This is an overdue post about one of the single best experiences I have had while traveling abroad. This is a post about someone I met a few weeks back while in Taiwan.

This post is about Ivy.

Ivy is one of the nicest, happiest people I have ever met. 

She teaches a cooking-class out of her cozy, yet perfectly decorated apartment in the city-center of Taipei. She lives quietly, with her daughter and two cats…and she is an incredible cook.

Two friends and I paid (roughly) $90 USD a piece to spend 9 hours in one of Ivy’s cooking classes. I will say, I have not done many cooking classes in my life. Experience lacking, I have to say this experience was incredible.

And it was about far more than the food…but I might as well start with the food because it definitely deserves (more than just a little) some attention.

We did the afternoon class, it was just us three and Ivy. We met her at the local food market. I am about 6 foot 2. She is about 5 foot 2. We were not a match made in heaven, from the looks of it, but as soon as I met her I knew this was going to be a great experience.

She showed us around the market, as her eyes lit up talking about different types of foods that were integral to the Taiwanese culture. She showed us all of the meats, vegetables, seafood, noodles, etc. that made Taiwanese food so unique. It was an interesting blend between Japanese and Chinese influence – it was great. If you know me, you know I love markets to begin with so this was just a great experience.

After the tour of the market, we went back to her apartment where she served us traditional Taiwanese tea. It was delicious – and served uniquely (in sets of 5).

I will not bore you with the details of the cooking class but it was a really awesome few hours of cooking different types of foods. We made beef noodle soup (one of the best dishes I have had, ever), green onion pancakes, and three cup chicken. The food was all really tasty – there was a ton of it but we finished every bite.

Fast forwarding through eating and the technicalities of cooking..why am I writing a blog post about this?

Because I will never forget the way Ivy described to me why she loved her “job” so much…

With 17 years teaching experience, I understand what expats mostly want to know about Taiwanese cuisine and produce. It’s the easiest way to know a different culture through local food and people.

Ivy leverages her knowledge of food to meet the world. She has a little notebook where she has all of her (now thousands of) “students” write their name, hometown, and favorite foods. Every single person who has been through her class signs that book.

She also has a map where everyone drops a pin of their location.

She told me…(roughly)…that “I cannot afford to travel the world. But I can afford to have everyone come visit me so I can show them a taste of Taiwan. And that is what I do. In doing so, I get to meet the world and give them the gift of cooking.”

Ivy does no “real marketing.”

90% of her students come from word of mouth.

That is “product/market” fit. This is a business that is not optimized. It could be mathematically improved. But it works. Because it is great.

Her product is great. And her customers love it.

You do not need venture scale to be happy.