Tanya Bartolini always knew she loved to cook, but it wasn’t until she took maternity leave from a high-stress career in finance and gave birth to her son that she realised she wanted to do it for a living. Now, she manages a popular food website – The Kitchen Bench – and is launching her first book, Blending The Cultures, this November.
Although Tanya loved her job and excelled at it, she could not shake the persistent feeling of not belonging there. She sought the advice of a career coach to work out how to gain more fulfillment from her role and how to further advance her career. However, what she found as she explored her options was an unwavering feeling that she should explore her passion for cooking.
“Cooking was only ever done behind closed doors for family and friends. I never once considered it could be my career! However, with a little encouragement and a lot of optimism, I started researching my family’s story and out of that, The Kitchen Bench and Blending the Cultures was born,” says Tanya.
The Kitchen Bench launched in June and has been growing daily, with a following of more than 3,000 on Facebook and contributions from a huge range of everyday cooks and established food bloggers. Tanya’s aim for the network is to create a forum of food-lovers who can interact with each other, sharing recipes, food wins and failures, and tips and tricks for improving dishes.
“I’m not a chef, I’m just a person who loves food and loves to cook good, hearty meals for my family. However, a lot of people find it hard to get excited about cooking. They might be scared to experiment in the kitchen and don’t want to tackle fancy recipes with a million ingredients and even more steps to follow. My husband is a great example of that! It was with these thoughts in mind that I started up The Kitchen Bench, a safe place for people to gather and discuss the ins and outs of cooking,” says Tanya.
While establishing her site, Tanya has also written her family history, interweaving it with delicious Italian recipes to create her first cookbook, Blending the Cultures. Tanya realised that if she did not tell the story of her family’s immigration in the 50s, it would be lost. Furthermore, those beloved recipes she grew up with would ultimately vanish along with it.
“My book is really about my entire family. After the WWII, Italy was a broken country and thankfully, my grandfather took the risk to come to Australia in search of a better life for his children and ultimately, my children. Throughout everything we’ve been through, food has been the glue that has kept us together and the book is a celebration of the way food can unite us,” says Tanya.
Tanya’s journey has come with its fair share of obstacles. Three months into her venture, she was forced to change her business name. “Before I set up the site I went straight to my accountant and had the company registered. I purchased my domain name and ticked all of the boxes when it came to setting up a business, or so I thought. Upon discovering that there was another business operating with a similar name I decided, after consulting with my lawyers, that it would be best to make the change,” says Tanya.
“Thankfully my book had not yet gone to print which was very lucky. I learnt from this situation that sometimes hurdles will arise and you have to tackle them step by step. I could have just given up there and then but instead I decided to focus on the end goal. Now I have a name I love and have learnt a valuable lesson in the process!” says Tanya. The Everyday Cook Network became The Kitchen Bench, a name that was suggested to her by one of her loyal Facebook followers.
“Nothing makes me happier than seeing people sharing their recipe ideas on my site. My hope for the community is that it will continue to grow and become the go-to place people visit when they ask that all-too-common question, ‘What’s for dinner tonight’?”