Rise of social media chefs

The thing with a cooking show is ingredients, you may start off with the instructions but once the chef starts dropping names of things you have never heard of, you switch back to whipping good old ugali. This peculiarity means the demand for chefs, who are aware of what is locally available, in familiar names has never waned.

Since the days of Voice of Kenya and later Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s Mke Nyumbani show, Kenyans have often fallen mouthwatering to the imagination of cook shows.  

Today the mode of delivery has changed with the growing sensation of chefs on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms that has been nothing short of thrilling. Trained and self-taught chefs are increasingly hopping on the trend, sharing their recipes, cookbooks and trying out popular recipes on social media.

As media models change, with just a mobile phone camera, amateur cooks are linking directly to their audiences, creating a huge following around popular cooking content like The Roaming Chef (Ombachi Dennis) to Kaluhi’s kitchen to Pikachakula’s amazing meals that are made on a budget that can be tried out by anyone at home.  

And corporates following these audiences are seeing these chefs make money online with companies such as Kenchick seeking out their millions of followers with sponsored content

These chefs use their various social media platforms from Instagram to YouTube and TikTok to showcase their works, which are often mouth-watering photos and short videos of foods and cuisines they prepared. 

This leaves you, the viewer, wishing there’s an actual way you would get a taste of those delicacies via your device. Unfortunately, technology hasn’t gotten us there yet or else a good number of people would have records as petty crime offenders. 

Currently 59 percent of the world’s population use social media with an average of 2.5 hours daily. This meteoric rise can be attributed to the increase in social media usage from 2.73 billion people in 2017 to roughly 4.89 billion people which accounts for a roughly 79 percent increase over the six years.

Another major reason was the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown and other measures were put in place, by 2020 April approximately 20.5 million jobs were lost and a third of them, approximately 5.9 million were in the restaurant industry alone.

Chefs both self-taught and trained needed new platforms to showcase their skills and luckily the time was right since the social media presence was on the rise owing to the lockdown and quarantines. The practice of chefs using social media handles to showcase their brilliant foods and recipes was gaining ground fast and it led to the foundations of the current craze caused by social media chefs. 

Currently, you’re highly unlikely to not have interacted with a social media chef’s content on your feed, be it hearing “DONE” by The Roaming Chef, Kaluhi’s tantalizing recipes or Waweru Tedd making faces after tasting the work of his hands.

Read: Add flavor to your cooking with a splash of beer

A notable figure in the space is Dennis Ombachi or better known as The Roaming Chef. The former rugby sevens player, who is also a self-taught chef ventured into cooking to satisfy his passion for cooking and among other activities to cope with his anxiety. He was recently awarded an accolade at Africa’s first ever Top TikTok creators awards here in Nairobi and was named Sub-Saharan Africa’s top content creator on TikTok. 

His videos are characterized by fast transitions and the word “DONE” at the completion of each step. Be it the chopping of onions, grinding of ginger or marinating the chicken breasts, at the end of it, you can be sure he won’t miss the golden opportunity to say “DONE”. 

A glimpse at his socials leaves you thinking about the pork ribs or the well-marinated chicken he’s preparing. Recently, he prepared a lentil meal or “kamande” as we mostly know it. We can definitely say we haven’t fully exploited the “kamande” potential because when the dish was done, it would have easily passed as one of those exquisite cuisines you pay top dollar to get .

His unique style quickly picked up and it was an online craze on social media especially TikTok. Within a matter of time, videos of him making delicacies and meals for his family of four, a wife and two kids, from his rooftop kitchen raked up more than 30 million views. This growth has put Ombachi on the radar for lucrative and amazing partnership deals, the most recent being Kenchic, now you know why we’ve been enjoying limitless chicken content.

Another mention is Kaluhi Adagala, the talented hands behind Kaluhi’s Kitchen. Kaluhi’s kitchen is a Kenyan food blog with a great following on their socials as well. Kaluhi goes on to share that in the past, when she wanted to cook something new and exciting, she researched on the internet on what to make. However, she found that either the ingredients were not present in Kenya, the process was complex or the food recipe was not as exciting as she’d want it to be.

Try to think of any average Kenyan who just wakes up and decides “today I’m making Lasagna for supper”, Who even does that? Most would go the Ugali or the rice and stew way and for our campus brethren, probably buy ready made chapos and make bean stew. Therefore she made this blog looking to solve those three problems she encountered.

She did this using locally available ingredients, making the recipes as simple as possible, the food unique, tantalizing and appetizing. This led to a creative process and it came up with delicious recipes that she enjoys sharing to her viewership and clients.

Waweru Tedd, alias Chef Vavelo, is also part of the bandwagon. He’s a self taught chef with a great following on his Instagram largely because of the food content he puts out. Some simple, easy-to-make recipes that mostly involve Kenyan foods and locally sourced ingredients.

Trust me, the guy will make rice and beans but it’ll not look like normal rice and beans, locally it’ll be considered as “food imeenda shule”. Might be because he uses non-stick sufurias, maybe he finely chops his onions in triangular shapes or maybe he’s just a magician doing his thing with food.

Whatever it is he’s doing, he’s doing it right to the extent that he’s landed partnership deals with soft drink giant Coca-Cola.

There’s a lot more social media chefs taking the space by storm, it’s a story of doing your craft at the right place and at the right time. That paired with the growing social media presence is enough to give you a great head start. Other social media chefs such as Campusmama , Kamwari , Pikachakula etc are all examples of how possibly the industry can diversify and change for the better if you can find a way to tweak it in your favor.

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