June 2, 2021Next-gen food stars are finding fans fast on TikTok

Self-taught chefs are finding virtual success on TikTok as users embrace their accessible cooking videos and celebrate their relatability. Thanks to their fans, these chefs are sidestepping the traditional route to culinary success, typifying a new kind of career pipeline made possible by the app.

Jo Thompson

Within 24 hours of posting his first TikTok in 2019, Eitan Bernath had gained tens of thousands of followers, and just two years later, his follower count is 1.7 million. Eitan is a 19-year-old amateur chef whose relatable cooking videos have secured him a loyal following of peers, network television contracts, and lucrative sponsorships. The #TikTokFood hashtag has racked up 26.4 billion views, and other prominent #FoodTok users like vegan mom and actress Tabitha Brown – who has gotten a show on Ellen Degeneres’ network – found viral success almost overnight. With other TikTok food creators saying they're making up to six figures, the app has become a viable launchpad for those outside the culinary establishment.

After one user’s feta pasta recipe went viral on TikTok, the demand for the cheese surged so much that there were shortages around the globe. The app’s unique ability to send something rocketing from obscurity to virality is disrupting the traditional power structures of several industries; beauty influencers like Mikayla Nogueira who got their start on TikTok have found success far faster than their counterparts from the YouTube world. With 11% of Gen Zers and 12% of Gen Yers considering themselves influencers, thinking about how they can use their platform may see future generations carving out less conventional paths to their long-term careers. The embrace of the ‘amateur’ as more trustworthy than the expert also reflects a new relationship to power and self-worth.

Jo Thompson is a feature and copywriter. Having worked in luxury fashion communications for over four years, she now focuses on writing about the intersection of art, culture, and fashion.

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