Everybody’s so creative: The magic and mayhem of FoodTok

TikTok has had pioneering success in the field of short-form video since its worldwide debut in 2018. Given its popularity across a wide variety of media, it’s not surprising that cooking and baking content has found incredible staying power on the app. Trends may come and go, but people will always appreciate good food, and TikTok provides an ideal platform for creators to showcase the best – and worst – culinary creations they can come up with.

One of the keys to achieving consistent virality on TikTok is a unique and marketable video format, something that is both whimsical and easy to get on board with. Many of the most popular creators on FoodTok, as it’s affectionately known, have constructed successful segments like these to bring viewers back again and again.

Leading the charge of these creators is Philadelphia native Tanara Mallory, known on TikTok as @tanaradoublechocolate. If I quote her opening line, “Everybody’s so creative!”, you probably know who I’m talking about, with no further introduction necessary. Mallory has found fame in sarcastic critiques of other creators’ horrible cooking, but rather than going all Rordon- ahem, Gordon Ramsay on these poor unfortunates, she narrates their choices more like a nursery teacher speaking to toddlers.

Her enthusiastic pseudo-support for their culinary antics makes her videos entertaining from beginning to end, but it’s that tagline that has cemented her as a mainstay of FoodTok. Many of her posts are funny enough to make it to the For You page regardless, but when you hear those three words at the start of the video, you know you’re in safe but judgemental hands. Mallory has said it was her husband who told her to keep using that introduction, and it has brought her immense notoriety. Now, everyone lives in fear of their cooking video being duetted, and hearing that sarcastic exclamation in the opening seconds.

One of the keys to achieving consistent virality on TikTok is a unique and marketable video format, something that is both whimsical and easy to get on board with.

Rather than take the role of armchair food critic, some FoodTok creators choose to quite literally roll the dice with their taste buds. Jake Pauwels, known as @adventuresinaardia, is a Dungeons & Dragons content creator who combines the dice-based system of the tabletop RPG with food to solve lunchtime indecision. By rolling dice to determine the bread, main, cheese, roughage, sauce, and ‘wild magic’ elements that should feature in his sandwich, Pauwels cuts back on time wasted deciding what to eat while also making his taste buds suffer for his audience’s pleasure.

The series, called ‘Roll for Sandwich’, also takes on a somewhat educational form, as Pauwels talks through the ingredients of his sandwich, discussing where each originates and what they might bring to the completed meal. Each video wouldn’t be complete without a taste test, which can range from pleasant surprise that seemingly random flavours can work well together to immediate regret. Pickles and chocolate syrup, anyone?

For a slightly less stressful educational experience, you might turn to the content of Mattia Moleri (@mattiastable). His meatless cooking is presented in a more conventional style, but it’s no less entertaining or insightful. He has several successful series on TikTok, but his standout creations are ‘Culture Clash’, where two similar foods from different cultures are compared, and ‘Sauces from the World’, where he creates signature sauces from different countries from scratch to test, using the neutral vessel of a plain cracker. 

His content has a more global outlook than other FoodTok creators, allowing viewers to find out about dishes and culinary traditions they might have never seen before. Though he’s not a professional chef, Moleri’s written recipes have attracted a lot of positive reception on Samsung Food, showing how social media influencers can pivot their work to fit other formats. His TikTok comment sections are often full of viewers offering additional perspectives on the food he is showcasing, if you can get past the hundreds of comments saying that a plain cracker is not actually a neutral vessel. He’s not going to change it, people.

You can mock poor choices, you can intentionally make unpredictable choices, or you can teach viewers how to make good choices.

If you want something a bit more homely to remind you what it’s like to have a kitchen bigger than the cardboard boxes offered with Oxford accommodation, why not check out Bev Stewart, or @nannabea? The Yorkshire grandmother’s content covers more than just food as she discusses her daily life as an NHS night shift worker, but her most successful videos are usually related to cooking.

Stewart offers practical home cooking tips and reviews of supermarket favourites, as well as showing viewers how to cook takeaway food from scratch. Her famous air fryers, named Colin and Nina, have worked their magic across many For You pages. She frequently partners with well-known food brands to show off their new products, and it makes sense that they put their trust in her because, above all, Stewart tries to show that you can make a hearty meal without everything being complicated.

Whether you consider yourself a foodie or a newbie to the culinary world, FoodTok has a lot to offer. Even from these four successful creators alone, it’s clear that there’s a lot of diversity in content and approach when exploring food on social media. You can mock poor choices, you can intentionally make unpredictable choices, or you can teach viewers how to make good choices. If you’re on TikTok already, you’ve likely stumbled across a few culinary videos anyway, but it’s always worth it to dive a little deeper.

Image credit: Adela Cristea via Pexels.

Image description: A plate of avocado toast, topped with egg and lemon slices and surrounded by some wheat stems.