THE MEDIA MASTERMIND: Norma Chu of DayDayCook
Many people in Hong Kong know DayDayCook, an online recipe hub founded in 2012 by Norma Chu that aims to inspire younger generations to learn traditional Chinese cooking and make it a part of their lifestyle. In a Chinese New Year video, Chu demonstrates how to prepare a winter melon roll stuffed with shrimp paste. DayDayCook’s appeal is immediately apparent; the recipe is easy to follow, the ingredients are laid out clearly and Chu makes cooking look like a breeze.
We meet Chu at the DayDayCook studio in Sheung Wan where cooking videos are filmed in a cosy kitchen. “Last week we had a fan come here from New York to see the place the recipes are prepared,” Chu says with a smile. DayDayCook has a strong following among overseas Chinese craving a taste of home, something Chu experienced growing up in Seattle and fulfilled by spending time with her mum in the kitchen learning how to prepare traditional dishes.
After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in finance and economics, Chu rose to become the head of equity research at HSBC Private Bank. But when she returned to Hong Kong she missed having house parties and cooking with friends. “A lot of my friends got their parents or helpers to cook or ate out. Kitchens are small, but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” Chu says. “People didn’t think cooking was a necessity, and if you projected that out 10 years, people would forget how to cook things traditionally.”
Chu first launched DayDayCook as a web platform, as she believed it was scalable and the brand could grow from there. “I wanted people to enjoy cooking and not look at it as a task or chore but part of a lifestyle that they could do as a hobby or to relax. Maybe the pace of the Hong Kong lifestyle is different,” muses Chu. “But we want to cultivate the interest of cooking.”
Chu’s recipes are seasonal, and there are themes users can explore depending on the time of year. She tries to simplify traditional cooking to appeal to those who have a perception that it is too complicated. There are 2,500 video recipes on the site, and Chu and her team produce 100 new videos every month.
DayDayCook’s success in the past four years can be attributed to its founder’s determination to ensure the brand is present on multiple platforms. The decision to swap all content to video format in 2015 was key, meaning recipes can be watched and distributed on a number of social-media and outdoor-media platforms (like buses, planes and residences), a definite advantage in Hong Kong but even more so in China. “We aren’t limited to online distribution. Different age groups consume media in different ways, and we just had to evolve with the consumer,” Chu says. “The core of the company hasn’t evolved, but our distribution has.”
DayDayCook is almost omnipresent in Hong Kong but China attributes for the brand’s largest user base, with over 100 million views. Chu launched DayDayCook in China last year, and spends most of her time in Shanghai to manage the brand’s growth across the border. Catering to the large amount of people with access to the Internet in the country, DayDayCook is available on platforms like Youku, Tencent, Weibo and WeChat to guarantee its reach is broad.
Chu understands it may be difficult for some to access ingredients, and so there is an option when watching videos in the app to click on each ingredient to learn more about it. In Hong Kong, she hopes to mitigate the amount of time people spend grocery shopping by launching a delivery service later this year. “I don’t want DayDayCook to just be a media company but to be a brand,” she explains. “Our core value is to encourage people to view cooking as a lifestyle.” Chu will also launch DayDayCook-branded sauces and ready-to-eat items later this year.
Savvy business strategies aside, DayDayCook’s success and rapid growth is largely due to the energy emanating from its founder. “My day starts at seven in the morning and ends at around midnight,” Chu says happily. “There isn’t enough time in the day and every day is packed, but I like it that way.”