July 26, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘TikTok, the Fastest Way on Earth to Become a Food Star’

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “TikTok, the Fastest Way on Earth to Become a Food Star” by Taylor Lorenz

What does your “For You” page look like on TikTok? Do you watch mostly dance challenges, lip syncs, comedians, travel videos or something else? Have you ever ventured onto food TikTok, or FoodTok?

Food content exploded on the app when the pandemic forced people indoors and cooking became a hobby for many. Now, some Gen Z cooks have turned to TikTok to become recognized and celebrated in the cooking world.

In this lesson, you will learn about what it’s like to make your living as a young celebrity chef. Then, you will create a TikTok cooking video with a recipe of your choice.

Do you enjoy cooking? Do you like to help family members in the kitchen or do you prefer to whip up meals on your own? Do you ever cook with your friends?

Watch this 60-second TikTok video from Eitan Bernath, a 19-year-old TikTok star with more than 1.6 million followers, who is known for his bright, upbeat and approachable cooking videos. Then, respond to the following questions:

  • What techniques does Mr. Bernath use to hook you at the beginning of the video? How does he hold your interest and attention throughout?

  • Are you interested in cooking this recipe? Does it feel easy enough that you could try it at home? If so, what about the video made it seem accessible to you?

  • Would you be interested in creating TikTok cooking videos like this one? Why or why not?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Have you seen, or tried, any viral food trends? The article mentions ones like whipped coffee, “TikTok pasta” and the three-ingredient Oreo cake. Why do you think these short cooking videos appeal to so many people?

2. Eunice Shin, the head of media and entertainment at a growth strategy firm, and Jad Dayeh, the head of digital media at a top talent agency, explained why they think TikTok has become such a popular platform. Do you agree with their analyses? What else do you think contributes to TikTok’s popularity?

3. Why might someone aspire to be a FoodTok star? Have you ever wanted to become a TikTok celebrity for cooking or something else?

4. What are some of the career goals of people who start on TikTok as food content creators?

5. Why are teens and home cooks drawn to TikTok cooking videos to learn new recipes, versus more traditional cookbooks or full-length cooking shows?

6. Choose one of the TikTok creators featured in the article and watch several of their videos. What stands out about the food they cook and the way they present it in their videos?

7. Ahmad Alzahabi, a TikTok food star in Flint, Mich., said young creators are a little more imaginative in the kitchen: “I think this younger generation, especially in America with all the cultures that are mixing together, I think there will be a new breed of insane foods that are combining all these cultures and ethnicities.” Do you agree that Gen Z cooks are creative or interested in mixing cultures and traditions in cooking and beyond? Why or why not?

Create your own TikTok food video. You can watch more examples from the featured article to get inspired, or just get started by choosing a favorite recipe. It could be something you’ve created on your own, something you learned from a family member, or one that you’ve made from a website or cookbook (just be sure to give appropriate credit).

Then, write out all of the ingredients and steps in the recipe. If you do anything special, like add an ingredient or use a little-known kitchen tool, be sure to specify that as well.

Break down the steps in your recipe to four or five shorter steps, like in the TikTok videos featured in the article. How could you make this recipe even easier and more accessible to viewers? Are you able to combine two or more steps? Or use fewer bowls, pans or pots?

To plan out your video, create a storyboard, or use this template, to determine five or six frames and their corresponding steps in the recipe. Consider, as the videos featured in the article do, how you can help your viewers understand the recipe and keep them engaged.

If you’d like, film your cooking video and edit it down to 60 seconds or less. Then share it with your classmates or on social media.


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