Tiffany Taylor has been a professional chef for more than a decade. But it’s her entrepreneurial spirit, as much as her skills in the kitchen, that has enabled her business to thrive at a time when many in her profession are struggling.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. Many of Taylor’s colleagues lost their jobs, her contracting work dried up, and, she says, her part-time catering business was “going down the tubes.”
Not one to take setbacks lying down, she set about finding a new source of income. Her solution? Her own live cooking show called Cook’n It Real. Taylor hosts the show on BlueJeans Meetings, streaming it via Facebook Live, while a select group of people use BlueJeans for a more interactive experience.
A cooking show with a difference
Taylor calls her cooking style “cuisine rooted in culture.” And Cook’n It Real is not your typical cooking show. “Nothing is pre-recorded, nothing is rehearsed,” she says. “A lot of the meals I’ve never made before. So if I mess up, I have to fix it live. I want people to understand that cooking can be an experiment that you can have fun with and figure it out as you go.
“I rarely wear a chef’s jacket because people are intimidated by the professional chefs on these TV shows, where they make all this fancy stuff.”
The audience using BlueJeans can interact with Taylor live in the video meeting. “They ask me questions, and some people are cooking the meal with me. They show me what they’re doing, and I help them out as they’re cooking.”
Taylor considered other video platforms before deciding on BlueJeans. “What appealed to me about BlueJeans was the fact I could use it to go live with Facebook,” she says. “And it’s very easy to navigate, so I can just focus on doing the show — not figuring out how to do things.”
Pivoting a catering business
Taylor sends out a list of ingredients to her audience before the show — and this has opened up an opportunity for her to revive her catering business, Black Radish Meals.
In its previous iteration, Black Radish Meals was like “the Uber of chefs.” People nationwide could book their own private chef. Everything was provided, including fresh produce from local markets, so the people could enjoy the convenience of restaurant-quality food in their homes or other venues. However, just as the business was starting to gain some momentum, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to it.
Then, when launching Cook’n It Real, Taylor tried partnering with an established meal delivery service, which proved less than reliable. “I canceled that service and I was trying to work out what to do next, then I remembered: I already had a booking and delivery platform that worked,” she says. So she pivoted that business and now Cook’n It Real viewers can buy the ingredients for each show from Black Radish Meals to cook live with her.
Connecting with the community
Sunday is a busy day for Taylor. After preparing for and hosting Cook’n It Real, she hosts POTent Conversations, an online meeting place for people who feel disenfranchised or who simply want to connect with others during the pandemic.
For the African American chef, POTent Conversations is a way to give back to her community. “It’s a non-judgmental environment where people can talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and other topics that affect black and other minority communities,” she says.
“When we talk about those heavy topics, we go into a BlueJeans private chat. I want people to feel that they are in a safe space, so that they can speak freely. I also have a male and female therapist online with us.”
Building on a viral success
Cook’n It Real is a viral success, with Taylor and her followers “spreading the word” on social media. But she has more ambitious growth plans.
“With the show growing, I’m looking to hire a producer to help me with things like audience interaction,” she says. While Taylor can help the BlueJeans audience directly, a producer would be able to answer or pass on questions from the broader Facebook audience.
She’s also interested in doing more with BlueJeans to improve and expand her shows. She intends to explore BlueJeans’ breakout sessions feature for private discussions in POTent Conversations. And she’s hoping that at some point she will need to migrate to BlueJeans Events, which can support up to 50,000 attendees!
In the meantime, Taylor says, “I get to do what I love — cooking and sharing recipes and interacting with people.”