In The Media
Gourmet delivery: Fresh seafood, baked goods and handcrafted butter right to your doorstep
Options The Edge, 11 January 2021 · By Diana Khoo
In Malaysia, finding passionate foodies is not hard but, to find two very young, passionate foodies who are exceedingly well-versed in culinaria and its accompanying and often very expensive ingredients is somewhat rarer. For Tan Pei Jun and Gigi Leow, however, it was a given. “We love good food and experimenting at home,” they say.
“We set up Oonee in November 2019, as Gigi often had to buy wagyu and Japanese seafood whenever she travelled to Singapore for work, owing to the lack of available options in Malaysia. So, we saw the potential,” says Tan. “We wanted to make it convenient for Malaysians who love cooking at home to do so using high-end premium foods, which many of us appreciate and enjoy. With some of my family’s connections in both Japan and Malaysia (Tan’s parents are IGB’s Tan Boon Lee, founder of established fine-dining rooms Cilantro and Sage, and Low Su-Ming of the Low Yat Group), we were able to be introduced to people who could help us source for quality products, which we would then distribute.”
Oonee’s quirky name, as all foodies worth their amethyst bamboo salt would recognise, comes from the Japanese word for sea urchin. “It made sense as uni was one of our star products. In Japanese, it could also mean ‘sisters’. Although Gigi and I met just two years ago, we immediately ‘clicked’ and have since become very close, almost like sisters,” smiles Tan.
The business, which specialises in premium gourmet ingredients, grew slowly and organically — concentrating initially on two main ingredients (Japanese wagyu and sea urchin) — through Instagram and WhatsApp, as it was a simple and convenient platform for Tan and Leow, who still hold full-time jobs. “Online sales also require the least start-up costs and, as all our products are by pre-order, with customers required to pay upfront, it allowed us to slowly generate cash flow to pay for our operational items, such as packaging and other branding materials,” say the savvy duo.
With their youthful flair and a keen understanding of marketing, Tan and Leow also introduced their catchy “Homakase” concept, their own creative portmanteau of the words “home” and “omakase”, Japanese for “chef’s choice”, exhorting their clientele to create fine-dining meals in the comfort of their own living spaces. “It was during the lockdown period, and we were pleasantly surprised when our customers proudly sent us photos of their creations. I can tell you, the food looked like restaurant-standard dishes! We thought the term ‘homakase’ was perfectly in sync with what our business is all about.”
It was also during this time of restricted movement that Oonee saw its business grow exponentially. “It was mostly through word of mouth,” the girls acknowledge. “People had time on their hands, browsing through social media and keen on cooking. We ensured our Instagram page was up to date, featuring cooking and lifestyle inspirations and recipes. The MCO (Movement Control Order) period enabled us to get our name out there and slowly establish Oonee as a purveyor of quality foods.”
Those new to Oonee would find their Homakase gift boxes a godsend, comprising a variety of items that will allow anyone to whip up an impressive meal at home. “At Oonee, we work very closely with our suppliers to find out what’s in season so we can then share it with our customers. Right now, we are working on different Homakase packages at different price points to be launched for the upcoming festive season — perfect to send as gifts or care packages, if people are still hesitant about going out to eat.”
With business doing well enough, plans are now underway to expand it further. Oonee’s first retail outlet just opened at Riverwalk Village in Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly Jalan Ipoh) and the outfit has a proper e-commerce website as well. “You can view our full range of products and shop at your own convenience online or come to the store. We plan to host cooking demos and small pop-up events to introduce new products or for our clients to try their hand at learning new techniques. Our vision for Oonee is not just a business selling high-end ingredients but also one that offers customers a holistic experience that they can enjoy at home,” says Tan. “We have also connected with a delivery partner and will offer customers a choice of door-to-door delivery or self-pickup from our store. That was why we decided to establish a physical presence to give our customers a sense of trust and confidence, as what we sell isn’t by any means cheap.”
Currently, the most premium item carried by Oonee would be its Hadate Murasaki Uni, priced at RM2,200, but just reading through its list of products is enough to whet one’s appetite. There are Adoino cold-pressed olive oil, caviar, deshelled raw lobster from Canada and Europe, engawa — that wonderful thin muscle found in the fin of the halibut that is as rich and buttery as a slice of tuna belly and which Tan swears is easy to handle and cook — among a host of other good things.
It comes as no surprise, then, that both the girls have their own favourite things and ways of preparing and using their supply of fine ingredients. “I really enjoy making dons,” shares Tan, referring to donburi, the Japanese method of serving fish, meat or vegetables in a bowl over rice. “And I love using Oonee’s botan ebi prawns, hotate (scallop) and, of course, uni. Our selection of sashimi-grade frozen seafood is also really convenient, as it can keep for a month in the freezer. Simply defrost whenever you feel like enjoying sashimi at home. It also makes it super simple to put together a carpaccio dish. Splash it with truffle oil to make it all the more decadent.
“Our products are meant for sharing, so we like to think that Oonee makes it easy for a small group of friends or family to come together and have fun cooking, and eating, something nice. And that’s precious.”
One of the cardinal rules when it comes to mapping out a successful business model has always been to create ongoing value for customers. It would seem, then, that Tan and Leow have got it all down pat.
Visit OONEE : https://oonee.com.my/