Natasha MacAller

Chef/Culinary Consultant and Author

If cooking is an art and baking is a science, Natasha MacAller is a chef who flawlessly dances in both worlds. Her “less is more” approach to cooking, baking and pastry has made her stand out among her peers and continues to catch the attention of the Los Angeles TimesBon Appetit, Food & Wine and NZ’s Life and Leisure and Dish magazines, London’s Daily Express Telegraph, and the London Times and numerous food and lifestyle blogs. A former professional ballerina, Natasha brings the same diligence and precision to the kitchen as she did to dancing. She’s known as the Dancing Chef. These careers may seem worlds apart – from ballerina to chef – but to Natasha, or Tash as she’s called, they are both performance arts, creative disciplines that demand dedication and hours of painstaking practice. As she explains, they both offer a fleeting experience, whether it’s a whirl across the stage or savouring one of her decadent culinary creations.

Tash started ballet lessons at age 6 and turned professional at 13. During her 30 years as a professional ballerina she performed with New York’s prestigious Joffrey Ballet and the Boston Ballet finishing her whirlwind ballet career in the Broadway and Los Angeles productions of The Phantom of The Opera.

Knowing that she could not dance forever, Tash used the time during her seasonal layoffs to become a professional cook, and soon had set up her own catering business. For eight years she owned and operated Dancing Chef Catering, serving mainly TV, theatre, film and the food industry folks. She catered for events in all sorts of creative venues, from sailboats to skyscrapers.

Always a high goal setter, she completed her intensive 18-month cookery course in 1996 at The Colorado Culinary Institute and graduated number one in her class. Success led to success. That same year the petite blonde created an ahi tuna appetizer as an apprentice for “USA Team California” in the Culinary Olympics in Berlin and took out the gold medal.

Today she challenges herself constantly, to create a new cooking, cocktail or dessert sensation be it sweet or savoury. Tash divides her year in New Zealand, Los Angeles and London to continue restaurant consulting, writing and teaching. She teaches her elegant comfort style of starters and desserts in the states and abroad, including venues such as Haagen-Dazs International, Divertimenti and Pru Leith’s in London, plus  New Zealand’s Culinary Institute NZ and brainstorming with Peter Gordon’s chefs at The Sugar Club in Auckland. Her “Art of Plated Desserts” and “First and Last” cooking classes are always a hit.

Fresh out of culinary school, Natasha was asked to help assist and co-ordinate the chefs and kitchens during the annual 5-star international food and wine event, “Cuisines of the Sun” on Hawaii’s Big Island, working side by side with some of the culinary legends of the day. Natasha honed her skills at Charlie Trotter’s with Michelle Gayer, Sherry Yard at Spago Hollywood and at Campanile in Los Angeles. 

Natasha’s latest book Spice Health Heroes: unlock the power of spice for health, flavour and well-being released in 5 countries October 20, 2016 by London publisher, Jacqui Small. Inspired by the spice tastes of her travels and sparked by an idea offered to her by publisher Jacqui, Natasha explores the culinary, nutritional and medicinal uses of more than 30 spices found in one’s kitchen cupboard, from the everyday to the more exotic.  She takes each of her spice heroes, groups them into six chapters; from immune and cleansing, to energy and warming, to restorative and calming and details the flair of flavour and the wealth of medicinal benefits each spice may contain, supported by quotes from an expert team of 8 international medical doctors. Practical advice on the storage, preparation and uses of all the featured spices is also given with full-page breathtaking photographs of each spice and every dish by Manja Wachsmuth.

Each of the spices star in over 100 mouth-watering recipes. There is her ‘California Girl Prawn Curry’ (a childhood memory of her Mum’s Californian take on curry) together with many other original sweet and savoury recipes including:  ‘Floating Spice Islands With Lime, Raspberry and Coconut Jam’; ‘Tropical Turmeric Smoothie’; ‘Heirloom Apple And Walnut Galette’; ‘Doves Bay Bouillabaisse’ -a NZ take on a French classic; ‘Tonga Chili-Lime Chicken’; ‘Cornish Saffron Popovers’ and ‘Lemongrass Pork Pearls’.  Together with Natasha’s recipes there are recipes contributed from some 21 internationally acclaimed chefs, including José Andrés (Spain/USA), Lidia Bastianich (Italy/USA), April Bloomfield (USA/UK), Suzanne Goin (USA), Peter Gordon (NZ/UK), Mette Helbak (DK), Judy Joo (USA/UK/HK), Michael Kempf (DE), Christine Manfield (AUS), Anne-Sophie Pic (FR) and Cyrus Todiwala (UK/IN).

Natasha’s first cookbook Vanilla Table was inspired by her experience with vanilla up-close at the First International Vanilla Food & Wine Event at Heilala’s vanilla plantation in Tonga. Natasha, along with Chef Peter Gordon, created, cooked and served an array of vanilla dishes over three days to 20 guests and media, and it was here on this little Pacific island that her first cookbook started to take shape.

Vanilla Table, The essence of exquisite cooking from the world’s best chefs, a vanilla celebration of delicious and intriguing recipes all using vanilla but in sweet AND savoury ways. Stunningly photographed by Manja Wachsmuth, Vanilla Table is truly a global compendium of vanilla expertise, showcasing this most exotic and yet everyday spice in over 100 vanilla dishes.

Joining her vanilla adventure are 33 award-winning international chefs, including Peter Gordon (NZ), Al Brown (NZ), Yotam Ottolenghi (UK), Jonathan Waxman (USA), Nancy Silverton (USA), Christine Manfield (AUS), William Curley (UK) and Sherry Yard (USA) who contributed their own dazzling recipes to this landmark cookbook; the genesis of which lies in a Tongan plantation which began life as an aid project. 

Natasha’s passion for vanilla started at a young age.  Her first memories of vanilla began on her way to ballet classes when her mother ‘spritzed’ her with vanilla-scented cologne. Many years and hundreds of pointe shoes later, she always kept a tiny bottle of vanilla perfume on her theatre dressing table as a reminder of the dedication and the joy of dancing entwined with the enticing aroma of vanilla.

Vanilla Table was first released by Bateman Publishing (New Zealand) October 2013. The UK edition released March 2015 by British publisher Jacqui Small. In April 2015 the book released by Small in the USA under the Aurum Publishing Group, distributed in the USA & Canada by Quarto Publishing, part of Aurum Publishing Group. Vanilla Table was released in Australia July 2015.

Natasha is currently working on her third cookbook and is thrilled and delighted to be working again with chef/owner Anne Conness at Sausal (who contributed a Sausal signature dish) at Sausal Restaurant in El Segundo, Los Angeles, California. She continues to brainstorm and consult for restaurants, food and wine events and products internationally.

Natasha is a member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), Les Dames D’Escoffier (LEDI) and International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and the NZ Chefs Association.

Click on images to view larger.