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Tanara’s So Creative

TikTok star Tanara Mallory knows grotesque viral food videos are a joke. Luckily, she’s writing the punch lines.

A screen shot of Tanara Mallory’s TikTok page
Tanara Mallory’s videos have garnered millions of views.

There’s no shortage of out-there cooking videos on the internet: Just scrolling through TikTok you can find recipes that range from the inedible to the plain baffling. Thankfully, though, there’s now a voice of humorous reason to help us make sense of it all: Tanara Mallory.

Via @tanaradoublechocolate, Mallory reacts to people’s outrageous cooking antics, each reaction beginning with her signature catchphrase: “Everybody’s so creative!” As the recipe clip plays in the background, she sarcastically narrates the cooking step-by-step — and captures what we’re all thinking when we see things like this woman mixing a noodle soup with her feet in the back of a truck, or this man making canned beans and hot dog popsicles.

Mallory, 47, began posting TikTok videos in 2019 when she was home recovering from surgery and one of her daughters introduced her to the app. She got started with dance tutorial videos, and in August 2022, posted her first green screen duet food video. Since then, she has amassed 3.4 million followers and some of those have started to use the “everybody’s so creative” phrase in reaction to anything bizarre (even non-food related) people make or post online.

Mallory credits her success to being naturally funny; although some followers have assumed she’s a standup comedian, she’s never been one or had any interest in becoming one. The Philadelphia native is a mother of three young-adult daughters, a cosmetologist, and has been a production cook at a grocery store for 10 years. Now that her kids are all grown, she’s found more time to do what she loves the most. “This is what I enjoy doing,” Mallory says. “I do it all day long anyway, 90 percent of it is me, the other 10 is a character, turned up. So you could get a little bit of this out of me in my workplace; I joke just as much as I do [in the videos].”

We spoke to Mallory about the most disturbing things she’s seen so far, how she comes up with her catchphrases, and the ins and outs of critiquing side-eye-inducing internet recipes.

Eater: How did the “everybody’s so creative” catchphrase come about?

Tanara Mallory: The “everybody’s so creative” phrase came out of the blue one day as I was looking at the screen; that was the first thing I thought of when I saw the food coming up, what they were putting together. I always show my husband my videos before I post them, and he said, “You should keep that line as your catchphrase.” It took off from there. It has progressed very quickly, so I’m still learning.

Do you think your background as a production cook has helped inform your commentary?

It definitely has helped me because some of the food that they’re using I’m more familiar with so I’m able to critique it a little better, even just looking at it. I do get a lot of people in my comments saying, “Well, I hear what you gotta say, but can you cook? I’ve never seen you cook.” And I say, “That’s not what I do here, I’m bringing comedy.”

People come up to me at work. They’re like, “Ah, I get it now, you actually work with food!” And I say, “Yeah, but that’s not how I came across this. Food is not my love.” That wasn’t something I went into going, Oh, I would love to be a cook. Cosmetology was my first love, and food has just become my work. That’s what that is. Don’t get me wrong, I put my all into it. But I really didn’t want to make it a huge thing, I just want to be that funny character behind the camera that’s just giving you something to laugh at.

How do you find and choose the cooking videos that you react to?

Followers tag me, so all I have to do is go into my mentions, and there are a whole bunch of them. But I won’t duet videos that people send me where I can genuinely tell that this is someone cooking dinner for their family.

The videos that I duet are the ones I believe are clickbait videos that people do all the time where they’re wasting food. You can tell that it’s half done, that no one’s going to eat it. Those are the videos that I will do commentary over. I’m not here to hurt anybody’s feelings. For example, there was one video where I actually reached out to them to see if it was okay, because it’s a gentleman who walks around and he records his mother making dishes, and they’re not seasoning half the time, but I think she’s genuine about what she’s making. But he kind of said, “Go for it, my mother loves your content and so do I.” So if I feel like it’s somebody that’s actually making food, and I don’t know if it’s something to make fun of, I’ll reach out and ask for permission.

How do you put the reactions together? And how long does it take you?

I don’t write anything down. I get some points in my head, and then I just freestyle from there. And part of that is because my memory is not good, and I don’t know how to edit. So those two things combined, you get freestyle raw comedy.

I might just see a video pop up and go Oh my goodness, this is crazy. And I’ll just set my camera right then, and watch the video a couple of times and within the next 10 minutes, I will post the video. I don’t have any drafts, like a lot of people hold drafts and then they post certain times in a day. I don’t do that, because I’m afraid I’m going to lose the video, so I post them as I make them, right away.

One of the things that stands out about your videos is that you’re not trying to be mean.

I try to use sarcasm and to get laughter out of it, but also say, Everybody has a different way of cooking. If that’s the way you like to eat it, you can, but I wouldn’t eat it that way.

What’s the most disturbing recipe you’ve seen so far?

I think the one that stands out the most is a pasta dish. She made penne in an aluminum pan, and the pan still had the label on the inside, and she dumped uncooked noodles into it. Then she took a full bag of peeled garlic, dumped it straight in the pan, poured sauce all over, added cheese, and put it in the oven. And I’m sitting here saying now there is no way! That’s why I’m saying this is clickbait; that was one of the most disgusting things that I’ve seen, and she allowed her dog to drink some of the water she used. It was a mess.

I feel like there’s other phrases that have come out of your freestyling, like, “It ain’t going to slide down easy, if it ain’t cheesy!”

It just came out as I was watching them put loads and loads of cheese, because I’m noticing almost every video, they’re loading everything up with cheese. And then I went, Oh, I liked the way that sounds, and I kept it.

And I kind of created a character to go with it: Kiki, who lives down the street, who they can borrow ingredients from if they don’t have them in their own homes. Just ask her, she’ll give it to you. And I kind of do that throughout each video. So now I’m getting people reaching out saying, well, Kiki told me I can’t come to her house anymore.

Have the videos you’ve seen made you more or less pessimistic about people’s ability to cook?

I’m assuming these people are just doing it for views. So I’m just looking at it as if they’re doing comedy just like me, except they’re wasting food doing it, because I know there’s no way any of this is real. I’ve seen Skittles on top of raw ground beef with peanut butter on it, and then they deep-fried it all together, and it was still raw in the middle. So it really doesn’t change my feelings about other people cooking. What it’s doing is making people not want to put cooking videos up, like I’m getting people saying they’re scared to put their videos up because they think that I’m going to attack them.

Has any creator blocked you or gotten mad at your commentary about their food?

Surprisingly, not that I’ve noticed. I had a whole bunch of videos that were vegan [recipes], the creator reached out to me and said, “How can I get you to take my videos and do what you do with them?” And I said, “But you have legit good-looking food! Your food looks good.”

But I have not had one person reach out to say, “Stop doing the commentary over my videos,” or anything like that. And I think part of it is because when they put the video up, you actually have an option for someone to duet it or not. I won’t take a video if their duets are turned off. Like some people download the video and still duet it. If their duet is turned off, I won’t touch it, because I know this person doesn’t want to share. So once I see it open for a duet, I guess the person is okay with commentary.

What’s next for the “Everybody’s so creative” videos?

I just dropped to part-time [as a production cook], and that’s to focus a little bit more on what I would like to build: a bigger brand with this and hopefully grow even larger on YouTube, start creating different videos, keeping the “everybody so creative” slogan in there, and build the brand up.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Valeria Ricciulli is a New York City-based Colombian journalist. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Crain’s, and the Daily Beast.