Food + DrinkGayest & GreatestGayest & Greatest 2023

From Hoops to Haute Cuisine

Chef Tae creates culinary magic in Houston.

Chef Tae (Photo by CJ Martin)


NaTosha LaVelle Barber, known as Chef Tae, discovered her love for cooking at a tender age, bonding with her mother in the kitchen when she was just five years old. As she grew older, her passion for creating delicious meals for others blossomed, ultimately leading her to a fulfilling career as a chef. “Cooking has always been what I called my ‘therapy session,’” she reflects.

Hailing from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the 48-year-old Barber initially pursued a different path, studying health and human performance on a basketball and track scholarship at McNeese State University. She envisioned herself becoming a coach or orthopedic surgeon. However, her family’s love for cooking provided a refuge from life’s chaos, planting the seeds of her culinary journey.

After spending 12 years in insurance sales, Barber decided to follow her culinary calling. Her experience in sales proved invaluable, enhancing her ability to provide exceptional customer service to her clients and market her brand effectively.

At the helm of 210 Fusion Cuisine, Barber crafts delectable dishes for various events, including private dinner parties, weddings, graduations, cooking classes, and meal prep. Her signature creation, the Mardi Gras Seafood Lasagna, combines Italian and Cajun influences with a bounty of seafood, including crab, shrimp, crawfish, and lobster. However, there’s one ingredient she refuses to cook—frog legs, due to her fear of frogs.

Barber is passionate about introducing people to vegan and vegetarian cuisine, dispelling the misconception that these dishes lack flavor. She infuses her plant-based creations with the same love and flavor found in her other offerings.

In her personal life, Barber has found happiness in a new relationship with a supportive partner from the health and real estate industry who encourages her brand-building endeavors.

Barber’s generosity extends beyond her kitchen as she donates meals prepared by 210 Fusion Cuisine to Montrose Grace Place, actively participating in community-focused organizations like Lesbians Of Color (LOC). She’s also pioneering a therapy-based cooking experience to address mental health issues in the community.

To Barber, food is not just sustenance—it’s nourishment for the soul. She strives to evoke feelings of love and nostalgia in her clients, taking their taste buds on a journey reminiscent of home-cooked meals. Her culinary journey has been a whirlwind since she began pursuing it full-time in 2018, with notable clients like Cece Peniston and Mannie Fresh adding to her repertoire.

In the coming year, Barber plans to participate in more food festivals, introduce new menu items at personal events, collaborate with fellow chefs from different cities, work on a cookbook, and build her social media presence with an online cooking show.

For Barber, the most important message is one of compassion and kindness: “Be a blessing to someone. Love yourself, love your people. And even if you social distance, love on a stranger, because you never know what someone may be going through that day.”

Follow Chef Tae on Instagram @210Fusion.


Jenny Block

Jenny Block is a frequent contributor to a number of high-profile publications from New York Times to Huffington Post to Playboy and is the author of four books, including “Be That Unicorn: Find your Magic. Live your Truth. Share your Shine." She has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs from Nightline to BBC Radio to Great Day Houston and has performed and spoken at bookstores, events, conferences, and resorts in the US and Mexico, as well as on Holland America Cruise ships.
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