It was enchiladas, rice, beans, her homemade guacamole and a six-pack of Pacifico beers so good her husband, Michael DeCosta, encouraged her to start her own business.
She did. In 2016, Taylor Made Cuisine of Irvine was launched, with Taylor now CEO and executive chef and Mike now CFO of the ready-to-eat meal delivery and catering service, whose subscription plans start at $110 weekly for its “classic” offering.
It’s been an interesting journey for Taylor DeCosta, a former Nordstrom retail associate who went on to become a private chef. She now heads a multimillion-dollar company that earlier this year moved from a former Italian restaurant space on the south side of John Wayne Airport to a 6,000-square-foot headquarters with offices and an industrial kitchen.
Last year business ballooned, up 200% from 2019, driven by the pandemic. Sales this year are expected to grow 150%, to $2 million.
The growth the upstart company’s seen during the pandemic echoes that of many larger food-preparation companies in Orange County, including Anaheim’s Fresh n’ Lean, which is among the county’s fastest-growing midsize private companies with more than 300% growth between 2018 and 2020.
‘Scratching the Surface’
All food is made on-site in Irvine, with Taylor Made Cuisine currently servicing Orange County and Los Angeles. The latter is the newer territory for the business and its growth is an area of focus this year.
The business includes event catering, which had been growing pre-COVID and slowed to a near halt last year. To address the changed operating environment, the company began offering pre-packed boxes for tea, brunch, happy hour and other theme meals for virtual baby showers, birthday parties and other events.
The pandemic also brought companies that had once provided on-site meals to their workforce to inquire with Taylor Made Cuisine about being a meal delivery vendor
“A lot of these companies that are doing this have just started scratching the surface of how to make things work,” Taylor DeCosta said.
“For 2020, none of us really knew how long this pandemic was going to go on, but now we’re starting to see this might be going on for another year, so [companies] want to be proactive with solutions. A lot of these companies are seeing that work-from-home is going to work for them.”
Taylor Made’s core meal delivery business, which was already on a tear before last year, only continued its surge in 2020.
“Business has been pretty solid since Day One, but when the pandemic hit, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” DeCosta said.
“I think anybody across the board in any field was probably worried. For us, our business really skyrocketed as soon as the shutdown happened. People were having a hard time getting the food they needed at the grocery store. People began placing orders like crazy.”
DeCosta thinks the business can continue growing as it wa
“Health and wellness will continue to be a focus for a lot of people because the pandemic really opened a lot of people’s lives to maybe how unhealthy we’ve been living for so long,” she said.
Change in Direction
DeCosta started off in retail at the Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, and was later promoted to management and relocated to the Mission Viejo store.
“I really saw myself being in fashion,” she said. “I worked at Nordstrom for many years and worked my way up there. At a certain point, I felt like it wasn’t for me. There were aspects of that industry that really spoke to me and others that didn’t.”
She quit her job, started working as a nanny and was living with her grandmother in her early 20s.
“I was aimless at this point,” DeCosta recalled o
She would often come home from a shift at Nordstrom and watch shows on the Food Network well into the night. After she met Michael, he encouraged her to turn her passion for cooking into a career. She found a culinary program at Orange Coast College that allowed her to go at her own pace and avoid accumulating a load of debt.
She began working as a private chef after graduating, doing meal prep for Kobe Bryant.
DeCosta only began taking on additional clients—including True Family Enterprises, the local venture capital and investment firm headed by Twila and Alan True—to help pay for her wedding dress, with the business soon growing to 20 customers. Initially, it focused on one diet program for about a year before expanding the menu to options such as paleo, low carb, pescatarian, vegan and other meal plans.
“Once we started expanding the offering, that’s when it took off and it’s been a crazy rollercoaster,” DeCosta said.
The business was bootstrapped from the beginning with overhead low at the start since DeCosta was cooking from her home, and the business has yet to bring on outside capital.
The growth of Taylor Made Cuisine has been so quick, DeCosta said she hired a business coach last year to help “really wrap my mind around it” and balance the business’ surge with the growth of her own family.
“Sometimes you get wrapped up in everything and then you stop and look around,” she said. “All of this is a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of intention and passion. I started this when I was 26 and when you start something, you don’t always think that far in the future, but I now have a multimillion-dollar business.”