There’s just something about that special touch of home cooking that makes everything taste better. Chef NaTosha “Tae” Barber has just the right background to transform dull into delicious—a central theme of her catering company, 210 Fusion Cuisine.
Originally raised in Lake Charles, Chef Tae uses her cooking skills learned as a child to take ordinary comfort food to new heights. With 210 Fusion Cuisine, she marries the comfort foods everyone knows and loves with internationally crafted dishes that wow the palate.
But her culinary pursuits have nontraditional beginnings. “I was originally an insurance agent who had just been cooking ever since I was a young child. Through the years, I started to develop a passion for it. It became a therapy for me. It started out with a few potlucks, and then friends and coworkers started asking me to bring food. So I started to get serious about it,” she says.
Between her 20 years in Louisiana and now 20 years in Houston, her culinary skills are primed to create mouth-watering recipes with influences from across the South. She makes it all—French baguettes with mascarpone, creamy-rich and decadent shrimp and grits, hand-rolled deep-fried boudin balls, and her signature Mardi Gras Seafood Lasagna that she presented when she auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef show.
“Most everything I specialize in has a Cajun flair. I take simple ingredients and add an international twist. I make fusion dishes inspired by Morrocan, Italian, and Mexican meals, and I do it at an affordable price. A lot of my clients are on a fixed budget. They want a complete meal with a special experience, so I create that,” she notes. “I make anything and everything you could want at an affordable price. It’s a party in your mouth!”
She also operates a digital storefront and makes deliveries. Customers may select five meals for $75. Orders must be submitted by Friday at midnight for pickup on Sunday. To make delivery less expensive, she has drop-off spots near Willowbrook Mall, Greenspoint Mall, Almeda Mall, and Memorial City Mall.
“I make it as central as possible for the four corners of the city. I have clients outside of Houston, too, and we make special arrangements for them,” Chef Tae says.
With so many dining options in Houston, Chef Tae believes her home-cooked style sets her apart from the others.
“I think the thing that sets me apart is that I always offer great service, and the quality of the food is always consistent. For example, take your traditional étouffée. When you get it from me, you’ll know it’s 210 Fusion Cuisine,” she says. “It’s like the quality of a restaurant, with a homey feel. It’s that food you’d have if you went home to grandma or mom.”
Her business model also accommodates anyone who needs holiday meals, private event catering, private chef services, and party platters.
The number 210 in Chef Tae’s business name is an interesting reference to her two daughters. “I have a set of twin girls born February 10. Cooking is one of the things I love passing along to them,” she explains.
While some might be hearing about Chef Tae and 210 Fusion Cuisine for the first time, her nurse-turned-singing-sensation partner, Christina Wells, is well known to Houston music lovers. She was featured on America’s Got Talent during season 13, and she also made waves locally by winning Pride Superstar three years ago. Interestingly enough, Chef Tae was the last to know of Wells’ fame when they first crossed paths at a Houston Pride grand-marshal announcement.
“To be honest, I saw Christina at the event, and I didn’t know who she was. The thing that attracted me was her personality and her ray of light. [I heard] someone mention her name, so I saved it in my phone and looked her up on Facebook. Three months later, she accepted my friend request. We’ve been inseparable ever since.”
It’s been a relationship that has flourished for both of them.
“She’s helped me along the way of realizing my dream of starting my business. I didn’t know all the steps, but she has been in the public eye for the last couple of years, and she’s handled that really well. She’s given me tips on how to target the clients I want. It’s helped me while I’m building 210 Fusion Cuisine.”
They’ve also combined their skills to benefit the LGBTQ community by establishing an annual Valentine’s Day soiree.
“We were able to put together Love and Libations for Valentine’s Day, where we partner to create a safe haven for the LGBTQ community. Everyone we hire—DJ, decorators, entertainers—is a part of that family, and the event will be something we try to do each year. We’ve taken our personal relationship and built it into a business relationship as well,” she notes.
Chef Tae has listened to requests from her clients and followers to expand her venture further, potentially through social media or by launching a food-truck service.
“I’m considering starting a YouTube or social-media cooking channel. A lot of people have asked for that. I’m also working on a digital cookbook,” she says. “Right now, I’m continuing to grow my brand and get to as many food festivals as possible. I’m looking to do an audition or two for a Food Network-type contest. I’m focused on growing in the Houston area and throughout the state.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chef Tae’s catering gigs have been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Weekly meal-prep services and holiday menus are still available. To order food, visit 210fusion.com or call 832-857-4796.
This article appears in the May 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.