TikTok Chefs' Tips for Social Media Success

Chefs watching inexperienced cooks on TikTok may get a laugh, but no pro wants misinformation to go viral. Whether enticed by the importance of spreading solid techniques or not, some trained chefs are using the world’s most influential social media platform to transition from restaurants to their own brand, and upping personal clout in a space sorely lacking in trained foodservice professionals.     

Consider Brandon Skier, former sous chef at Auburn, the celebrated Los Angeles restaurant that fell during the pandemic. He launched @sad_papi on TikTok out of boredom and curiosity, which has led to nearly 2 million followers and an income that far exceeds a cook’s salary. Others have found similar success, such as Jonathan Kung, @jonkung; Bruce D. Herring, @Bdthechef; Nick DiGiovanni, @nick.digiovanni, and Joanne L. Molinaro,  @thekoreanvegan.

Some advice on getting started:

Sonny Hurrell

Followers: 4.3 million
Posts: 4 to 5 videos a week

Background: Put out his first plate at 16 in California’s Sonoma County, and has since worked in a dozen restaurants all over the world, from the Netherlands to Aspen. While in the latter, Hurrell’s private cooking business lost steam during the pandemic, which spurred a quick transition into TikTok.

How long did it take? After four months, he began earning enough through ads on videos, sponsorships, affiliate marketing and selling his own merchandise to pursue it full-time.

Advice: “You have to stand out in one way or another. Consistency is also key to growing a following.” Hurrell maintains his audience by posting regularly. Accessibility matters as well. Recipes are down to earth, like his versatile rosemary salt recipe, which he promotes as a kitchen staple. He wants recipes to be as attainable to as many people as possible.

Style: “Be your authentic self. I’m a regular guy who loves to cook. I try to keep it laid back with a fun and non-serious vibe,” he says.

What’s next? “My time is now 100% dedicated to it.” Despite this, all that glitters is not gold; Hurrell says YouTube has been of interest to him, because TikTok has been doing a poor job of supporting and fairly paying its creators.

Shereen Pavlides

Followers: 4.7 million 
Posts: 2 to 3 weekly

Background: After watching cooking shows since she was a teen, graduating from culinary school and working in restaurants, including The Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, Pavlides has become an international chef influencer on TikTok (with her most popular video hitting 28.8 million views and 4.5 million likes).

How long did it take: While working on-air for QVC, showing off cookware, bakeware and kitchen appliances, viewers would ask about her recipes. To share her recipes and love of cooking, she made a YouTube channel and later a TikTok, where her fifth cooking video went viral. After months developing a following, she started receiving brand deals and quit her on-air position at QVC.

Advice: “Do what you love and do it well. Truth is, there’s no formula or strategy. Be good at what you love doing. It’s a crap shoot. I’ve been sharing cooking videos for over 8 years online and one day, it just caught on.”

Style: She considers herself everyone’s Italian mom with simple, to-the-point recipes. “I cook from scratch, incorporating my own twist and style to all different cuisines.” She believes in the something for everyone approach.

What’s next: After publishing her first bestselling cookbook, she is onto the next: “Cooking with Shereen – Rockstar Dinners” is now available for pre-order. “I wrote this book to help my followers cook restaurant-quality dishes from scratch, making them feel like a rock star in their own kitchen."