I often find myself scouring the kitchen for a late-night snack, and my incessant scrolling of food-related videos is likely to blame. With the growing popularity of various social media platforms, we are seeing an increase in accounts dedicated to cooking and plating dishes. Pages full of posts about food are nothing new, but these days, chefs — amateur and professionals alike — are cooking at home in forms perfect for an impatient viewer. Enter a new age of sharing food and cooking in the social media world: TikTok videos and Instagram Reels.
With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many found solace in watching — or filming — cooking videos from the comfort of their homes. As more individuals turned to the apps for entertainment, chefs took a population forced to lock down as an opportunity to share their cooking with a new audience.
Viewers are shown recipes that radiate a sense of comfort and ease — ones they can replicate at home. To combat boredom, many picked up new hobbies like cooking or baking. Some, like me, enjoy just following along on their phones. Whatever your case may be, I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up a few of my current favorite chefs (in no particular order) for you to watch on the app.
@wishbonekitchen – 1.3M followers
Meredith Hayden is quickly rising to fame. The New York-based recipe developer and professional chef initially had a start in the fashion industry and then switched to culinary arts. After studying at the Institute of Culinary Education, Hayden worked as a line cook at SoHo’s Charlie Bird before eventually starting her own catering business and brand, Wishbone Kitchen.
Hayden has a slight obsession with diet soda, and I have a slight obsession with her summer vlogs depicting a day in her life as a private chef in the Hamptons. The 27-year-old chef documents her crazy long hours cooking up meals and narrates the vlogs with fun anecdotes from the weekend.
Hayden preaches eating whole foods and focuses her recipes on fresh vegetables while treating meat as a luxury. Her self-published cookbook, “Wishbone Cookbook Vol. 2,” features a gorgeous heirloom tomato galette on the cover and plenty of other summer recipes inside. In the warmer months, she serves up refreshing dishes like trout lox tartines or bibb salad with lobster and avocado. Don’t be fooled by her bright, summer persona though; Hayden also makes a mean red wine braised beef short rib, and the first volume of her cookbook duology is inspired by holiday recipes and other winter treats.
Recently, the TikTok star has been featured in British Vogue. Hayden herself is an ex-Vogue employee, and her TikTok video commemorating the achievement shows a screenshot of the article as well as an old photo of her desk.
The young chef has been dubbed a “Walmart Martha Stewart,” and she herself has even incorporated the joke into one of her Instagram captions: “martha may stewart reporting for duty #dayinmylife #privatechef.”
@lahbco – 534.7K followers
It makes sense why Nasim Lahbichi, a freshly graduated interior design student during the pandemic, would amass such a following on social media platforms. He, after all, preaches a passion for visual storytelling, and what better way than through content creation on TikTok? Now, almost three years after his start on the app, Lahbichi shares recipes each week with his 534,700 followers.
Lahbichi infuses into his recipes various Moroccan- and Puerto Rican-inspired flavor profiles — a nod to his heritage. Some are comfort foods, like harira, a Moroccan tomato lentil soup his grandmother used to make. Lahbichi admits his take on these sorts of dishes may not be wholly traditional, but he finds them comforting nonetheless, eating harira every day for dinner in his “soup era.” Lahbichi also shares recipes that are “scrumptious meal[s] you can hyperfixate on for a month,” like green shakshuka, which as the name suggests, is full of healthy greens. His version has leeks and kale.
Along the same vein, his newest TikTok series involves sneaking vegetables into more meals. Recently, Lahbichi has discussed both farmers markets and accessibility of produce. While he incorporates fresh ingredients, such as parsnips or artichokes, Lahbichi also acknowledges the difficulties of accessing fresh produce and recognizes the convenience of canned and frozen vegetables. While on the hunt for artichokes, Lahbichi concedes, “jarred is easier … and we love efficiency.”
Unlike hidden veggies, Lahbichi is quite transparent about his compensation as a content creator, “so that way brands can’t take as much advantage of other creators.” Once he found a way to make a living with this line of work, it removed the stress he had with job hunting postgraduation. As he navigates the industry, Lahbichi openly shares the frustrations and joys of working to “curate and create spaces for queer people of color, by queer people of color.” At the end of the day, whether Lahbichi explains how to make a matchatini (think espresso martini but matcha) or Greek bougatsa for Pisces season, he cultivates a safe space for a compassionate, cooking community.
@thekoreanvegan – 3M followers
Joanne Lee Molinaro first went viral for her video on Korean braised potatoes. The Chicago-based lawyer had started her blog, The Korean Vegan, years earlier when she switched to a plant-based diet and then joined the TikTok platform under the same handle in July 2020. Her content mainly revolved around politics and her life as a lawyer during quarantine, then included cooking after going viral.
Molinaro does voice-overs on her videos, and they are every bit optimistic as they are poignant. As she shares her struggles, Molinaro finds a way to share a heartfelt message to her followers. Sometimes it’s about her failing relationships, and sometimes it’s about individuals who are not Korean replacing gochugaru with paprika when making kimchi: “It’s a bit too easy for them to sacrifice other people’s stories because what do they have to lose?”
Whether substitution of ingredients can be infuriating for some, it can also mean better accessibility for another, especially when creating plant-based recipes. On the flip side, Molinaro translates this idea into her work as well: “I veganize Korean food. I Koreanize everything else.” She welcomes fusion into her kitchen, walking the line between telling her past and leaving room for the future, and she balances it beautifully.
The rise of social platforms devoted to food has made an integral change in how we consume media related to cooking. Waves of people rushed to their own kitchens, hoping to jump on new trends of making Dalgona whipped coffee, baking sourdough bread or even tackling a spicy vodka rigatoni recipe. The latter was popularly attributed to a certain famous supermodel or a certain famous Italian restaurant in New York City i.e. Gigi Hadid and Carbone. (Molinaro does a vegan version of spicy vodka sauce on her page, BTW.) Whether or not viewers at home actually follow through, though, doesn’t matter — some are perfectly content with leaving it up to the experts.