The Elliott Farm is a 56-acre property on the east coast. Sary Elliott, a CCA Manila graduate (Batch 2002), has four dogs, three cats, twenty turkeys, forty ducks, ten Sebastopol geese, a few guineas, and hundreds of chickens.
We spoke about her culinary journey:
1. What were you doing before you enrolled in CCA Manila?
2. What was the experience like?
3. What made you start your bakery?
4. I’m sure it’s hard work. So what’s a typical day like?
5. What’s your advice for food entrepreneurs?
6. How do you learn quickly?
7. What made you start a farm?
What were you doing before you enrolled in CCA Manila?
I was already way past high school. I was helping my mom with her business because she’s also in the food industry. So that’s why ending up in the same industry was inevitable.
I wanted to be a doctor. I also wanted to be a lawyer. But fate brought me back to what my family does. And I don’t regret it. I love it.
I was mainly working with my mom then. And then I decided— I’m going to study culinary. And then, of course, CCA was number one for culinary, and that’s how it started.
What was the experience like?
My favorite class was butchery class, but then when I took the class, I realized my passion was more into baking. So that’s why, the year after, I switched over to baking and pastry.
I enjoyed the company at school and learned a lot from the instructors. Some of them are still my friends on Facebook. It was a good curriculum. I’m sure it’s more updated now.
What made you start your bakery?
I moved to the US in 2005. Since then, I’ve been working in pastry kitchens. It’s always been my dream to open a bakery. But it’s been one of these things here— work, work and more work. It’s actually more fast-paced than the Philippines.
Then fast track to now, I live in a slower-paced area because I’m in upstate New York. This is where I started a farm. I also realized it was time to start my bakery.
In 2021, I started selling at farmer’s markets over the summer; it just began booming. And it’s been incredible because I’ve been doing more products than in the beginning.
I’m sure it’s hard work. So what’s a typical day like?
Oh yes, I’ve been up since four o’clock in the morning. Sometimes I don’t sleep for 26 hours because it’s a small business. My husband helps me package stuff, but the big things are all me.
So especially when we have events on the weekend, I don’t sleep for hours. And then I sleep for three, and then my sleep is whacked. But yeah, today I plan to sleep early.
It doesn’t affect you as much if you’re passionate about your work; you just keep going.
What’s your advice for food entrepreneurs?
- Research is number one. Know what you’re getting into and research your niche. You must stand out; many food places exist, especially in Manila. Here in the US, it’s the same thing. You have to find a niche that separates you from everyone else. And you have to focus on that and make it better each time.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. There are times when problems come in the way. It’s also going to be tough financially. Or you may get no sleep. And then other things come into play, like if you have a family. Sometimes, even if you think you have a plan and it’s perfect, there’s a curveball just going to get thrown at you.
- Save up. It’s expensive to start a business. Return on investment will take time. You may not see it for two to three years.
- You’ll also need a lot of patience with yourself and the business. Because if you don’t have that, you’ll just throw the towel and give up. You also have to be forgiving of yourself. If you make mistakes, it’s okay. Just do it again. Just keep perfecting your craft.
How do you learn quickly?
If you make a mistake, your instructor gives feedback; take that as a learning thing. Take constructive criticism. They’re not there to let you down; they’re not going to insult you; they’re there to help you. So take that to heart.
For butchery, I bought more than a dozen whole chickens. Then, I had to break them down and fabricate them at home. My family was sick of chicken for a while because we had so many parts in the freezer. But that’s it; it’s how passionate you are. How willing are you to do the work and practice?
When the time came that I had to butcher a chicken, it was easy because I already knew from practice and listening to my instructor what to do.
What made you start a farm?
It was for sustainability. I wanted to start a farm because I wanted to grow everything myself. It’s an activity that anyone can do to be proud of themselves.
Getting fresh eggs from chickens, that’s something special. Having a passion for where you source your food is part of being a chef in the industry.
I wish that a lot more people, a lot more chefs did this. You can be proud of it, and it’s very therapeutic being on the farm. You just get back to nature.
Follow her journey: