Jonathan Kung’s Guide to Making Dumplings Blow Up on TikTok
Before the pandemic, the Detroit-based chef Jonathan Kung orchestrated if-you-know-you-know dinner parties that mashed up his Chinese heritage and North American upbringing. When the world locked down, Kung took his talents to TikTok, where his quirky creations like curry mac and cheese and corned beef noodles have won him over 1.5 million followers. Here, he shares some of his secret sauce.
Step 1: Get the motivation right. Sometimes I make videos to express my passions and creativity through food. If I feel strongly about a social issue, I might voice my thoughts over shots of me making food. Sometimes I just have a story to tell, which I do in connection to the dishes I make. And then on some days I just want to get high and do the bare minimum. That’s the beauty of TikTok. People can appreciate your artistry and hard work, but they can also appreciate that you might just be high and hungry. As long as you approach it honestly.
Step 2: Find a hook. Believe it or not, people need incentive to stick around for 60 seconds. With dumplings, the hook is showing off something almost anyone can do. It’s not a beef Wellington, it’s haute stoner food that’s accessible to almost all cooking levels. But your hook can be other things. Tell a story, teach us something, get political, take your shirt off, act a damn fool. The way your videos get on the For You page is based on how many people watch it to the end. So whatever it takes: Make them happy, make them mad, make them hungry, make them horny. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you make them *stay*.
Step 3: Get the shot. Better quality video and audio can only help, but they’re not prerequisites to success. If you’re going to film food, make it look appetizing. Ensure your stuff is well lit and that your videos aren’t actively irritating to watch. Listening to videos where all you hear is the hum of a fan is distracting.
Step 4: Make the food. So whether or not cooking comes easily to you, you should know that filming yourself doing it makes everything many times more difficult. Getting the angles, worrying about lighting, considering whether or not you should take things in slow motion or anything else that requires you to change the camera position or settings will take your attention away from the food. So yes, assemble your filling, fold the dumplings, toss them in the water, mix with the sauce, and eat while mugging for the camera, but you only have one chance to get the shot so unless you want to make a day (or two) of it, you’ll get it right the first time.
Step 5: Be honest. Instagram is all about capturing moments of unattainable perfection. TikTok is about being genuine and honest because perfection is much more difficult to achieve on video. So instead of trying to be perfect, just be real.
Step 6: Be entertaining: I used to hear professionals gripe about how amateur cooks get millions of views and followers without really knowing how to cook, and all I can think about is how I’d rather watch an amateur stumble their way through a recipe than watch some asshole tell me how I’m doing it all wrong. TikTok is the platform, food is the medium, but your personality is what’s selling all of it. It’s about earning every second of your viewers’ attention. By checking your ego, you’ve already done most of the work.
SCROLL DOWN FOR DUMPLING RECIPE
Grooming: Evy Drew using Embryolisse and R+CO at Exclusive Artists
Fashion Assistant: Silvia Lee
Special Thanks to Little Prince, NYC