We had the good fortune of connecting with Natasha Figueroa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natasha, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
COVID. I kid you not! It’s January which makes 10 months since I’ve been laid off. I got on a flight to NY to spend some time with myself and reacquaint with my roots. I asked myself, “how can I control my situation from the inside out?” I had gone to dinner with a good friend and he asked when I’d be returning to work. I didn’t have a clue. In that moment, I was given the idea to open up a Cloud Kitchen. I did my research and sought perspectives which reaffirmed how lucrative a business it could be. I’ve always wanted to be a business owner and I love to cook.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
It wasn’t easy. It took a whole change of lifestyle and professions, but it was worth the temporary discomfort. Prior to gaining culinary/business experience, I worked in the hotel hospitality industry for 15 years. I’m great with talking to people. But I wasn’t fulfilled. In 2012, I requested a job transfer, signed a lease online and moved to Los Angeles. Let me tell you, it was not an easy transition. Moving to LA, I took a drastic pay cut which was not feasible for my girls and I. I had to pick up a second job. In researching, I noticed a high demand in the food industry. I had no idea what working in the food industry would entail, but I took a leap of faith and submitted some applications. I cried on the bus that day, worried about maintaining two jobs and being able to spend time with my daughters and give them the love and attention they deserve. I was in survival mode, though and had to remind myself that all these changes and transitions were not only steps to help myself grow, but moves I had to make for my family’s well being. On that note, I took a job at a corporate restaurant. That’s where I really learned the service industry in depth. I gained culinary skills such as awareness of temperatures and cook times, food safety, bartending and serving, and other valuable skills. Later, I moved on to work for a small restaurant where I met chef K.C. whom I learned so much from, grew with, and experienced many kitchen nightmares. All of these experiences have cumulatively birthed Nuyo Bodega. I was inspired by the corner bodega stores on NYC streets where I would get a buttered roll with coffee, midnight chopped cheese sandwiches, and heroes to go. For dinner, I would hit up the Cuchifrito. All these meals were prepared in 15 minutes or less.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First stop Is ordering food from Nuyo Bodega, a cute little bodega style place with the best food! I’m sure they’ll want to make sure the quality of food is up to par. It’s concept is New York Puerto Rican Cuisine, mixed with deli style food items, fresh salads with a modern twist to accommodate healthy living and vegan lifestyles. For breakfast we’re going to the Blu Jam Cafe, I love the french toast there. There’s this party that takes place every month, called Everyday People, the best day party to attend. We’re Definitely going to Venice beach and boardwalk, rent bikes and ride up and down the bike path. Stop at that cool skate park in Venice with Graffiti walls and see the ocean of course. Maybe go to Élephante in Santa Monica for a drink and appetizer, the best time to go is during the sunset, views! If nightclubs were open we’d goto Poppy in West Hollywood for a night cap. Another day hike up Runyon Canyon. Drive up to the Hollywood sign, to take some cool pictures. And if the shops are open I’d take them down Fairfax Ave and Melrose to shop and scan the local boutiques.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There’s a handful of people I need to thank for being apart of this journey with me. I hope I don’t miss anyone. First, my two daughters, Nevaeh and Kaitlyn. They are my best taste-testers, proof readers, personal helpers, and executive decision makers. I love you! My mom. She taught me how to cook. My first pot of rice was in her kitchen. She also helped me with the day-to-day running around town to set up shop and make this dream tangible. Her patience and support balanced out with my ambition. I want to thank Emily Gillette-Tyner, my go-to for exchanging ideas day and night. She helped me with the creative process behind menu building and finalizing my logo, and also donates money weekly for a dish washer since we are a very, small family business and I’m running things alone right now. It was a challenge, but we got it done. Mr. Mosley, thank you for believing in me and fueling this brilliant business idea. I want to thank my cousin, Veronica for keeping my skills sharp with FaceTime cooking ideas, recipe sharing, and help on pairing foods with different flavor profiles. Tenelle Sanchez, thank you for always supporting my ideas and always encouraging me to be a better me. You are consistent and I am so grateful. Malik Bannister, thanks for thinking of me! New York baybeee!