When the night shifts of the BPO industry took a toll on his health, Martin Gonzalez decided to pursue a career that he had long been dreaming of: cooking. It was a perfect decision for him, as ever since he was a child, he was already exposed to dishes by the pillars of Spanish cuisine in the Philippines, Don Anastacio “Colás” de Alba and Jesús Armas.
Up to this day, Martin still remembers the night when his Tito Colás created a simple sopa de almejas for the Manila Theater Guild, of which Martin’s father was a member. “The flavors were perfect and the hot soup hit the right spot,” he said. “It stuck to my memory cells and became my measuring stick of a cook and good food.”
This memory serves as Martin’s benchmark whenever he prepares food as a chef-owner of Cocina Genoveva. Named after his great-grandmother, whose recipes he uses, the business specializes in Spanish favorites—paella and chicken paprika cooked with real ingredients.
“I want people to go back in time when they eat my food,” Martin said, “to bring them back to the time when life was simple, to their childhood, and the good and nutritious food their mothers or grandmothers cooked for them.”
The business turns 10 this November, and Martin, whose previous jobs were with the collection department of PLDT and in a copy center with his siblings, could not be happier or more content. (Read: 3 Things Mom Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Mary Grace Café)
Martin tells My Pope Philippines how he made the shift from call center agent to chef—and what people contemplating a career change can do.
Tell us more about how you shifted careers.
While working in the call center, I used to bring paella as baon. A business-minded co-worker and friend who sold maki every Friday suggested, “Why don’t you sell that here?” So I did and it went well. After two years I resigned from the call center and joined the Greenhills Sunday Market in 2007. This gig lasted for a year then I took a culinary course to learn food handling, knife skills, and other stuff. In 2010, I joined Sidcor Sunday Market when it moved to Eton Centris from Lung Center of the Philippines. And the rest is history.
What were the challenges of starting a new career?
Finding the right place to sell my product was one of my early challenges. We sold our first pans from home with the help of family and friends. When we finally got a chance to sell at Sidcor Sunday Market, my concept was to do on-site cooking. In short, I opened my kitchen and my ingredients to my customers.
They could see what I put in every order, they could smell the flavors and because of this, they become tempted to buy an order. That’s how we were slowly able to develop our base of loyal customers. (Read: A Millennial’s Tip on How to Start an Online Business Amid Pandemic)
What have you become because of your change in career?
I have become more relaxed because I can choose my pace. There are times when I work non-stop, but I balance it with downtime with my family. Family time is important to me and being able to balance financial needs and family time is the best gift I have received from my decision to change careers. I am also more organized and financially able to support a modest lifestyle. (Read: How do big bosses balance their personal and professional lives?)
What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of a change in career?
The only drawback of a career change is that one goes back to zero and starts from the beginning again. Hopefully, you’ve done some research into the new career you’re about to embark on, or love your new career that you wouldn’t mind putting in the time to learn from it. (Read: Chemical Engineers Start Online Baking Business Amid Pandemic)
Make a business plan and go for it, but make it something you enjoy! This is so that you won’t mind the challenges and adjustments that you have to make in your lifestyle at first.
Another important reminder is to not shortchange your clients. Always give them the quality that they look for in your product—this is the reason why they buy from you and keep coming back. They can always tell if you have changed something.