To keep their minds off the virus, many people were forced to find new hobbies or resume old ones during the pandemic.
For Izabela Hejzlarova, the founder of Naturally by Bella, it was cooking.
Born in Slovakia, Izabela is a 24-year-old marketing and communication officer living on the coast of the French Riviera in Menton, a sunny town known as the ‘pearl of France’.
On top of simultaneously completing two university degrees, her professional career has mostly revolved around studying financial markets and setting up various start-ups.
To escape the hectic and often stressful hum of her profession, she turns to her two passions – photography and cooking.
While she learnt the first one herself during high-school, it was her older brother David who inspired her to cook when she was a child. “He motivated me to try my own easy dishes,” she says. “It’s always amazed me that he cooks without any recipes, using only his intuition and imagination.”
How it all started
With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many found they had too much time on their hands.
Izabela decided to hone her photography skills by taking photos of the dishes she’d made: “When I showed the photographs to my family and my boyfriend, they really liked them and also my recipes and encouraged me to post them online,” she says.
Naturally by Bella, Izabela’s foodie Instagram account was conceived one ordinary evening, while watching TV with her boyfriend. It was him who encouraged her to set it up and post her first photo.
“The next day, I found out some people had started following me and liking my photo,” she says, “which surprised me because I was worried my work would remain unnoticed.”
In a matter of months, Naturally by Bella had amassed more than 10 000 followers, promoting light, mainly Mediterranean recipes.
Izabela’s account was a success partially due to the change Instagram underwent during the pandemic In his 2020 interview for Forbes, Instagram’s partner solutions manager CJ Hernandez explained that “now that everybody is at home, everybody is a home cook and Instagram has transformed into an alternate type of Food Network.”
The pandemic had changed Instagram’s purpose from serving as a display for restaurant food to providing culinary inspiration.
Influencers and talent
Although this shift has enabled many people to set up similar accounts, not everyone will become an influencer. Some claim only those possessing a specific talent can make it big. Izabela believes that “it takes more than just talent – one has to have the will to constantly improve and work hard”.
She believes everyone has talent, and that is what makes us unique:
“To me, the word ‘talent’ means that everyone is born with something extraordinary … it doesn’t automatically mean one is perfect in this skill, but it’s more like a little light in the darkness which always reminds us that we are special and different from others.”
Cooking as a passion
As with any other skill, Izabela constantly tries to improve her craft, whether it is through the try-taste-test method, watching videos online or travelling around Europe to discover new flavours.
Her go-to dishes are roasted vegetables with mozzarella, home-made sushi and lasagne.
“When it comes to the fulfilment of my creative spirit, I have the most fun preparing breakfast – home-made smoothie bowls, banana pancakes or chia puddings,” she says.
Although Izabela is busy with her full-time job, she dreams of opening a small restaurant in Menton one day. Naturally by Bella could be the key to achieving her dream.