Rae Aldrin Lim had me at tuile, a thin crisp wafer that’s made with copious amounts of butter.
How amazing is it that the dainty cookies are made by a truck salesman, whose side hustle is a commissary kitchen called Conspire Foods that supplies breads, fresh ramen, fresh pasta, cookies and pastries, among others, to many famous restaurants around the metro?
Conspire Foods also has a selection of products on retail, to cater to homeowners who are food aficionados.
The truck salesman who owns a commissary is also a trained chef, and only 30 years old!
Lim is currently in New Zealand to explore the possibility of opening a tuile factory. The delightful cookie has come a long way, considering that it was merely a byproduct of their excess ingredients: “I didn’t know it would do so well!”
Let’s backtrack to the beginnings of Conspire Foods.
Lim’s passion for food started at a very young age, influenced greatly by his grandmother Mary Hao.
Together they cooked traditional Hokkien recipes handed down to his lola by her grandmother-in-law, who prepared many classic royal Chinese dishes.
It was in grade 3 that Lim decided to cook and to center his life’s work around food.
When he was in high school, Lim developed an obsession for bread making. He kept baking bread but confessed that he was horrible, admitting that most of his baked goods “ended up with the dogs.”
One of Lim’s better traits is persistence. Since he could not bake bread right, he went to Enderun to learn.
He later traveled to France for his internship, working 12- to 16-hour shifts. In France was where his love affair with food and bread grew stronger.
The chef was offered to stay in France, but Lim knew that his path to success was through his own business. So he worked to gain enough experience to know how a kitchen functions, and shortly after, started his first commissary bakery at age 20. He professed that the technicalities of bread making, he learned from YouTube.
“I remember being horrible at both business and baking,” said Lim. “Nobody teaches you what equipment to buy when you’re on a tight budget.”
Through hard work and persistence, he gained the support of his college friends and chefs, who ordered his products.
He is most grateful to Mamou’s Malou Fores (who he claims to love dearly) and Las Flores, the first two restaurants who saw the potential in him, and gave him the break that he needed.
He intimated that starting out in an industry is bitter work. Lim had to do most of the toiling himself, including door-to-door sales.
He also set up a retail store with some friends. He admitted candidly that they were horrible at it, so they went their separate ways in business.
Closing his first business was a tough lesson. For a time he was depressed, but realized there was no point in staying in that abyss—his exact words.
In a month’s time, he picked himself up and was once again busy in the commissary.
As they say, there’s no putting a good man down. In this case, a good man with delectable, well-made food products.
Out of depression, Lim started supplying bread to Sweet Ecstasy Burgers and the Bar Pintxos group.
The chef much prefers supplying wholesale, but during the pandemic, he had to go into retail to sustain his business. A lesson he learned was that retail helped him get wholesale clients, as well.
The pandemic made Lim invest in machines. He thought it made good business sense to take his business to another level by becoming a food manufacturer.
Lim is in awe of companies like Liwayway, Monde, Nissin, URC and San Miguel.
Apart from producing and selling food, Lim is also involved in the automotive industry, not just as a truck salesman but also as part of a company that imports and sells Japanese surplus trucks. He is also an Isuzu dealer.
I asked if he was content. He replied, “I’m very happy with the business.”
One day soon his would like to venture into agriculture and philanthropy. Lim aims to designs a program to provide nourishing school lunches for young children, patterned after those in Japan.
Rae Aldrin Lim has achieved so much at such a young age, and continues dream big. One of the lessons he deems valuable is to always seek advise from the older generation.
“I hope I can talk to Robina Gokongwei, Ramon Ang or Kapitan Lucio (Tan)! Surely they’d tell me what to do.” INQ
Visit @conspirefoods on Instagram.
Follow the author at @iamreggieaspiras on Instagram and Facebook; reggieaspiras.com.