(Translation of an article published on 25/06/2020 on Le Petit Journal website.)
Kean and Guillaume Dastot are partners in life and in work. As a founding-couple, this isn’t their first project, they like to undertake together and renew another new entrepreneurial adventure. We made their acquaintance when they introduced us to their website specialized in French cooking and pastries lessons. With Ti Yan Academy, they strive to create the first online learning platform of French culinary arts in Asia. Top chefs support them by offering the secrets of their famous recipes, renowned dishes, but also by giving expert advice. Amongst those we can find Sébastien Lepinoy, Vianney Massot, Justin Quek, Gunther Hubrechsen, Patrick Heuberger, Lennard Yeoung, Michele Ow,…
They define themselves as a “Ch’ti-nese” couple, Kean being of Chinese origin and Guillaume being from the north of France (region where people are called “Ch’ti”). After 16 years in Paris and 9 in Brittany, they have chosen Singapore to settle down and raise 2 teenagers (of 16 and 13 years old). Ti Yan Academy is a project they developed with the goal of making French culinary techniques and expertise accessible to a wider audience thanks to the conviviality of video classes, and the professional rigorousness of academic lessons.
The project is sponsored by French investors, including a business angel who owns a magnificent hotel restaurant in the Jura (France) called Le Tillau, a former shareholder of a website specialized in online cooking lessons, and Singaporean investors love-struck by French cuisine.
Online classes for amateurs wishing to learn or perfection their method, classes for professionals to gain expertise and skill.
The site offers express formulas for amateurs who want to learn for fun and professional formulas for cooking afficionados to become “professionals” (in either cooking or pastry) or for Chefs who want to learn new skills and recipes. Clients are mostly Singaporean individuals, or companies wanting to create live event, or not, around French gastronomy.
Kean and Guillaume: “We offer French cooking classes in multiple options: for leisure, with accessible recipes that are authentic of our culture, or as a professional option with structured lessons of gradual difficulty, addressing both people seeking a change in their work field or professionals wanting to add a “French Touch” to their work.
How does this company differentiate from their competitors?
“be it for leisure or work, Ti Yan Academy ensures a progressive curriculum, the first recipes allowing users to learn techniques and competences that can then be used in following courses.
Furthermore, we have put in place an LMS (e-learning platform) with forums, means for learners to communicate amongst each other or in live with the team and/or a chef depending on their questions.
Finally, our chefs are both French and Singaporean, making learning more accessible: “no need to be French to know how to cook French dishes well! ” they point out amusingly.
What are their growth ambition at 5 years?
“Being recognized as a reference for online learning of French cooking and pastry in all of Asia. We wish to develop geographically but also to extend our diversity of classes with new courses, new products (for example wine tasting or French “table setting” art) we also have some ideas that are more… technological!” They explain.
Their serial entrepreneur path and complementarity are, of course, key components to the success of the projects they develop.
Kean having followed a literature curriculum before studying law and Guillaume having a scientific background and engineer formation, they were supposedly destined to follow a “classic” French career path.
But who could have guessed that their first encounter in a restaurant in the North of France in which Kean helped her parents for 8 years would turn their lives around to one day lead them to offer online French cooking classes in Singapore?
With a Cartesian spirit but a particular fondness for challenge, Kean left her comfort zone: from a position of senior manager (administrative and financial manager, HR manager and representative in different ministers cabinets) in both public and private sectors, and after developing her first company in Web design and SEO, she then specialized in pedagogy and e-learning in a large private academic institution.
Guillaume, on the other hand, switched gear from his engineering position in Aerospace and Defense Industry and manager in a consulting firm to then be absorbed by the rapid shift of Internet and become a project manager and later, technical manager in varied startups.
The pair always overflew with new ideas: an employment site specialized in the public sector: “Public-rh” (later sold to Keljob, a bit jobboard in France), a real estate website gathering offers of housing for sales and rent, a platform evaluating job sites by category, a “garage-sale” specialized site, an e-learning platform to learn Chinese “Beijing Cursus” with rising demand from learners, and most recently the launch of Ti Yan Academy, a website specialized in online cooking and baking lessons of French gastronomy.
Entrepreneur couple, an experience and a lifestyle
“It has been more than 10 years that we have been working together, be it as entrepreneur or as employees, and at home (we have nothing to fear from the confinement). We are complementary, Guillaume works on the technical parts and I on the content. This prevents us from stepping on each other’s toes and forces us to be motivated so that one does not get stuck because of the other. It’s pretty convenient actually..!” Kean affirms.
What does it change? Does it have an impact on your day to day lives or family? What are the benefits?
“The main drawback is that we never really get a job, but at the same time, since we are passionate about what we do, it also is a way to not be stuck in a disheartening “work, eat, sleep” routine… We can always talk about our work concerns at dinner, talk about our children during the day and work on weekends if needed: our partner won’t complain as they will usually be going through similar things!
As for our children, we are almost always home, except for meetings or filming, we are there when they get back from school and we always eat together: it’s very enjoyable. They might not always share that sentiment, though, as they urge us to go eat out at least once a week ” They jokingly admit.
Is Entrepreneurship in Singapore different than in Europe according to your personal experience?
“From an administrative standpoint, everything is simpler. It’s very guided and more … binary : you check the boxes or not, and it’s less common to get different answers depending on the person you’re talking to here (Transl note: rather than in France).” They relate.
Do you have any advice for novice entrepreneurs?
“Make sure to have a stable situation and savings that will allow you to hold on for at least a year. It all depends on the circumstances…. Unless you make a spin-off of a big company with guaranteed clients, it is true that you need at least that period to see returns from your work. Persistence, adaptability and of course surrounding yourself with the right people! ” They conclude.
To discover the online classes the site of Ti Yan Academy