Isn’t it crazy how many people we connect with within only one year of our lives? Or how some random opinions and looks might have changed our own or perhaps someone else’s life choices? Each of us decides how to approach and treat people on their own, leaving different kinds of impressions about themselves. I strongly believe that
every person we meet within our lives has got something they could teach us – be it openness, tolerance, dedication – anything.
Same happened with Natali, a girl from Spain that I happened to meet in the South African city of Capetown. I did not even think for a second that she could possibly be a foreigner in her beloved Barcelona – she looked so Spanish to me, yet she turned out to be from Moscow!
And then… so much happened. I started observing absolutely new life aspects through her that I had rarely paid attention to myself. At that time, I would analyze all my actions by their consequences in the next few years, whereas Natali was sharing an absolutely different kind of energy with me.
She is happy about every new week of her life, doing exceptionally those things she loves, and somehow everything works out the best way for her in the end.
That is probably the reason why we hung out so often – each of us had something to share.
If you have read my post about Barcelona, you probably still remember that I got to spend a week there recently. I am quite lucky to end up meeting people spontaneously, so connecting with Natali was no problem at all. In fact, she has already managed to start a whole new career – in gastronomy. I started recalling all the memories right away: she used to cook in the shared apartment in the cute area called Bantry Bay so often, trying to collect different spices even in this small kitchen. I kindly asked her to share her impressions about the new field of work and what it is like to be a foreigner on the Spanish TV.
– So you are now in gastronomy, congratulations! How did you end up in this industry while still being a model?
– When I first came to Spain, modeling jobs became my first source of income. To be honest, the work itself never attracted me so much – it was simply the easiest way to make some decent money at that moment. It’s so different with cooking though – I could spend all of my free time trying diverse recipes out. My passion for culinary has been around since I am 7, but somehow I never thought of it professionally. I think every person has this breakdown moment in his or her life – when it is simply time for them to do something they genuinely love. Upon my arrival in Barcelona after almost half of a year in Capetown, I told myself to finally stand for something that truly inspires me… I thought of how cooking was my biggest stimulation immediately. I started doing my research on different kinds of spices and meals and even decided to try entering a cooking TV show called Masterchef. The show provides its participants with a unique opportunity to demonstrate their passion and skills to the industry professionals, especially if you did not start this career back in your teenage years. I believe it is my thing to work on TV doing something I love – since it includes being a cook and a journalist while still using some acting techniques I learnt due to modeling experiences.
– How do you combine modelling and cooking now? Tell us about your typical week.
– I only show my own recipes to the public, which requires me to try diverse flavor combinations two days before the actual TV program. If I get a casting call unexpectedly, I immediately stop my cooking process and run to the location like crazy! Somehow I do not even care if I smell like onions at moments like this – who knows, maybe I will still get booked. Gastronomy pretty much makes up all of my life right now, but doing modelling when I have a random opportunity is great since it helps my financially, too. I used to do lots of TV commercials and advertisements before, so I thought that I would have to give up on those jobs in order to pursue my cooking career. But everything went the other way around – people actually started to recognize me as a symbol of gastronomy as I was getting positive feedback on TV, so I would get booked for grocery store ads or anything connected to food. I think you should just always do whatever your heart is telling you to – a whole new world of opportunities will open up for you then.
– What is it like to be a foreigner on Spanish TV?
– I really like this question! To be honest, I am the first foreigner to appear on the Spanish Masterchef, it is just uncommon for someone with a different background to show locals how to cook their own meals. Despite being fluent in Spanish and even Catalonian, I was very skeptical of my potential in the very beginning – who would want a Russian girl on local TV? I was beyond happy when I made it through the first try outs, but this was definitely not enough to satisfy others. People would think I am only a model who wants to smile for the camera and has no clue of what she is going for – but I was eager to prove them wrong. I remember being given a task to make tortillas, and out of all 15 participants mine turned out to be the most delicious ones. This was my big moment and a lucky ticket into the world of gastronomy. Since then, I have been trusted so much more and am allowed to work on bigger projects – now, people even enjoy the fact that a foreigner can be this motivated to learn more about their home culture.
– Sounds amazing! Would you mind telling us about current food trends on the Spanish market right now?
– Local people simply adore their food, so they would use some old “grandma’s recipes” and combine them with diverse spices and flavors from other cuisines to create the so-called fusion food. I absolutely love traditional Spanish cooking, but it tastes totally different if you try something new each time. Also, people pay greater attention to food decorations today – it’s not only about a happy belly, eyes have to be satisfied too!
– Do you believe a cooking talent is something one is born with?
– I do believe in the real talent which brings one to exceptional meal creations. But anyone could learn how to simply cook, no doubt. I think passion is the thing that counts most! If you have this inner energy, you will be able to reproduce any kind of meal again and again. For me, the cooking process itself is kind of a recipe itself: I take a bit of talent, passion, and optimism – and I am totally ready for new cooking adventures!
– In a traditional home, a woman would cook more often than a man, yet men are more likely to be restaurant chefs. How do you perceive this phenomenon?
– I think the only reason for this paradox lies in the type of work itself, because restaurant jobs demand a huge amount of physical work. Especially in the very beginning of your career, you are likely to have 14 to 15 work hours a day, 6 times a week. Due to all the pressure, you would hurt or burn your fingers multiple times a day – and it is something men can deal much better with. I do not want to say that this profession can be categorized as male or female, but life in restaurant gastronomy demands a strong physical stability. There are so many women out there who made it to a chef position and cook just amazingly well.
– You mentioned you have been experimenting with food a lot. Where do you gather your ideas and inspirations from?
– The best experiment happens when I come home after a busy day, open my fridge, and start cooking with whatever I have at hand. I also happen to imagine different flavor combinations right before falling asleep. Don’t really know how this is possible, but my best ideas occur at night! Sometimes I would not sleep for a couple of hours because I am so busy dreaming of different kinds of taste – I just have to try them on the next day.
– Wow, this is what I would call true passion. What are the main components of any meal, in your opinion?
– I love your questions! I don’t think it’s possible to name some, simply because the right combination of flavours is what truly matters. For instance, take a lemon – you would never eat it just like that. But lemon with some sort of seafood and a bit of salt under the right temperature… this could become a masterpiece. It’s all about being courageous enough to experiment!
– What meals would you recommend trying to those coming to Spain?
– This might sound too plain, but I can’t help it! My most favorite Spanish dish is Paella. I would not recommend visiting restaurants in the very center of the city – you would never find a real paella there. Try to go to places with less tourists and more locals. I also believe tortilla de patatas and croquettes are a must on any table, so make sure to have some if you ever come to this amazing place.
– Thank you for all of your insights!
Feel free to share your impressions and have an amazing day.