This week, we had the privilege of sitting down with Natasha Mahapatro, a multi-faceted gourmand, mixologist and all-around culinary creative! The founder of the Tash Mashup, Natasha's zesty mashups of various international cuisines will give your palate a whole new taste (literally) of different cultures.
When did you start blogging and why?
I started my blog, The Tash Mashup, in October of last year. Pre-pandemic, I'd love hosting friends and loved ones over for Sunday family-style dinners where I would test a lot of my cross-cultural culinary mashups. My love of hosting is actually what brought me to Arjuna- I love the modern approach to Indian decor and the ease of incorporating your designs into my home, especially when it comes to entertaining!
Once I had confirmed guests' dietary restrictions and discussed their favorite foods/cuisines, that's when I got to creating! I'd love to spend my weekends developing a 3-4 course menu and putting together unexpected flavor profiles. For Diwali a few years ago, I created a whole Filipino-Indian meal in which we ate Kamayan style, which is a communal buffet served on banana leaves- similar to some of my favorite meals I've had during my travels to India. The recipes I came up with were a huge hit: think Chicken Vindaloo Adobo and Keema Lumpia!
The Tash Mashup's Chaatchos
After lots of encouragement from my loved ones (both from those that had the chance to come over for Sunday dinner and those that received pictures of the food post-meal), I knew I wanted to share my love of cross-cultural culinary mashups inspired by Indian-American food with others. The timing of the pandemic allowed me to spend lots of time cooking up a storm in my kitchen and recipe developing almost a couple of days a week. And with that, The Tash Mashup was born. :)
Was it hard to get started? Explain to us what motivates you to keep creating.
When I first played around with the idea of food blogging, I cannot tell you how many times I read blogging advice online to "just start." While I know it comes from a good place, the specifics are hard and it's difficult to know the how/what/when/where to start. It's not that there is a lack of resources available online, but rather the opposite. There is SO much incredible information out there about blogging, and I quickly found myself dealing with information overload.
What worked for me? Consistency is everything when it comes to this space/industry. While it is relatively "easy" to get started, I think the harder part is remaining committed and continuing along. The month before I launched the blog, I told myself that I was going to shoot new content 2x a week and post at least 3-4 recipes a week on the blog. I laugh now because while that is doable for some, it's not for everyone and it wasn't realistic for me at the time. I reminded myself that your work should remain a source of joy and if I needed to post once a week instead of five times a week, that's okay. If I need to take a break from shooting one weekend after a long week of work for my 9-5 and order takeout instead, do it! I've found that "consistency" looks different for everyone and I hope by having conversations like this, we normalize that everyone's blogging adventure can and WILL take a different journey.
Speaking of motivation, I would say that my sources of motivation are two-fold. The first being the feedback I receive. Wow, there is nothing like someone telling me that they made one of my recipes for their dinner table that day. When college students reach out to share that they made one of my recipes for their friends that have never had Indian food before, that gets me excited to get back into the kitchen and begin testing my next recipe. When second-generation Indian-Americans like myself share that my recipes remind them of the "food that they have always begged their mom to make when growing up" or that one of my recipes made "getting creative in the kitchen fun rather than daunting," it reminds me of why I started blogging in the first place and what I found myself actually searching for when looking for a new recipe before starting The Tash Mashup.
I'll also add that a lot of my motivation also comes from the incredible women-owned businesses like yours that I get to work with. I've had the privilege to collaborate with a few woman-owned businesses to start and want to continue doing my part to support, uplift, and work with women entrepreneurs that are revolutionizing their respective industries. Female founders like yourself have been not only been sources of inspiration, but also my biggest sources of motivation.
You seem to be quite the mixologist as well! Tell us more.
My passport will tell you that I am a gastro-tourist: someone that literally makes travel plans around good food and drink. During my Sunday dinners, I'd also love to give traditional cocktails The Tash Mashup treatment to accompany the menu. When I started blogging and sharing recipes, I quickly learned that there was a huge interest in the Indian-ish cocktails I was developing. In the past few months, I've got really great notes from people that let me know that one of my recipes was the very first cocktail that they have ever made at home or share with me that they and all of their friends made one of my cocktails ahead of a virtual game night.
I have the biggest smile on my face as I share this because The Tash Mashup cocktails truly showcase what I am all about. The Tash Mashup started due to my love of bringing people together and storytelling through good food and drink. This year has been hard for us. Living through a global pandemic for now over a year is challenging, and if my drinks are part of people's virtual celebrations and playing a tiny role in bringing people together, I'm committed to providing more cocktail/mocktail recipes that do just that.
This past month, I've even started offering private mixology classes and have hosted these for corporate happy hours, birthday parties, and in partnership with female-led platforms and digital communities.
How can we book a virtual mixology class with you?
It's been really humbling to have the entire month of March booked and I am happy to share that I am currently taking bookings for mid-April and beyond. Feel free to send me a DM at @thetashmashup sharing a little bit more about the event (yes, just-because events are also highly encouraged), the number of attendees, and the number of cocktails/mocktails you'd like to learn. With that information, I will get back to you in 24-48 with a quote and more information on what additional services I can offer, which include personalized menus and even recipe development for signature cocktails.
Food blogging has become a crowded space. For those wanting to get started, what advice would you give?
While it definitely may seem crowded on social media, I've found that food blogging is not as crowded of a space, considering how big the Internet is. Food blogging is a relatively new industry and I truly mean it when I say that there is space for everyone and that there's a corner for everyone on the world wide web.
I'll start by saying that I truly believe you cannot be what you cannot see. I'm so thankful for the support and mentorship I've received from other bloggers and creators like yourself, and the least I can do is share the knowledge and what I know today that I wished I had known a week, a month, or even a year ago about blogging.
If you're reading this and are an aspiring food blogger that is hoping to start blogging but don't know where to start (trust me I have been there- it gets really overwhelming quickly when you count the hours in the day compared to the work that is expected of you on the backend), send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. While I by no means have all of the answers, I am happy to share my resources, the yay's and nay's I've learned along the way through trial and error, and what items I've invested in, (photography classes, editing tools, and equipment) I'd recommend as well as the ones that you could do without.
Generally speaking, for those wanting to get started, my best piece of advice is to write down your purpose and mission. Tape it on your fridge, save it in an email you send yourself with the date you plan to launch your blog in the subject line of the email, or share it via text with your best friend. Answer these two questions: 1) why does this blog exist? and 2) what are you serving up that no one else in the space is?
It may seem silly but trust, you'll have days when you spend hours setting up a shoot only to find that it is now raining before you can get a single photo, days that you'll feel stuck in terms of your growth, and days that you might find yourself getting discouraged when you create a recipe that you thought would receive more love than it did. You'll look back at that note and it will give you perspective.
Those days seem daunting but I like to call these the growth spurt moments. They give us the opportunity to pause, think about what we have learned in that instance, panic for a second about the changes to come, but then quickly realize that it's an opportunity for us to pivot and readjust as needed while staying true to our "why."
Natasha is a communications strategist and gastro- tourist based in Washington D.C. While she has had the opportunity to narrate important stories for Fortune 500 companies, governments, non-profits, and trade associations all over the globe, when it comes to telling her OWN story, there's no better way to do so than by talking about – FOOD! Over the years, she's spent a lot of time learning about the politics of food, the exoticization of BIPOC spices, dishes, & of food writers. This has allowed her to not only have a better understanding of food history, but also realize her responsibility to introduce, educate, and preserve her identity and culture by sharing her food story with others.
Her blog The Tash Mashup features cross-cultural culinary mashups inspired by Indian comfort food. Always nostalgic for her mum's cooking, she made it her mission to teach herself how to cook food that tastes and feels like home once she moved to the nation's capital. Her goal is simple: to share Indian-inspired mashups that are accessible yet unique.