Tasty Vids Creator Whips Up Recipe for Success

Fang Fang/TBL Illustration

Khaya Bhatia

If you are at all active on social media, you have seen a Tasty video. Churro Ice Cream Bowls, Cheddar Ranch Chicken and Banana S’mores Bites are just a few of the handmade concoctions one would see shared numerous times with millions of views all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

No longer are Chef Gordon Ramsay’s cooking tutorials or Master Chef episodes necessary for a unique meal to make for dinner. Whether viewers are watching videos during lecture, showing them to friends and family or trying a new recipe for dessert — Tasty videos on BuzzFeed have become increasingly popular. These viral videos are made by Alvin Zhou, an engineering major at Columbia University.

Zhou was interested in cooking and baking throughout his life, but the main impetus that sparked his interest in baking was when a friend gifted him a burnt cookie for his 16th birthday. The disappointment turned into curiosity as he wondered how his friend could fail the easy task of warming up store-bought cookie dough. Thus, he decided to start baking to prove a point.

I wanted to prove that baking wasn’t difficult at all, as you usually just follow instructions or recipes on a box,” Zhou said to The Bottom Line. “I thought to myself, ‘How hard could this actually be?’ and gave it a shot. From then on, people called me the boy that like[d] to bake.” 

Zhou started working for BuzzFeed in June as cooking videos were gaining popularity over social media, and he has been making videos for the past six months. His Tasty videos combined his camera skills and love of cooking. Most of his ideas come from brainstorming what the audience would enjoy and what food videos were the most popular in the past.

I try to make my recipes something that’s not a ‘normal’ food idea, such as regular mac & cheese or hot dogs,” he said. “I either like to turn foods into different shapes or forms, or combine two foods in a new way.” 

Zhou claims that school gets in the way of his time for cooking and making the videos. He describes school as more of an “errand” he has to run and uses time in class to edit videos.

Through showing the world his recipes — for anything from a grilled stuffed burger with bacon-wrapped veggies to a stuffed hash brown omelette — as a side hobby, Zhou has learned that there is a significant difference between cooking at home and cooking on camera for an audience. Cooking for Tasty allows little room for mistakes, as the camera sees everything Zhou does when he cooks. While cooking at home, one can learn the essence of baking from the mistakes they make.

Zhou hopes that Tasty videos continue being shared from friend to friend, to increase the audience and eventually have as many people as possible learning fast and unique Tasty recipes.

The power to affect hundreds of millions of people, even billions, is mind-blowing sometimes,” Zhou said. “Seeing photos of people attempting my dish across the world, seeing high school friends sharing my videos, hearing that people can recognize my videos because of my hands, watching big companies try and replicate Tasty videos, it’s all part of the fun.”