Chef Natasha Manchan cooks up delights to Tingle Yuh Taste Buds
When a radio programme asked listeners what was their favourite herbs and spices to prepare dishes with, Natasha Manchan shied away from the usual onion, scallion, garlic and thyme. Instead, she texted in basil. Excitedly, she also shared photographic proof of the ingredient being incorporated into her wonderful dishes. What happened next was shocking.
“When I heard everybody’s answers being read over the radio, except mine, I wondered what was the issue,” she told Food. As life would have it, she miscalculated the digits and had, in fact, taken down the wrong number. She apologised profusely for her error, only to discover another surprise in store.
The recipient accepted the apology but marvelled at the deliciously appealing dishes. Curiosity led to a virtual conversation, where this chef revealed that she was the owner of a private catering company called Tingle Yuh Taste Buds. She later found out she was corresponding with a reporter at The Gleaner.
Manchan’s menu offerings don’t follow the typical gastronomic narrative. Instead, it tells a remarkable story that is truly pleasing to the palate. There’s the basil barbecued pork, barbecued pig’s tail with callaloo gungo rice and peas, sweet honey roasted shrimp kabobs, spicy purple cabbage egg omelette, for the breakfast lovers, and to sweeten the deal: the peanut sweet potato pudding.
A tropical fiesta awaits in a mouthful of her mango pineapple chicken breast tenders, complemented by the creamy herbal mashed breadfruit. And nothing beats her infamous vegetable stew simmered in coconut sauce.
“That’s what draws the attention of my customers; it’s the uniqueness, taste and the presentation of them all,” she added.
Born and raised in St Thomas, the self-taught chef learned of her love for food at the age of eight years old. “I’ve always been interested in cooking. I grew up around my aunt, who taught me to cook. I also learned from my mom, who operates a small cookshop,” she said.
Her talent knows no bounds. Using whatever ingredient she could gain access to at the time, the budding chef would create wonders in the kitchen, in ways like frying green plantains in the oil made from chicken back fat.
Growing up was far from easy. Manchan was always hands-on, sourcing coconut shells for fire and carrying water for miles from the standpipe to her home. But she made the best of it in the kitchen. “My favourite dish to prepare back then was chicken back seasoned rice cooked in coconut milk,” she admitted.
Life’s journey led her to move and build a life in Kingston, but she could not leave her roots and passion for culinary arts behind. “My headspace goes wild in my kitchen; there’s no limit. As my granny would say, ‘Tek yuh hand mek fashion’. Some simple ingredients can be used to make a five-star meal.”
With determination at the helm of her delicious dreams, Chef Manchan began making cooking arrangements from home, enlisting her husband as her official taste tester. Two and half years later, the business has been an excellent motivator for her to go bigger and even better.
“I normally cook and offer my dishes to friends, family and strangers on social media who saw my dishes and wanted to try them. They always told me, ‘Your dishes are so unique. The presentation and taste are amazing. The world needs to know about this’.”
Chef Manchan hopes to open a restaurant within the next year. Until then, she will continue to go door to door and deliver scrumptious dishes to her customers.
“I would love to see my future restaurant in the top five must-go places to eat in Jamaica as well as spread my wings internationally, by the grace of God,” she declared.