Grace Cheng, model, foodie and entrepreneur, on food as an expression of love and creativity, her love of jewelry that celebrates accomplishments, and the importance of taking things day by day in order to build great things.
Your IG bio describes you a model, foodie and entrepreneur - I love this. How do these pieces of your life fit together?
I started off as a model going to business school full time at USC. I was traveling a lot but also somehow found a new love for healthy living, and particularly healthy eating. I had created a morning ritual of homemade oatmeal, which helped to start my day right and center me. After living through an intense fashion month, I knew I wanted to share my daily oatmeal ritual (which I had kept up for 5 years strong at that point!) with the world. And with the creation of Mylk Labs, I was able to merge my separate identities as model, foodie and entrepreneur.
What inspired you to create Mylk Labs?
My frequent travels and my inability to get my hands on a delicious, wholesome oatmeal is what drove me to create Mylk Labs. There was no ‘aha’ moment – the idea came about naturally, and it took a lot of planning (about a year) before launching the company - but I was confident in what I was creating.
Frankly, I LOVE oatmeal and eat it every day. It’s my choice because I genuinely wake up looking forward to enjoying a cozy bowl of oats. I’m not forcing it down thinking “oh it’s for health or weight loss” or any of the BS companies use for marketing nowadays. The warmth and happiness I get from it is one of the main reasons I wanted to share it with the world.
Food has always been a big part of your life. What's your earliest food memory, and what was meaningful about it to you?
My first meaningful food experience was learning how to properly cut a pineapple from my Auntie. It was the first time I tried to personally learn to do something with food, rather than ask an adult to do it for me.
I’m also full on obsessed with baking – and specifically, recreating my childhood favorites. Food has always been a BIG part of my life. My second best food memory was learning how to bake cookies as a kid. TBH, there were many batches that ended up tasting like hockey pucks, but I’m grateful for all my friends and family who still ate them. That’s love ❤️.
What are your favorite things to cook nowadays?
My busy schedule balancing college and modeling was the reason I began cooking on the regular. My favorite will always be baking sweets (cookies, bars, cakes and more), but normally I'm able to whip up a meal within 10-15 minutes.
What does food mean to you?
Nourishment, enjoyment, comfort, and creativity.
Elizabeth Gilbert has said that everything interesting is actually 90% boring. There's a lot of hard, unglamorous work that goes into doing anything worth doing. Do you have a routine? How do you Get Things Done?
In a nutshell, LISTS and taking it day by day. Project by project. If I overwhelm myself with too much, I end up being much less productive. You’ll find a different list every day of the week on my table.
Being an entrepreneur is hard work. What do you wish you had known when you first got started?
Be passionate about what you do. If you’re passionate about your work, you’ll get way further in life because it isn’t so much “work” but rather a lifestyle. I’m still starting—1.5 years in—and the one thing I tell myself daily is “keep moving forward.”
Totally believe in your motto "do what you love." What advice do you have for those with a passion - but who are just getting started on building their dream career?
There are 3 main things you need to check off the list before moving forward with an idea.
#1- Are you passionate about this idea? Can you do it for the rest of your life?
#2- Have you done market research and started a preliminary business plan? Can logistics and profitability work for this idea of yours?
#3- Is there a need or want for a product/service like this?
Jonathan Safran Foer plays a dinner game with his family called The Wonder Line. If you can tell him something that generates the experience of wonder - the cocked head, slight nod, raised eyebrow and muttered “hmm...”, he calls it “clearing The Wonder Line.” What, in recent memory, has cleared The Wonder Line for you?
I realized recently that I am not limited to the handful of options presented in “the conventional route.” This is true in all aspects of my life, whether that’s fitness, work, friends, hobbies, etc.
It was a tough realization because I discovered this only when the conventional route didn't work for me. I had to think and act outside of the box and when I did that, I realized "wow, this is working.”
What do you do when you have a creative block? How do you refresh yourself so that you can be creative again?
Research! I get super inspired by other people's creativity. By bookmarking things and creating mood boards, it helps me brainstorm how I can create new and exciting things like a lot of the companies out there.
What was your first piece of jewelry?
A gold (baby) necklace passed down from the older generations of my family. It doesn’t fit anymore, ha!
What's your most treasured piece of jewelry?
A necklace I bought for myself to celebrate my accomplishments. I strongly believe self-love and appreciation is important in life and it can be done in so many ways! My necklace is my reminder of that.
What are your favorite Maison Miru pieces, and what do they mean to you?
My Secrets & Stories necklace!! I have 3 pendants on it and it represents the individuality, capabilities and confidence that I have in myself. The eye is for protection, the lightning is for power, and the crescent moon is for humbleness.
How do you stay whole?
On weekdays, I work my butt off trying to grow my company. I find a lot of comfort in staying productive. Throughout the week, I take megaformer Pilates to get my sweat in (always helps with the stress). On weekends, I treat myself to dessert and binge watch my favorite TV shows.
What's on your wishlist?
Doing more adventurous things! I travel a lot for modeling so my adventures aren’t necessarily “travel to Europe or Paris.” I really want to go bungee jumping, parasailing, jet skiing, and more. I’ve tried sky diving and it was SUCH a thrill!
What are your hidden gems in LA?
There are SO many good places to eat!
Best pizza: PIZZANA
Best vegan: CAFÉ GRATITUDE
Best Asian Fusion: CASSIA
Best Ethipoian: MEALS BY GENET
Imagine you could write a postcard to your former self: what do you wish you knew when you were younger?
What's one thing that we can do today to make the world a better place?
(Our Modern Day Proust Questionnaire)
Cake or pie? Cake. I love Asian ones because they aren’t as sweet as American cakes.