We chat to tashas founder Natasha Sideris about the ongoing global venture to share more South African art and design with the world.
If you’re an avid restaurant goer and gastronome in South Africa, you would be familiar with the ever-expanding tashas brand. Founded in 2005, the restaurant empire has expanded beyond South African shores, with founder and CEO Natasha Sideris being part of the ongoing global footprint in markets like the UAE.
Since the beginning, Natasha and her team have worked tirelessly with local artisans to create a signature look for all of the restaurants. Since inception, the group portfolio now includes: tashas, Flamingo Room by tashas, Avli by tashas, Galaxy Bar, Bungalo34 and Le Parc by tashas.
There is a distinct tashas style that distinguishes these spaces from the rest. As a result, working with longtime creators and artisans has helped to establish this unique aesthetic that continues to convey the group’s core principles: Beautiful food, stunning environments and engaging service.
With the ongoing expansion of the brand, more local artisans are working with the tashas team to do what South African artists are doing, offering a unique addition to the art and interior landscape.
AHC: South African art and artists are gaining more and more exposure each year. The growing popularity of contemporary SA art & design and why do you believe the global interest is so keen?
Natasha Sideris: I think a big part of it is that South African artists have been under-exposed for some time. And you know, we're talking about globalisation, but I think really, the world is extremely globalised now. As a result, South African artists are getting a lot more exposure on the international scene.
We've got extremely talented people. But I think another part of it is that there's a lot of originality in South African art, that hasn't been done in the rest of Europe or the Middle East. And I think that's a big part of the attraction for overseas collectors and art enthusiasts.
AHC: Since the expansion of the group, you’ve been living abroad since 2014 - has that also informed your interest in wanting to showcase more of South African art and design?
NS: I've always wanted to showcase South African artists. I think coming to the Middle East, and living here for the last 10 years, it’s important to keep strong ties with your heritage and your roots. I think your authenticity and your roots are very important when you are building a restaurant or working on a project. And I think that's what sets us apart and defines us, simply that everything we do has authenticity. And it's one of the reasons why I'll never do an Asian-inspired or Spanish-style restaurant because it's not part of my history or my culture.
AHC: Your team is really built through years of collaborating together - has that been a key factor in pursuing new, bigger creative projects?
NS: Definitely. Because as the company has grown - we are able to take on larger projects and explore more complex ideas. In the beginning, we used to be a team of eight people. By virtue of the team's expansion, at present, we’re a team of 50 to 60 people. This allows you more agility along with the ability to open more restaurants and potential venues. And then as we've opened more locations, there are more opportunities opening up for the artisans we’re working with.
AHC: tashas has a unique and distinct interior space - something that’s recognisable no matter where you are. How will you incorporate these artworks into the interior space? And what was the thought process behind it?
NS: This is something that is always at the forefront of what we’re trying to do. Previously, restaurants used to be about a basic interior, some good food, and great service. Over the last decade or so, the global food and dining industry has become super competitive. Now, you’ve got to give your customers a taste of experiential dining - and that's achieved through interior choices, from textiles to design. We’re able to weave art and artisanal work into the entire restaurant experience. Working with local artisans who craft unbelievable pieces really gives us a unique edge, especially when it comes to global markets like the UAE.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming artist collaborations and announcements for this ever-expanding restaurant empire.