Let’s Taco ‘Bout Improv: A Conversation With The Taco Bell Sommelier
WIT student Tarun Sinha, also known as Instagram’s Taco Bell Sommelier, helps make food and wine fun for his thousands of followers by pairing Taco Bell favorites with fine wine on his page (@TacoBellSommelier). Between coordinating tacos and tannins, vlogging reviews of Crunchwrap/Cabernet combinations, and gracing feeds everywhere with stunning photos of Taco Bell’s menu items, Tarun is a D.C.-based improviser who frequents WIT’s classrooms and stages.
We sat down with the Taco Bell Sommelier to find out how improv has helped him grow his page, connect with his followers, and bring carefully-curated spicy goodness to the people.
What is the Taco Sommelier and what inspired you to start the account?
Tarun: The Taco Bell Sommelier account is essentially my journey through wine and food pairings. I’ve always loved Taco Bell and wine was that elusive beverage I could not wrap my head around. One night in Pittsburgh, my brother and I went on a late night TB run and when we got home we realized there was no more beer. There was only a chilled Riesling in the fridge, so we opened it and had it with our TB Grillers, specifically the Ghost Pepper and Habanero Grillers (RIP). Not only was the meal delicious, the juxtaposition of the wine and TB was amusing. And that’s when I realized that wine is not scary, it’s delicious. I posted some pairings on my personal IG back in 2016, my friends loved it, I started the Taco Bell Sommelier account just for this type of content and it snowballed from there!
You’ve got over 10,000 followers! What’s the secret to your success in growing your following?
Tarun: Engagement! Over the past few years I have met wonderful people in the world of wine, food photography and Taco Bell. From these relationships I’ve been able to get better at something I thought I was good at, which is photography. The best way to grow is to engage with others, but not at a superficial level. Get to know them, ask them questions about their process, share work that you like, and support them. From practicing this, I’ve gained the confidence to put myself in front of the camera more, changing up my process. By expanding into different types of content it gave my account a fresher feel and more of it was being shared. I was lucky enough to create content for Taco Bell a few times!
Tarun: I’ve been involved in improv for a couple of years now, but I wanted to get into structured long form format. To me WIT was the obvious choice after meeting performers and instructors in DC. I had done a lot of short form work and character development, but it was always amazing to see a Harold or a 30 minute monoscene. Plus everyone I saw online or on Netflix were hilarious and I wanted to be that funny too. I knew that by getting involved in WIT it would not only help me properly learn and get better at long form, but also help me do more on-camera work for my Taco Bell Sommelier account. I wanted to do more in front of the camera work, but I was lacking the confidence in putting myself out there. Having done more long form improv, I’ve learned to relax, think through what I am going to say in the videos I post, not be embarrassed by my own voice and listen to what I’m saying as I do 500 retakes. One day I’ll get it down to 2 takes.
WIT has been wonderful! The instructors and my fellow classmates are amazing. Having 8 week classes really lets you get to know your peers and fine tune whatever skill you’re trying to improve. Plus the critiques by the instructors are always positive and never make you feel down about playing or trying new things. It is a very liberating feeling to have so much positive support around you as you take risks.
How has improv influenced your life? Has it affected the way you approach your social media presence?
Tarun: Improv has improved my life in many ways, but what stands out the most is the confidence I gained. I always enjoyed performing in front of live audiences, but I was always super anxious about it. Having done in person shows, online shows and countless classes, I’ve been able to control my anxiety much better. Plus it makes me more sociable outside of improv because I find myself to be more interesting now.
As for my social media presence, I have expanded to on-camera work. What started out as static photos has blossomed into 60 second video reviews with just me in frame and now I am venturing into doing interviews. I’ll reach out to fellow Instagrammers whose content I enjoy seeing and coordinate a time to go Live and have a 30-45 minute interview. The first few were a bit nerve-wracking but the more I did it and the more improv classes I took, the interviews became one of my favorite things to do. I do a little research beforehand, but the majority of the conversations are totally organic. I’ve really learned to listen to what my guest is saying and transition from one idea to another seamlessly, almost, I’m working on it.
What would you tell a Taco Bell skeptic to convince them to give it a shot?
Tarun: TRY IT! It is the ultimate comfort food. It truly is difficult to think of another food that hits the spot like TB does. And if you are one of those people who say TB makes your stomach feel weird, start eating foods with spices and flavor to build up your stomach. When a body that has only had at most salt, pepper, mayo and the tiniest dash of red pepper flakes is introduced to spices like cumin, chili powder, paprika and ingredients like fresh onion and jalapenos, your body is not going to understand what to do at first. Treat your body to good flavors, it will get used to it and learn to crave it. Expand your culinary palette and be open to trying new foods.
Find Tarun, the Tacobell Sommelier, on Instagram (@TacoBellSommelier).