Co-Founder Q&A for Small Business Saturday

In honour of Small Business Saturday and supporting local businesses with Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, we’ve asked our co-founding team questions that were submitted by our followers on Instagram (psst… follow us if you aren’t already for sneak previews of upcoming projects and dishes!)

Pictured: Chef Wallace Wong (left) and Ian Weng (right) stand proudly in the first SPATULA kitchen.
(Pictured: Chef Wallace Wong (left) and Ian Weng (right) in the first SPATULA kitchen)

Before we dive in, do you know how SPATULA got its start? It all began when two friends were separated by oceans and a pandemic…  COVID-19 broke out while Ian was in France studying, and it turns out the stereotypes have some truth to them: the French know good food, and the kitchens in their apartments are… small, to say the least. 

So, with a limited kitchen, little time, and (no offence intended, boss!) minimal culinary skills, Ian looked to frozen food. While many Canadians assume the worst when we think of frozen meals, Ian was shocked to find some of the most delicious food he’s ever had in the freezer aisle. 

Meanwhile in Canada, Ian’s friend Wallace – a Michelin-trained chef was going viral on social media due his insane knife skills and his love for cooking. With restaurants limited or closed with the pandemic, he had to get creative to stay connected with fellow food lovers. 

Enter: SPATULA! Together, they used flash-freezing technology to perfectly preserve the taste, texture, and freshness of high-quality cuisine. For people who love food, that meant they could enjoy restaurant quality dishes at home with just a pan and spatula. A meal kit like no other, which allows foodies to enjoy a 10 minute meal for lunch or dinner! 

Now that you know a bit more about SPATULA’s past, let’s chat about our present. Ian and Wallace, take it away!

Q: What inspires the dishes SPATULA offers?

[Wallace]: For me, the dishes are inspired in 2 ways: the recipe itself and the dining experience. For the recipes, we look around us and find inspiration from flavours around the world! We wanted to provide a menu that offers something for everyone, whether it’s a familiar cuisine or a delicious adventure. With our culinary team, we have such a vast culinary repertoire that we are able to create authentic recipes from East to West. For the dining experience, we are inspired to create dishes that excite a diner’s senses from the moment they first open a bag of SPATULA, to the sounds of simmering and bubbling as a dish comes together, and ultimately the smell and taste as they enjoy what they’ve cooked. 

Q: Which SPATULA dish is your favourite?

[Wallace]: My favourite dish is our Wild Mushroom Truffled Risotto because it’s the first dish I developed and created for SPATULA. I wanted to create a dish that many find intimidating, regardless of their cooking skills. If you are a fan of cooking competitions, you know that risotto is often considered a dish that makes or breaks a chef because of how difficult it can be. Our goal is to make cooking accessible, fun and easy and give people the confidence to cook. With the risotto, I wanted someone to cook this typically daunting dish and feel so proud that they were able to make risotto themselves. This dish also is engineered with SPATULA magic, so at-home chefs don’t need the years of skill and experience to create the perfect risotto through endless stirring and correct additions of butter/cream/cheese to make it perfectly creamy. The recipe and cooking experience are developed to make the magic happen with the right combination of moisture content percentage, temperature control, and flash freezing. All together, it makes a seriously delicious but difficult dish accessible to even the most novel chefs. The meaty mushrooms, toothsome risotto and umami from the parmesan and truffle make it elegant, luscious and simply delicious! 

Pictured: SPATULA’s Wild Mushroom Truffled Risotto

(Pictured: SPATULA’s Wild Mushroom Truffled Risotto)

Q: There’s already been so much growth since SPATULA’s birthday in March 2022, but we know you’re not slowing down. Can you hint at anything that’s coming in the next few months?

[Ian]: Of course we can’t share everything we have on the roadmap, but one of the things that we can share and are super excited about is our upcoming partnerships with several amazing restaurants and brands. We are working with local brands to bring awareness to their brands all the while increasing product selection for our loyal customers. Customers will be able to purchase multiple brands and products within the SPATULA platform very soon!

Q: As small business owners, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting SPATULA?

[Wallace]: The biggest challenges we’ve faced overall since starting SPATULA is balancing growth with the economy. We can of course control what SPATULA does internally such as recipes, hiring, infrastructure, website, etc. What we can’t control is how the world works, which economic issues happen and when, and how they affect the pricing and sourcing of items. These things are out of our control so we need to be agile in adapting to these circumstances. This often means finding creative ways to respond so we keep up - and anyone on the team will tell you it sometimes feels like we’re pulling off miracles!

Q: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs looking to start in the food/tech industry?

[Wallace]: My advice is to find the right people to work with and grow with. At SPATULA, we often say “we’re building a rocket ship and flying it at the same time”, and without the right personnel and team in place, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are. Find the right people, trust them, align, and execute together. 

Q: In your wildest dreams, what would be the coolest thing a small local business like SPATULA could do?

[Ian]: Our dream is to truly reimagine frozen food as a category and make SPATULA a household brand. I imagine a world where SPATULA products span across multiple product lines (meals, soups, sides, and more), and live in the freezer of every Canadian household. The coolest thing would be if we can turn the word “spatula” from a noun to a verb!

Q: We’ve got Canadians across the country asking when we’ll be delivering to their areas… Are you able to give any insight into when SPATULA will be available across Canada?

[Ian]: We currently ship across Southern Ontario, and are constantly evaluating options to bring SPATULA to more geographies. Canada-wide expansion is definitely on the horizon, and we’re going to work with the right vendors and partners to make that happen. We hope to be shipping across Canada before the end of 2023!

Q: Let’s end this Q&A on a fun note… Share your favourite SPATULA fun fact!

[Wallace]: SPATULA was built all remotely in the first 6 months during the pandemic where Ian and Shela were overseas in Europe and I was trapped in my house in Toronto. 
[Ian]: We almost named the company “POTATO!”