Today, I have the honor of sharing an interview with a true up-and-comer in the food blogging scene. Her name is Natasha and she hails from Alberta, Canada. As you’ll read below, Natasha’s love of cooking stems all the way back to her early days.
Natasha has been blogging about food for only a few short months, but her imprint has already been felt. She’s had some photography recently featured on a rather popular website (I’ll let her tell you about that below). She’s also got what promises to be quite the successful website. Both her carefully crafted recipes and photography certainly attest to that. I hope you’ll visit Natasha’s blog and browse through all of what she’s created. I know I’m going to keep my eye on this one.
1. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I’m introverted, and Grumpy Cat is my spirit animal. I like to make people laugh and try to incorporate humor into my blog posts whenever possible.
2. Where do you call home?
I was born in the UK, but came to Canada when I was a baby. I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
3. Do you remember when you first discovered that cooking was a passion of yours? What sparked it and how did you respond to that discovery?
I think it just evolved over time. I always watched my mom in the kitchen, and I guess I learned a lot. I applied it bit by bit as I was growing up, and cooking was the one thing I didn’t have to worry about learning when I finished university and moved out on my own at 23. I’ve always been into food in general (I’m one of those people who thinks about my next meal while I’m still eating the current meal), so I suppose cooking was an extension of that and seemed to come quite naturally to me.
4. How long have you been creating and sharing recipes on your website?
I started the website the summer of 2015, but didn’t make it public until October.
5. What type of learning do you prefer – learn as you go or something more formal? Where do you find the information you use to progress?
I definitely prefer to learn as I go. I have a degree in English, and let’s just say I was not the ideal student. If I want to learn something, I research it (usually online) and then try it out. I’m also learning to be less stubborn and sometimes listen to my husband, who has way more life experience than I do and is usually right about things. 🙂
6. What is your favorite part of cooking and blogging?
Cooking in general really relaxes me, but when I’m doing a recipe for the blog, it’s a different process. I’m paying attention to timing, I’m measuring ingredients out, and I’m scribbling down directions so that I can write it all out later. I’m also usually figuring out how I’m going to style the dish before it gets cold as some dishes, such as ones with creamy sauces, photograph badly if you leave it too long. I try to plan as much as I can ahead of time, but this doesn’t always happen. Blogging takes some of the spontaneity out of cooking, but it’s worth it when I am able to create a recipe that I’m proud of and excited about and that resonates with people. I also make sure that I don’t cook solely for the blog and still cook for myself since it’s one of my favorite things to do. Also, cooking itself is actually a really small part of food blogging. I spend way more time editing photos, writing, promoting, replying to comments, etc. I think the best part of blogging is that every day is a bit different and that there’s always potential for good things to happen. For example, being contacted for this interview out of the blue made my day!
7. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of what you do in the kitchen?
Cleaning up after I’m done in there. 🙂 (luckily my husband usually takes one for the team).
8. Have you had challenges and successes with regards to your website? If so, can you share some of them?
I think every blogger (especially when first starting out) experiences the day-to-day technical difficulties, so that’s just par for the course. I knew going in that photography would be a huge challenge for me, and I was right haha. I would say that learning to take good photos is the most challenging thing. I’m also not the most patient person, so keeping my expectations in check has been difficult. As far as successes go, I’ve had a few highlights like being featured on different websites. I recently had one of my photos featured on Foodgawker’s Instagram account, and it got over 2,500 likes in about a day. I feel like whenever someone comments on my blog it’s a mini success; I’m happy they took the time to do that.
9. After looking through your website, I’d like to compliment you on your really great photography. How did you learn to photograph so well?
I really appreciate that. I didn’t even pick up a DSLR camera until last year. I have a huge collection of photos for inspiration that I study and try to replicate angles, aspects of the styling, etc. I also read a LOT of articles on food styling, food photography tricks, etc. and spend time tinkering with my camera’s manual settings. I became frustrated with the unpredictability of natural light (especially during the Canadian winter), so I invested in an artificial one, and it’s really helped me control my photography environment. I’m always trying to improve my photos. I am not sure I will ever be satisfied!
10. Do you cook for friends and family? If so, which do you enjoy more, the actual food preparation or receiving their feedback on your creations?
I do most of the cooking for my husband and me, and I have learned to ask for his constructive feedback (like for blog purposes) without getting mad. Sometimes it’s helpful to have another perspective. I cook for my mom and sister periodically. I am sure they would say I don’t do it often enough! Usually they have nice things to say, so I definitely like hearing that. I do try to make things I know they will like, though. I think cooking is my way of showing people I actually like them 😉
11. What’s it been like interacting with those who visit your website? Is it rewarding?
It really has been rewarding. At first I was pretty scared to put myself out there, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s really nice when someone tells me they made my recipe and enjoyed it. I also am humbled by the support I’ve received from many of my fellow food bloggers.
12. What sparked the idea that you could create a following by writing about what you do in the kitchen?
I would say that I’m quite confident in my cooking abilities, and for the things I don’t know, I am interested in learning. For the past few years I’ve read food blogs, and I finally said to myself that there’s no reason why I can’t do it too. I toyed with the idea for quite a while and even played around on a free WordPress.com site that only I could access to get a feel for it. It was the photography that held me back for the longest time. Before I invested any money into blogging, I made sure I understood what would be required to not half ass it.
13. What are some of the most popular recipes on your website? Which ones do visitors (or you) simply love?
My fried chicken wraps are doing really well. That recipe doubled my traffic in recent weeks. I meticulously styled that wrap to make it look just right and took at least 100 photos to get the money shot. My most popular recipe overall is actually a copycat recipe. It’s my adaptation of the Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana. I strategically put it on the blog early so it would be there when I launched the site since I knew the recipe was super popular on Pinterest. I was hoping it would bring some traffic to my blog, and it has. I do genuinely love that soup and readers do too, so I am happy with how well it’s done. I even retook the photos because I wasn’t happy with the first set. My easy roast chicken recipe is popular too. I made sure it was posted in time for American Thanksgiving and promoted it as an alternative to cooking a large turkey.
14. What’s your favorite part of cooking?
Creating recipes is fun. Like, an idea will pop into my head, and I will prepare it in my head and make sure to write it down so that I don’t forget. The in-the-kitchen part is probably my favorite. Even chopping vegetables relaxes me. I just zone out. It’s like meditation for me. I don’t cook from cookbooks very often, and if I do, I usually quickly skim it through then heavily adapt it. I hate following directions. This is why I don’t particularly enjoy baking.
15. What is it about food and cooking that keeps you so motivated to continue on in this area?
Cooking is one of those things that I’ve done for as long as I can remember, yet I don’t tire of it. I recently attempted homemade ravioli for the first time (all done by hand), and it didn’t turn out so great. I just laughed it off, and the next day I wasn’t dreading getting back into the kitchen. It’s also a running joke that if I’m not hungry, something must be REALLY WRONG with me. I just love food, so it’s not hard to find motivation in that respect at all. The blogging part isn’t always the easiest, but I know that if I don’t put effort into it, I won’t get anywhere. That is enough to keep me motivated. I also am a planner and try to pace myself so that I don’t burn out, especially since I have to do all this around my full-time job.
16. If you could offer advice to someone who may be interested in learning more about getting into the kitchen and cooking, what would it be?
Just do it! Start with simple recipes, make them a few times until you know them by heart, and have those as your go-tos. If you screw something up, who cares? In today’s internet age there are answers to any cooking-related question at your fingertips. YouTube has some great cooking videos that can show you what you need to know.
17. Do you have any favorite cooking related websites that you visit regularly? If so, which ones?
Drizzle and Dip is my favorite. Now that I have a food blog, I visit a LOT of other food blogs to network. Some of my other favorites include Well Plated by Erin, Cooktoria, The Spice Train, Natasha’s Kitchen, and Hapa Nom Nom. Mr. Nicefood is a German food blogger who posts some amazing burgers on his Instagram account. It doesn’t even matter that I can’t speak German. Burger love is a universal language.
18. Where do you see yourself in a few years with regards to cooking and blogging? Where would you like to be?
Hosting my own show on the Food Network. 😉 Okay, I know that may not be realistic. I don’t know what the future holds for blogging, but I will continue to work hard at it and see where it goes. It’s all been really encouraging and exciting so far!
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