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

Taylor DeCosta
Taylor DeCosta is the founder, chief executive officer and executive chef of Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine. Taylor Made is a catering and meal-prep company that has transitioned to a meal delivery service due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

If you have a great idea but keep blowing it off because you lack the confidence to follow through, remember this tale 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 was living with her grandmother in Garden Grove. It was then that she met a handsome personal trainer named Mike at a party.

She hatched a plan to win him over with her cooking skills and invited him to grandma’s house for dinner. The enchiladas she served up were a hit.

“Mike was like, ‘Have you ever considered making this your career?’” she recalls.

Why, no, she hadn’t.

She had long envisioned herself finding a home somewhere in the world of fashion, but she realized she didn’t feel like she fit in there.

Co-founders Taylor and her husband Michael DeCosta of Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
Co-founders Taylor DeCosta and her husband Michael DeCosta of Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine. Taylor DeCosta went into labor as this story was being published.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mike’s comment made her think. DeCosta had been cooking since she was a kid. She grew up watching the Food Network where her favorite personality was Rachael Ray, mostly because they shared the bubbly fun factor.

Now DeCosta found herself driving to Orange Coast College to enroll in their nationally competitive culinary program. And four years later she had a degree in advanced culinary arts.

Right out of the gate she scored an interview to cook for a secret local celebrity. It was only after DeCosta got the job that she learned she was going to be the private chef for a certain NBA star and his family on the Newport Coast.

A year later she left that job to become a private chef for business maven Twila True and her brood of four kids at their $60 million island mansion in Newport Beach. She also started catering for Laguna Canyon Winery.

“I was a hustler,” she says.

But she was feeling antsy, like it was time to strike out on her own.

Sweet and sour chicken by Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I put a cry out into the universe: I’m ready for what’s next!” she recalls.

About that time a few couples who were following an anti-inflammatory weight-loss diet asked if she could create several weeks worth of prepackaged meals for them.

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

“So I took them on,” she says. “And everything after that has been a whirlwind.”

The couples told some couples who told some couples.

“I started cooking for all these people; young families, moms that want to look great,” she says. “Tale as old as time.”

Thyme species are sprinkled atop a bowl of beef bourguignon at Taylor Made Cuisine.
Thyme is sprinkled atop a bowl of beef bourguignon at Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

In 2016, DeCosta incorporated into Taylor Made Cuisine. From dawn to dusk she cooked and packaged meals out of the kitchen of her Old Towne Orange house. Mike quit his job to do the books, and the labeling, packaging and website. His mom came over to do dishes. So did Taylor’s grandma Caroline, a hairdresser who still works at 78.

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

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

They’re not gonna lie — those early days were rough.

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

“It was gnarly,” she says.

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

But the business kept on growing and this past summer they moved (along with their 16 employees) into a sleek kitchen/office in Irvine. Sales in 2020 topped $1.4 million. With the pandemic boosting demand for food delivery, they expect to do $2 million in sales in 2021.

Taylor DeCosta credits part of their success with her model. Meal delivery services are booming, but how many of them customize to virtually every dietary need?

Taylor has created over 160 menu items. Categories include keto, low fodmap, paleo and vegan. Clients can also list their allergies and DeCosta will, in her words, “try my damn best” to make it happen. Nearly everything is gluten free.

A Taylor's Favorite donut by Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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

“We’re a chef-driven business,” she says. “If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not going on our menu.”

About a year ago, with no marketing, word spread to Los Angeles, and they started delivering there. Celebrity clients include film and TV producer Alex Kurtzman and the “Good Girls” cast (Mae Whitman, Retta Sirleaf and Christina Hendricks). Pro athlete clients include Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen and Ducks Cameron Fowler.

DeCosta, now 31 (and in labor with baby No. 2 as this story goes to press), says she sometimes asks herself if it’s all a dream. She recently hired a business coach to convince her it wasn’t.

“To mentally accept that I’m doing this and I’ve earned this,” she says. “These are my recipes. It’s not a little thing anymore. My goal is to make Taylor Made Cuisine a household name in Orange County.”

Now she wants to build up the catering side of the business (Brooke Burke, Ferrari of Newport Beach and beauty guru Jeffree Star are a few of her celeb catering clients).

Keto thumbprint cookies by Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“Catering is my real passion,” she says. “When COVID goes away, watch out world ‘cause we’re coming for your parties, we’re coming for your conventions.”

She is currently doing virtual catering events, delivering happy hour, brunch and bridal shower boxes for parties to share on Zoom.

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

And what does she tell anyone out there with a big idea of their own? “Don’t let fear stop you if you believe in what you’re doing.”

Liana Bates lays out cooked black beans at Taylor Made Cuisine.
Chef and kitchen supervisor Liana Bates lays out cooked black beans as she prepares a pork chile rojo at Taylor Made Cuisine in Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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