Mac n’ Cheese Cupcake Is A Standout Hit For Caterer Tashana Small

By Emma Ehrhard

Tashana’s Kitchen cooks up soul food, good times and some raised eyebrows with her special mac n’ cheese cupcake recipe.

For Tashana Small, 52, food is her love language. Her catering business, Tashana’s Kitchen, specializing in Southern-style comfort food, is a product of strong family values and a woman determined to build community through her passion.

In addition to the variety of comfort foods she lovingly makes, the champion of Tashana’s Kitchen is her mac n’ cheese cupcake. Created by fluke, the cupcake is a standout at farmer’s markets and food festivals. They are available in multiple sizes, fresh or frozen-for-later, and could be ordered with a variety of savory toppings, such as lobster meat with garlic butter sauce or BBQ pulled pork. 

Mac n' Cheese Cupcake

Community connection is inherent for Tashana’s Kitchen. She enjoys selling her meals at local pop-up markets and events such as the Famous Food Festival at the Tanger Outlets in Deer Park.

“I love the adrenaline rush of cooking for people and seeing their reactions,” she said.

Small credits her grandmother for showing her the art of spreading love through food.

“Everyone wanted to come to her house to eat, she made sure people were OK …women in my family, most of us picked up that torch,” she said.

Small picked up the torch at 14-years-old, proudly sharing her first homemade meal, beef stroganoff and egg noodles, with her grandmother.

Although Small held onto her love for cooking, it wasn’t until years later that she realized how passionate she truly was. She worked as a nurse for years, until retiring in 2007 to take care of her medically fragile daughter, Ishana, or Shani as she is known, and raise her son, Joseph. Small operated a small-scale catering business out of her home inconsistently during that period but held off on taking the next step until 2021 when her son turned 18. 

“I’ve always taken care of other people,” she said. “2021 was the time when I said, ‘I have to do something for myself.’”

Tashana’s Kitchen now operates out of a shared kitchen space at The Kitchen Co-op in Amityville. The business offers full-service buffet style catering as well as deliveries on local orders extending from Long Island out to Brooklyn and Queens.

Small crafts her catering menus herself, which she describes as second nature. Tashana’s Kitchen offers endless combinations of comfort food favorites, including seafood broils, turkey wings, and pot roast, to name a few. 

Tashana’s Kitchen aims to deliver an experience beyond the meal. Small’s heart is in it for the people. A dedicated mother to her own children and many self-described bonus children, ensuring the customer feels valued is crucial. She aims to accommodate her customers’ individual needs, accommodating personal preferences and dietary restrictions.

“Customer service is the foundation of my business,” she said. “I want people to say, ‘Her food was delicious, but more importantly, she treated me kindly and with respect.’”

Using her business to give back, Small can be found selling her food at events such as the Robert Permenter Memorial Car Show, donating some of the proceeds to causes that hit close to home. She looks out for people from all walks of life, often distributing her leftover cooking to locals impacted by homelessness. 

Speaking of her experience as a Black female entrepreneur, Small and her business have not always been met with open arms. She recalls occasions at food festivals in which patrons demeaned her concept of mac n’ cheese cupcakes, or who doubted Tashana’s Kitchen was a creation all her own. However, she refuses to waste attention on negative energy, instead turning her focus to spreading the gratitude and love that inspire her.

“I express my love through my cooking,” she said. “I want to give an act of kindness…you took the time to come purchase my food when there’s so many other places to go…to me that’s an act of kindness.”

Working ‘round the clock as a caregiver and an entrepreneur, Small stays grounded by focusing on the future and living for her best self. She has big plans on the horizon for Tashana’s Kitchen. 

Her delicious creations will now be available through Doordash. The additional orders will help her work towards her goal of turning Tashana’s Kitchen into a mobile restaurant with the acquisition of a food truck. She plans to sell her cupcakes in new states, sharing true soul food with new family and friends she’s sure to find along the way. 

As for other women looking to start their own entrepreneurial journey, she pushes consistency. “If you stop, you’ll never know how far you’re gonna go,” she said.

Emma Ehrhard is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

📷 Courtesy of Tashana’s Kitchen. Cover photo by Alias Smith

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