On TikTok, anyone can become a master chef. And I mean anyone. You don’t need skill, expertise, or any regard for food hygiene standards to go viral. All you need is a camera, a batshit recipe and a little help from the algorithm. You must have seen that guy who made the smarties ice cream. His creation has nearly a million views. There are probably people at home making it right now. Good for him!
But why do dishes that would give Gordon Ramsey an aneurysm do such big numbers on the app? And if anyone can do it, why not me? To find out the answers to such questions, I spent five days trying to go viral on food TikTok.
Before we begin, I should level with you: I’m a shitty cook. The most exotic thing in my kitchen is piri piri mayonnaise. If I’m going to succeed in the wild world of Pink Sauce and Lasagne Pizza, I’m gonna need a rebrand. With that in mind, I feed my details into a Chef Name Generator and wait for the results.
Goodbye, Jake Denton, culture writer… Hello, D’angelo Beef, gourmet chef? Okay! With my TikTok account set up and running, I’m ready to cook up a storm. I give myself five days to get big on food TikTok, because if it takes longer than that then maybe I'm not cut out for the viral life.
Day 1: Dauphinoise Potato Smileys
500g potato smileys
500g double cream
3 cloves of garlic
1 tonne of cheddar cheese
On TikTok, we spit at tradition and guffaw at gastronomy. There’s no way a dish as boring as “dauphinoise potatoes” will spread like salmonella. What the national dish of France needs is a novelty twist – something fun, something yum, something processed and high in sodium.
Frozen potato smileys are the taste of childhood. They’re cheap, delicious and good for your mental health. To cook ‘em D’angelo Beef-style, put your smileys in a baking tray, coat them in cheese, garlic and cream, then torch them in the oven for an hour and a half.
Some chefs will tell you to taste as you go, but where’s the fun in that? A Big Mac is always a Big Mac. No D’angelo Beef meal should ever taste the same twice.
When I pull the dish out of the oven, it’s brown, crusty and bubbling like a swamp. As the old saying goes: the French live to eat, the English eat to die. Here goes… I hit record on my camera and stick my spoon into the molten mulch. Blergh. It tastes like childhood, but only if you spent your early years eating worms.
Who cares about the taste? TikTok recipes are famously about the look. So what does everyone make of my meal? After 24 hours my video has six hundred views and two comments. Eat shit, Guy Fieri! We’re cooking with gas!
Day 2: Nonna Beef’s Weenie Bolognese
1 jar of weenies
1 stick of celery
1 red onion
Ahh, Nonna’s bolognese. Generations of Beef children have been raised on this hearty dish. The premise is simple: substitute cow meat (expensive, bland) for weenie meat (cheap, 72 percent real pork). In Italy, they call this a hate crime. On TikTok, we call it breakfast.
Step one: chop your veg, chop your weenies and fry ‘em in oil. Step two: add your passata. Don’t bother with seasoning – each weenie is 28 percent delicious chemicals. Step three: cook your spaghetti. Step four: serve with mountains of cheese and rivers of hot sauce.
I try a forkful. It’s hearty, alright. Hearty enough to give you coronary thrombosis. Who am I kidding? It tastes like worms again. And my video gets the same number of views. Che cazzo!? Onto day three.
Day 3: Texas BBQ Pringle Chicken
1 Tube of Pringles
2 egg yolks
I’ve been tossing and turning all night (and not just from the weenies). I’ve only got three more days to come up with the best thing since cloud bread.
I start scrolling TikTok for #foodspiration. If online chefs like @syllygirl can get millions of likes by breadcrumbing chicken inside a bag of Doritos, why can’t I do the same thing inside a tube of Pringles? I leap out of bed and set up my camera.
To make D’angelo Beef’s ‘Pringle Chicken’, smash your crisps to smithereens inside the tube, then add your chicken and your egg yolks to the mix. Once the lid is secured, wave the tube around for two minutes. Imagine you’re making a meal deal cocktail for James Bond (shaken, not stirred). Finally, empty the contents into a pan.
If this were an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, this would be the part where Gordon Ramsey called me a "useless potato head". My kitchen smells like a bomb has gone off inside a pub stockroom. Turns out stackable crisps don’t react well to heat. The whole thing is a finger lickin’ disaster. And my TikTok audience agrees. My third video gets just 79 views. I can hear Chef Ramsey’s words ringing in my head ("Texas BBQ!? It’s more like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!"). Onto dessert.
Day 4: Chipperbocker McGlory
2 scoops of vanilla ice Cream
Garnish with sprinkles, raspberry sauce, whipped cream
The Chipperbocker McGlory is the kind of sweet treat that looks type 2 diabetes in the eye and doesn’t flinch. It’s anarchy inside a posh glass. The recipe is simple enough: mix a McFlurry or a milkshake with ice cream, raspberry sauce, sprinkles, whipped cream and McDonald’s fries.
The result looks impressive – I mean, it tastes disgusting – but it looks impressive. And over on TikTok, isn’t that what counts? After 24 hours my penultimate video has 17 views. Seventeen. For this?! Fuck it. There’s no correlation between the amount of effort I put into these videos and the amount of views they get.
You wanna see something ugly? I’ll give you something ugly. I’ll give you something so ugly you’ll never want to eat again.
Day 5: The Spamburger™
Can of Spam
1 slice of cheese
1 brioche bun
Do you like food that tastes like war? Then look no further than ‘The Spamburger™’. To cook this D’angelo Beef favourite, garnish your canned pork patty with sliced tomatoes, lettuce and ketchup, before serving between a brioche bun. If it looks like something that would be presented as evidence at The Hague, you’re doing it right.
I take a bite – my tastebuds are confused. Burgers are supposed to be decadent and delicious. This one tastes like the Home Front. It’s not a meal I’d serve to a friend. It’s not even a meal I’d serve to a friend’s dog. I upload my last video to TikTok.
So, after almost a week of blood, sweat and crippling stomach cramps, did I go viral? Not even close. I got five followers and 112 likes. But who knows? Maybe I was one ‘Mayonnaise Crumble’ or ‘Leek & Potato Shortbread’ away from online fame. If the last five days have taught me anything, it’s that TikTok’s algorithm is a riddle, wrapped in mysterious bacon, between two slices of particularly enigmatic bread.
Oh, and I probably shouldn’t be allowed near a kitchen again. Anyone for leftovers?