Fast Company is doing a series of profiles featuring up-and-coming content creators across social media to get an inside look at the highs and lows of the Creator Economy.
There’s often a frenetic energy to video clips across social media. Born of the need to capture instantly a viewer’s attention before they swipe or click, many content creators default to ubiquitous jump cuts and high-octane deliveries.
Consider cook Brandon Skier the antidote.
Fittingly known online as “Sad Papi,” Skier’s laid-back, almost deadpan walkthroughs of recipes ranging from haute cuisine to basic dishes has earned him 1.7 million followers (or “papitas,” as he calls them) on TikTok with 28.4 million likes.
“I think people just appreciated the honest cooking. It wasn’t flashy. I wasn’t screaming recipes at you. And I wasn’t using quick-cut edits [to where] it’s like, ‘Okay, well, what was the recipe?'” Skier says. “I tried to take the approach of, what are the things that I wish I knew when I was learning how to cook?”
Skier worked as a cook in restaurants for more than 10 years, most recently Auburn in Los Angeles. However, the pandemic forced the restaurant into permanent closure, as was the case for all the other restaurants Skier applied to.
“I couldn’t find any work,” he says. “I downloaded TikTok just to pass the time.”
Skier’s earliest videos are mainly anime references. But in August 2020, he let it ring to his followers that he was actually a cook who’s worked in fine dining, including a Michelin-rated restaurant, and would share recipes and tips if they were into it—and they were.
“I hit a point where a bunch of big creators followed me, and they were like, ‘Hey, you have like a lot of potential. I think you could do this for a living. If you want to be a full-time content creator, you should definitely go for it,'” Skier says. “That’s when the switch happened for me: I’m going to actually try to do this.”
Skier, who was living on unemployment at the time, took all his money and invested it in better equipment and editing software. He also laid out a content strategy.
“I started with the basics, and then I branched outwards. So it was like laying down the foundation for the content I wanted to do later,” he says. “I would post a beef stock recipe, and then a couple days later I’d be like, ‘Okay, now we’re going to make Bordelaise with that beef stock.’ And people would follow along.”
While there have been some viral outliers such as a clear bruschetta he posted more of a joke—”I didn’t even post a recipe for it,” he says, “I was just having fun”—Skier has found a fairly consistent formula for steady views.
“I have a pretty healthy mix of videos that I personally want to do, but I understand that videos that perform better are recipes and techniques that are probably a little bit more familiar for people at home,” Skier says. “So how to make kimchi did really well. Things like risotto that people want to learn how to make, but it seems intimidating. The further out there you get in terms of techniques, the engagement drops a little bit. It’s finding the middle ground between something someone would actually want to make and something they just wanted to learn.”
TikTok remains Skier’s most popular platform, but he’s attempting to build out his Instagram, which currently sits at 111,000 followers. “I hoping that there would be enough cross pollination just from my TikTok to carry over to my other platforms. I realized it doesn’t really work that way,” Skier says. “So I started posting original content on Instagram a lot more and started gaining organic followers.”
“I don’t necessarily advertise [my Instagram on TikTok],” he continues. “It kinda bothers me when people do that. For the most part, it’s just providing good content on each platform. I’m trying to do it organically that way.”
Even though he has a substantially larger following on TikTok, the platform’s limited features in linking out to content has been a bit of a roadblock.
“That’s something that Instagram does really well with their swipe up links or being able to tag someone directly in the video,” Skier says. “Some kind of interface like that would be great, instead of having just the small -character caption.”
As far as income, Skier scored the fortuitous full-time gig of creating digital content, including TikToks, for apron and kitchen gear company Hedley & Bennett.
“I’m not the biggest creator. The work isn’t always coming in all the time. So sustainability was one thing that I was thinking about in the beginning,” Skier says. “[In the creator economy,] the money is not always guaranteed. The work fluctuates. If I didn’t have this full-time job at Hedley & Bennett, my money would be all over the place.”
Skier is also part of TikTok’s Creator Fund and recently signed on with a management company that’s been helping secure brand deals and possibly a cookbook.
“I am in a unique position in terms of food creators. There are food creators who started on social media and that’s all they know. Then there are food creators that come from a restaurant,” Skier says. “I came from high-end restaurants, so I think that’s my niche. I want to of be a window into that world and show people what it’s like.”