Tanya Bartolini has always loved getting her hands in the dough and sculpting up a culinary masterpiece; but it wasn’t until she took maternity leave from her high-stress career in finance and gave birth to her son that she realised she wanted to cook for a living. Now she manages The Kitchen Bench – a popular food site for everyday cooks to network and share their love of food.
Launched in June, The Kitchen Bench has been growing daily, with a following of almost 3,000 and contributions from a wide range of everyday cooks and established food bloggers.
Bartolini’s aim for the network is to enable food-lovers to interact with each other, share recipes, food wins and failures, and tips and tricks for improving dishes.
“There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there when it comes to cooking good food and I don’t believe that people should only find inspiration in the kitchen from chefs and trained cooks,” she says.
“And other sites out there tend to be a reflection solely of the owners food as opposed to a community site.”
Bartolini says a lot of people find it hard to get excited about cooking; they’re afraid to experiment in the kitchen and don’t want to tackle complex recipes.
“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,” she adds.
She plans to generate revenue from the site through advertising and by collaborating with product providers.
“In the Spotlight is a section on the website that enables a business to obtain exposure for a period of one month. The business that is in the spotlight must provide a recipe to the followers of The Kitchen Bench or a food tip or trick and for that I will then showcase their business,” says Bartolini.
“In the Spotlight not only enables a business to advertise their product or service but ensures The Kitchen Bench community obtains value.”
Her proudest moments are endless, because every time a person shares a recipe on the site she feels that much happier. But she is most touched by people who have sent her personal messages thanking her for inspiring them to get back into the kitchen.
“Some of these recipes are family recipes that have been handed down from parents and grandparents. They are treasured recipes that people willingly share with others, other people they do not know. For me this is so inspiring,” says Bartolini.
“The other proud moment for me is when I receive messages or emails from people who are following the site telling me that my site has inspired them to get back into the kitchen and cook. Wow!”
Whilst establishing her site, Bartolini finished up writing her family history, interweaving it with her favourite Italian recipes to create her first cookbook, Blending the Cultures. She realised that if she did not tell the story of her family’s immigration in the 50s, it would be lost and the beloved recipes she grew up with would 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 Bartolini.
“The message at the heart of my book is that every family has a story and every recipe has a story. If I can inspire others to look more into their family story and family food to capture that for future generations then I feel that my book has achieved great success. I hope it inspires people to get into the kitchen and create a meal from my book, each of my recipes has a story. I hope people will feel that they can relate to my story when they cook my food.”
Bartolini’s advice for those contemplating a career change is, “If you know what it is that makes you happy, that makes your eyes light up and gives you that rush of adrenaline when you speak about it then I say follow your dreams.”
Her suggestion is for people to spend time thinking about how they can turn their passions into a job; and acknowledge right from the start that they may not have all the answers right away. As long as they start asking questions then that is a good start.
“The worst that can come from it is that I decided to live my dream, now that is not a bad outcome at all,” says Bartolini.
For more information and to share recipes visit www.thekitchenbench.com.au.
Blending the Cultures will be available on Amazon from late October 2013.