Foodies will love this one! Tanya Vora of SpiceUp advocates for people impacted by the immigrant experience through food events. Each event highlights the culture of a chef impacted by the immigrant experience. Typically, this means an immigrant or first-generation immigrant. Tanya shares the story of their event with Bonifacio, hosted by a mother-daughter duo. At this point, SpiceUp hosted food events with cultural themes connected to Mexico, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.
These events were created to showcase people while giving them a proper platform to share stories of their culture. Tanya understands the immigrant experience first-hand from being the child of immigrants. Her family came from India, and even her older siblings were raised in India. She shared her experience of finding her place between two cultures.
When Tanya goes to India, she tells me it’s clear that she is not fully Indian. Habits and certain cultural nuances she embodies are American. Of course this makes sense, she was raised in America. On the other side, she reflected on growing up in a predominantly caucasian environment, where there were more obvious differences between her and her peers.
Her ability to understand others comes not only from her personal experience – but also her background in user experience and design. And then as she’s expanded on that through events and accelerator programs such as Unreal Collective (where we met), Give Back Hack and Sea Change.
For Tanya, the business side did not come easy. She does not have a background in the field, so she had a lot to learn. We began discussing the strain behind pursuing side hustle projects. Tanya admitted that her mental health did take a hit (I can relate!). Working tirelessly was hard on her and her team, especially since people were still working outside the project. She learned she needed to take more care of herself, and find an appropriate balance.
“If your mental health isn’t where it needs to be, then everything else is going to take an even harder hit.”– Tanya Vora
SpiceUp talks to many chefs across communities – Tanya found that the city of Columbus is very separated between cultures and demographics. Access to other cultures showed barriers, but the people SpiceUp encountered did want exposure to other cultures. Tanya knows it’s good to hear from people who are part of the country the cuisine comes from, as food is heavily interconnected with culture.
Later on, Tanya mentioned the chefs not being able to fully present their cultures in their restaurants. She brought an interesting learning point about the word “ethnic”. Tanya explained the negative connotation the label can have, thus adding a layer of separation to something as universal as food. Chefs find themselves tailoring the cuisine to fit western, or American, palates. SpiceUp is creating an environment encouraging chefs to truly provide their wonderful cultures.
“We all eat.”– Tanya Vora
If you want to connect with SpiceUp, or are interested in their upcoming events, you can check out their Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or the official site. Their next event is Sunday, February 16th for a Brunch at Mazah.