1. Start by introducing yourself. Where are you from? Tell us about the food you grew up eating?
My name is Zaynab Paruk, a.k.a. Tiktok Baker. I’m from Durban, South Africa. I’m a mom to two witty kids, a fashion merchandiser and a food content creator. I grew up eating traditional Indian food but now I try and cook different cuisines and dishes.
2. Tell us about your journey into food. Was it always something you wanted to do? How did you start your very successful food TikTok? What made you choose TikTok as your initial space to launch?
My family has always expressed love through food. We love entertaining and feeding our loved ones. I learnt from my mum, grandmothers and aunties that where there is food, there is family!
I started baking when I was 15 years old. I have always had a sweet tooth and during my teenage years chocolate was the love of my life! I had this obsession with chocolate brownies and chocolate cake. My aunties are all great bakers and cooks and they shared their tried-and-tested recipes that I still use today.
During the lockdown last year, it was the first time in years that I wasn’t studying, working or on maternity leave. I had all this free time and was at home. I decided to go back to baking and start filming my cakes and treats. I love sharing my recipes with everyone, especially if it makes their day easier and happier.
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3. Your page’s popularity has grown immensely over a short time, what do you think it is about your content that people relate to? Tell us about the journey to creating this amazing food social presence.
I think people really enjoy my simple recipes. Very few people have time to spend hours in the kitchen with complicated ingredients and processors. We all want to spend the least amount of time in the kitchen but end up with something enjoyable and delicious. I think my followers also appreciate the old-school recipes that work every time. Like I mentioned above, I have recipes from my family that I’ve used for 10 to 15 years. A good chocolate cake recipe or a scone recipe that works every time is so valuable!
4. What direction do you think you’re going to take? Would you ever start something like a blog, or publish a cookbook for example?
Wow! This question has given me some ideas. To reveal a little secret: I’ve always wanted to have my own cooking show and I’ve spent many days in the kitchen pretending I’m in one already!
5. What tips do you have for people who want to improve their food “media” on Instagram and TikTok? What’s worked best for you? What are some things you avoid doing?
My best advice is to do something you enjoy! Put out content you love, not what you think others will love. Rather have 100 followers who enjoy your content than 1 000 followers who aren’t even watching your videos. For me, it was never about fame or money. I wanted to provide valuable and enjoyable content for others. I always believed that if it’s something I would enjoy watching, then someone else would enjoy it too.
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6. Who are some sources of inspiration for you? Who do you enjoy watching on social media?
I love watching caked decorating videos, after a long day of work and kids I love scrolling through Instagram and watching baking videos. I love the Scran Line, Nick does these amazing cupcakes and cakes and it’s a sugar lover’s dream.
My favourite local food personality would have to be Siba Mtongana! I loved her show Siba’s Eats. I think her wonderful personality and flavourful food really made her show entertaining and captivating. It was amazing seeing a local beauty on the Food Network Channel!
7. What have been your favourite local or family dishes to turn into TikToks? What about them do you love so much?
My most popular video ever on TikTok and Instagram is none other than butter chicken! I was shocked how much attention and feedback I got from this video. I think most people enjoy watching traditional food from any culture. I also did a traditional South African milk tart and a not so traditional “chocolate” malva pudding. Both were very well received by my viewers.