese restaurant.
But her most successful foray in the food business is Kko Kko, a casual Korean fusion restaurant.
The family- and barkada-friendly restaurant became a hit, and went on to have 13 branches in just two years.
Kko Kko’s bestsellers include the chicken cheese fondue, chicken popcorn, and Korean chicken wings.
Not to be outdone are the jumeokbap (hand-rolled riceballs) and rabokki, a fusion of Korean ramen and tteokbokki.
Grace recalled taking a break from TV work in 2016 to focus on her business, "I wanted to rest for about six months, and that’s where I tried to concentrate and try the business side. E, yun, lumaki yung negosyo.
"I think in my heart, I've always wanted to do it. It’s just that when I was doing radio and TV shows, my time was not mine so I couldn’t concentrate on it.
"But when God gave me this break, I thanked Him because I was able to utilize that time to do something absolutely new.
"But it wasn’t entirely new in the sense that the desire was in my heart for years. It’s just a matter of having the time to pull it off, and being guided to be able to do it."
LEARNING TO SAY NO
Today, Grace juggles her time between managing her restaurants and her production company.
"I also have a production business. It’s called Zenith Media Contents Philippines. Our mother company is in Korea, and we actually have offices across Asia.
"So I do a lot of the behind-the-camera production. So I’m into producing TV shows and certain movies and programs. So my time is a little here and there."
Grace said Zenith Media has several projects in the works, and a partnership with Viva Entertainment for their first three projects. The Korean host and restaurateur is also gearing up for a TV comeback.
With all these on her plate, how does she manage her time?
"By waking up early and sleeping late. He-he. No, time management is something I had to learn also.
"I learned to say no. I think that’s very, very important. Before I used to say yes all the time.
"May fear of missing out yata ako before. But you know I’ve come to realize that the time God has given to us is a gift.
"And so it is up to me to utilize this gift as productive as I can.
"And so even the day today, I could’ve said no. But the reason why I said yes is, 'What is the value of that time for me?'
"Not just when it comes to the profitability of my business, but when it comes to the image and the end goal of what I’m trying to do for that day.
"So I better manage my time now, because I know what the goal is, at least on a daily basis. And important, I’ve learned to say no."
Grace’s word to the wise?
"Don’t act on a whim. 'Oh I love to cook!' or 'Yung nanay ko magaling magluto! Ah mag-nenegosyo kami.' Don’t."