February 06, 2023
TikTok is home to some of the internet's craziest food trends. Whether it's macaroni and cheese made with Flamin' Hot Cheetos or more dangerous options like NyQuil chicken, most of the app's culinary creations can be played for laughs.
That is certainly the case for Tanara Mallory, a West Oak Lane native whose comedic reactions to questionable cooking videos have amassed millions of views over the last few months. Most of her videos follow a similar formula: Mallory spots a so-called cooking "hack" or food trend video, then narrates over it to poke fun at the creator's recipe, sometimes even shouting in surprise when a chef uses their hands to mix spaghetti or combines unlikely pairings like chicken wings and peanut butter.
"The first food video that stood out to me had this big ball of ground beef, and it was wrapped in cooked macaroni and cheese and put into the oven," Mallory said. "When the chef cut the ball open, it was still raw in the middle and I was so confused, like what is going on here? I had to duet the video, and when I did, people started tagging me in all of these other cooking videos."
Mallory, who works as a production cook at a chain supermarket, has gained more than 2.3 million followers and received more than 37.7 million likes on her TikTok videos since she launched the account in 2019. She discovered the app shortly after a risky surgery that nearly took her life. With months of recovery ahead before she could return to work, Mallory's daughter suggested that she try out TikTok to pass the time.
At first, Mallory tried to follow trends and participate in dances, but when she realized that she didn't look like the young people who became viral sensations at the beginning of the pandemic, she started making parodies of their content. After gaining some traction, Mallory tried out what she calls "hood hacks," a series of videos where she took everyday household items and takeout containers to make kids' toys and other gadgets to help people save money.
@tanaradoublechocolate #greenscreenvideo I’m Back !!! I GOT TAGGED A LOT IN THIS ONE! Thank y’all 🤣😂 Video Credits @JaneBrain #fyp #comedy #everybodysocreative #philly #viral #food #cooking ♬ original sound - Tanara
Suddenly, users started responding to her videos. People would tag her in TikToks and request videos from her, and even her neighbors in West Oak Lane began noticing her social media growth. Still, when she uploaded that first food-related video in August, she was unaware of how far her sarcastic commentary would take her.
"I don't write any of this down," said Mallory. "I watch the video twice and then freestyle each video, so the reactions you're seeing are natural. I think that's why people have taken to them so well, because I'm saying what everyone else is thinking. I'm pretty sure none of them are real cooking videos. At least, I hope not."
Though many of the comments on Mallory's videos urge her to do commercials or stand-up comedy, she maintains that she's not a real comedian. While she's known as a jokester and "the life of the party," it wasn't until she began to see viral success on TikTok that she realized that people wanted to engage with her comedy.
"I have no theater background and I'm not a comedian," Mallory said. "This is just me giving viewers a slightly elevated version of myself. It started out as something fun and has turned into something more than I ever could have imagined."
@tanaradoublechocolate #greenscreenvideo COFFEE IS A GREAT EYE OPENER🤣 Video Credits @Anna Rothfuss #comedy #food #coffee #everybodysocreative #viral #cooking #philly #fyp ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
Most of Mallory's social media presence is focused on TikTok. As her videos gain traction and popularity, however, she is aiming to spend more time growing an audience on other social media platforms. Though she posts many of her TikToks on YouTube, fans that want more long-form content can look out for new videos later this year.
"It's overwhelming because things are growing so quickly," Mallory continued. "People have been reaching out to me saying that they're sick at home or they're disabled and they haven't laughed in so long. Seeing comments like that is motivating for me, because it's more than just me sitting in front of the camera trying to make people laugh, it's deeper. It's hard to laugh with everything that's going on in the world now, so I feel like it's healing. Comedy is what heals me."