MANILA, Philippines — Rob Pengson has gone beyond the kitchen as a multi-awarded celebrity chef. In 2007, he has co-founded the Global Culinary & Hospitality Academy, which has become a foremost culinary institution in the Philippines.
A decade later, Pengson continues to pursue his other passion in a new venture: A modern-day business school that hopes to give Filipinos a shot at entrepreneurship.
In an online interview with Philstar.com, Chef Rob—as he is still fondly recognized by many—shares how entrepreneurship changed his culinary career significantly, and how this encouraged him to establish his second educational institution, the Integra Institute School of Management & Entrepreneurship.
Is entrepreneurship something people need?
There are four types of people. First the people who can’t seem to make money and are not passionate about anything. Second are the people with passion but can’t seem to make that passion happen for them. Third, people who make great money but are indifferent or miserable at what they do. And fourth, people who make money doing what they love—the last being the ideal choice for everyone.
You see, I have been these four people throughout my career and I know what it feels like. Entrepreneurship isn’t something people need, making a living or earning for the family is what people need. But entrepreneurship is a tool that helps in this process.
But you believe everyone needs to understand business. Why so?
Chefs are in the food business, many people are in the fashion business, creatives are in the creative or marketing business, engineers and doctors are in the business of their trades, and even stay at home parents are in the “business” so to speak, of running their household.
No matter what it is people do, they cannot escape the fact that the business side of what they do affects their lives. It is my belief and it is also something that I notice most successful employees, business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors share in common is that everyone should at the very least have a basic understanding of entrepreneurship, management and business in general.
When did you start pursuing entrepreneurship yourself?
My entrepreneurial journey began when I was 23, earning minimum wage for my first three years as a cook and seriously needed to increase my passive income because I had promised my mother I would be 100 percent self-sufficient and “help out” if she paid for my culinary education. I went into product sales, catering from home, and even tried to sell food out of the back seat of my car. Each venture I tried failed and there were times when I was so depressed I’d spend the entire day staring at the ceiling feeling sorry for myself.
My first big break was when I was able to take part in an entrepreneurship short course at the Asian Institute of Management. Most chefs would think of opening a restaurant but using what I have learned, I was able to think outside the box as I was taught to innovate. My “business plan” went from Chinese take-out restaurant to industry disruptive culinary education.
And this was how Global Academy came about. How was the journey getting there?
I was actually discouraged to pursue my dream of opening a culinary school because of my age—I was only 24!—and my lack of funds which was totally zero. And the fact that no one believed an unknown 24-year-old chef could startup a successful culinary school out of the merit of hard work, passion and a determined entrepreneurial spirit.
Fast forward to three years later, I endured three dozen loan and investment rejections, a handful of times of literally crying my eyes out in utter hopelessness, and occasional lows of borrowing money from my sister for food or transportation to a bank that wouldn’t have loaned me the money anyway. I quit the whole chef-entrepreneur thing about three to five times when things got really dark and all I could see was failure from a point of view of desperate self-pity, and the social anxiety that comes with the feeling of socially hiding my downright poor self-image.
Finally, my second big break came at the age of 27 when four investors finally agreed on funding what is now the Global Culinary & Hospitality Academy, one of the country’s foremost culinary education institutions. Today Global Academy is one of the leading culinary schools in the country with alumni working as chefs all over the world.
Integra Institute is a modern-day business school that focuses on teaching skills people need in order to really thrive in the world by doing what they love the most.
A decade later, you have opened your second educational institution, a business school this time around. What inspired you to do so?
I am as passionate about entrepreneurship as I am about cooking. And I guess when I am passionate about something, there is a voice inside me that just says “share it.” And the best way to share it is through education which is my third passion. I guess I am just a guy going after my dreams. I have achieved some of my dreams and I want to help others achieve theirs.
I opened Integra because lately I have been busy studying again. I enrolled in a digital marketing course, finished eight courses in Udemy from entrepreneurship, to online PR to data science! And am now in the process of completing my fourth online course from Harvard Business School’s HBX Online program. I have learned so much and just like when I learned how to cook and wanted to share it with the world, now I am learning more about entrepreneurship, business analytics, financial accounting and more and want to share it with aspiring entrepreneurs.
Tell us about Integra Institute and the course you call PriME.
The Integra Institute is a modern-day school that focuses on teaching skills people need in order to really thrive in the world by doing what they love the most. I find that true wealth is fulfillment combined with financial reward and sustainability and that is why we have made this entrepreneurial course called PriME. PriME stands for “Proficiency in Management & Entrepreneurship” and is designed to get make the beginner capable, competent and confident in the world of business management and entrepreneurship.
There are a lot of entrepreneurship courses, what’s different about Integra’s PriME?
It’s adapted to today, it’s fast, and it gets the job by preparing beginners to engage in an entrepreneurial way. You can be a stay at home parent, a blogger, designer, into IT, or even a mixed martial arts enthusiast. Integra’s PriME is meant for people who did not go to business school but are aware they need business and entrepreneurship education to get things done or start their business because ultimately entrepreneurship is all about creating a vision and managing resources to get things done.
Integra’s upcoming PriME course is slated from July 29 to September 30. Register until July 25 to avail of early bird discount. Class is limited so click here to sign up. For more information, visit www.integra-institute.com, or contact 0995-0343120.
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