Breaking out in the blogging world can be difficult. For Chicago native Natalie Slater, 35, it was all about finding a unique theme: mixing baking and cooking with punk rock culture.
Slater created BakeandDestroy.net, a recipe sharing website, solely vegan recipes, which have all been inspired by her love for baking and punk rock.
“I’ve been baking for nearly my whole life. I got an Easy-Bake Oven for [my] fourth birthday and my birthday is in mid-December so I spent most of the rest of the month baking cakes for people for Christmas. That is where I first got a love for baking and cooking in general,” Slater recalled.
She had her first baking job while attending Columbia College in Chicago, where she majored in journalism and minored in marketing.
“It started out as a hobby of mine; then it was my job. Once I was out of school, I was writing for a lot of baking and pastry kind of trade magazines. I started doing a lot of recipe development and wholesaling my baked goods. Baking and cooking have just always been there,” Slater said.
“When my son was newborn, I was at home and I watched cooking shows religiously every morning. At naptime, I had time to myself and I would go back to what I remembered from my career as a baker along with things I learned from my parents and my grandparents. I started playing around with trying to update those recipes, sometimes making them healthier or making them vegan or just using different inspirations to change around the dish. A lot of my inspiration comes from music and pop culture,” she continued.
This led to some crazy creations and new changes, which she wanted to share with others.
“‘Lost’ [the TV show] was really big. I remember thinking, ‘How could I make this dish if I only had access to the ingredients that they had on the island?’ I just started playing around and just doing silly things in the kitchen and I started blogging it more for just my family to keep up to date with me,” Slater recalled.
Slater started to get interest from moms all over the world.
“At the time, there were many baking and cooking blogs that were pretty mainstream and were wonderful, but it was clear that they weren’t written by people who lived in the city in a small apartment who had backgrounds in punk rock and horror movies. It sort of just was the right time and the right place that I started writing a punk rock recipe blog,” she said.
Slater started her blog in 2006 and used the first website builder she found, which was WordPress.
“I really didn’t know much about [creating a website] so I kind of went in blind,” she recalled.
At first she titled her blog Natalie Cakes but soon realized the name did not convey the theme.
“I came up with Bake and Destroy because my husband works in the skateboard industry and the longest running skateboard magazine was Thrasher Magazine and back in the ’80s, they came out with a Skate and Destroy T-shirt. I basically saw that T-shirt once a week when we did laundry and I thought Bake and Destroy was fun spin on that idea,” Slater recalled.
For the next two years her website stayed pretty basic, until one of her readers – a web designer – volunteered to redesign it for free.
“I always try to team up with really smart women. All of my programmers, all of my web designers have always been women and I think they just kind of get with me and get what I want to do. I’ve always just collaborated with smart people. I didn’t necessarily learn how to do my own design or anything like that. I just know where to go when I want something done,” she explained.
Slater started putting her logo on T-shirts and other items, buying the shirts wholesale and using a local printer to make them. She paid for everything out of pocket for about a year but eventually changed to presales to better gage market demand.
Eventually the inventory became too large for the space within her apartment, so she partnered up with Spread Shirt to assist with that side of the business.
The use of social media also helped to expand BakeandDestroy.net through a new common interest – professional wrestling – that opened doors to a new event for her company, the Sugar Slam.
“Sugar Slam is a pro wrestling-themed, online bake-off, which doesn’t make a lot of sense until you see it through. A lot of the people that were following me [on social media] were also wrestling fans and they got excited that I was talking about it, so I thought it would be fun to pull together some sort of contest,” Slater explained.
When Sugar Slam began a few years ago, approximately 15 people entered. The second year, 180 people participated and it has grown every year since. The prize packages value more than $1,000 with bigger brands getting involved in the competition.
Slater also wrote a book called “Bake and Destroy: Good Food For Bad Vegans.”
Bake and Destroy has focused solely on vegan recipes since 2011. Slater had always been a vegetarian before she made the permanent switch to a vegan lifestyle due to the health benefits. Although Slater believes in her vegan lifestyle, she has never been one to force someone else into it.
“I found that people regardless of what their own personal food choices are that they are in general open to trying vegan food and trying something new. I’ve worked really hard to make sure that my message is never one of judgment. I never want to make someone feel bad because of what they eat. I’m just here to show them some alternatives,” she said.
Kaylene Hersey is an intern at Lioness and is currently a senior creative writing major at Western New England University. She is from Colchester, Conn. Besides writing, she has a passion for baking and dancing, and she hopes one day to work in the Editing and Publishing world. If that fails, she plans to open up her own bakery.