“These are my recipes”: An Irvine chef shares how her business is thriving during the pandemic

If you’ve got a great idea but keep blowing it up because you’re not sure enough to make it happen, remember this story of how a single plate of homemade chicken enchiladas turned into a $ 2 million business .

It started nine years ago after Taylor DeCosta, then 22, quit her job at Nordstrom and lived with her grandmother in Garden Grove. Back then, she met a handsome personal trainer named Mike at a party.

She slipped into a plan to convince him with her cooking skills and invited him to dinner at Grandma’s house. The enchiladas she served were a hit.

“Mike said, ‘Have you ever thought about making this your career?'” She recalls.

Why, no, she hadn’t.

She had long imagined that she would find a home somewhere in the fashion world, but she realized that she didn’t feel like she fit in there.

Co-founders Taylor DeCosta and husband Michael DeCosta of Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine. Taylor DeCosta went to work when this story was published.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

Mike’s comment made her think. DeCosta had cooked since childhood. She grew up on the Food Network where her favorite personality was Rachael Ray, mostly because they shared the bubbly fun factor.

Now DeCosta drove to Orange Coast College to enroll in their nationally competitive culinary program. And four years later, she graduated with an advanced culinary degree.

Right behind the gate, she scored an interview to cook for a secret local celebrity. It wasn’t until DeCosta got the job that she learned she was going to become a private chef for a certain NBA star and his family on the Newport Coast.

She left that job a year later to become a private chef for businessman Twila True and their four children in their $ 60 million island mansion in Newport Beach. She also started catering for Laguna Canyon Winery.

“I was a hustler,” she says.

But she felt nervous like it was time to set up on her own.

Sweet and Sour Chicken from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

Sweet and Sour Chicken from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

“I threw a shout into the universe: I’m ready for what’s next!” she remembers.

It was around this time that some couples on an anti-inflammatory diet for weight loss asked if she could make prepackaged meals worth several weeks for them.

This didn’t seem like the next big thing, but DeCosta had a wedding dress to pay for (she and Mike tied the knot) and they offered to pay her exactly what the dress cost.

“So I took it over,” she says. “And everything after that was a whirlwind.”

The couples told some couples who told some couples.

“I started cooking for all of these people. young families, mothers who want to look great, ”she says. “Story as old as time.”

At Taylor Made Cuisine, types of thyme are sprinkled on a bowl of beef bourguignon.

At Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine, thyme is sprinkled on a bowl of beef bourguignon.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

In 2016, DeCosta was inducted into Taylor Made Cuisine. From morning to night, she cooked and packaged meals from the kitchen of her house in Old Towne Orange. Mike quit his job to do the books, as well as the labeling, packaging, and website. His mother came over to wash the dishes. So does Taylor’s grandmother Caroline, a hairdresser who is still working at 78.

“Grandma is my biggest fan,” says DeCosta. “She is my person.”

The couple converted their garage into a pantry with fridges and freezers.

You’re not going to lie – those early days were tough.

“Oh man, it was chaos,” says DeCosta. In the middle of it all, she became pregnant with her first child.

“It was gnarled,” she says.

“We were exhausted,” says Mike DeCosta, who sometimes had to deliver food when they were little drivers.

But the business continued to grow and last summer they (along with their 16 employees) moved into an elegant kitchen / office in Irvine. Sales in 2020 were over $ 1.4 million. Given the pandemic that is driving demand for grocery deliveries, they expect sales of $ 2 million in 2021.

Taylor DeCosta attributes part of her success to her model. Food delivery services are booming, but how many of them adapt to virtually any nutritional need?

Taylor has created over 160 menu items. Categories include Keto, Low Fodmap, Paleo, and Vegan. Customers can also list their allergies and DeCosta will, in their words, “do my damn best” to make it happen. Almost everything is gluten free.

One of Taylor's favorite donuts from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

One of Taylor’s favorite donuts from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

She has also created a range of healthy desserts and snacks such as paleo muffins and almond flour donuts with fruit puree glazes.

“We are a cook-oriented company,” she says. “If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not on our menu.”

About a year ago, with no marketing, the news spread to Los Angeles and they started delivering there. Prominent customers include film and television producer Alex Kurtzman and the cast “Good Girls” (Mae Whitman, Retta Sirleaf and Christina Hendricks). Professional athletes include Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen and Ducks Cameron Fowler.

DeCosta, now 31 (and in the works with Baby # 2 as this story will be published), says she sometimes wonders if this is all a dream. She recently hired a business coach to convince her that it wasn’t.

“To mentally accept that I am doing this and that I deserve it,” she says. “These are my recipes. It is no longer a trifle. My goal is to make Taylor Made Cuisine a household name in Orange County. “

Now she wants to build the catering side of the business (Brooke Burke, Newport Beach-based Ferrari, and beauty guru Jeffree Star are some of her celebrity catering clients).

Keto fingerprint biscuits from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

Keto fingerprint biscuits from Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

“Catering is my real passion,” she says. “When COVID goes away, take care of the world because we come for your parties, we come for your conventions.”

She currently runs virtual catering events and supplies happy hour, brunch and bridal shower boxes for parties that they can share on Zoom.

“Show me your Pinterest and let me blow you away with something I can put together,” she tells customers.

And what is she telling someone out there with a big idea of ​​her own? “Don’t let fear stop you if you believe in what you are doing.”

Liana Bates displays cooked black beans at Taylor Made Cuisine.

Cook and Head Liana Bates sets out boiled black beans while she prepares a pork and chilli rojo at Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.

(Kevin Chang / Employee Photographer)

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