Buzzfeed’s Tasty has shaped food media as we know it today. It’s hard to imagine that just four years ago Buzzfeed’s Tasty began as an experiment, launching as videos were expanding and becoming more popular on Facebook. Suddenly, there was a brand showcasing cooking in an easy to digest and exciting way!
Just as Tasty was exploding with popularity, Rie McClenny was moving to LA after graduating from ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program. She had always wanted to work in food media, but knew she needed experience in a restaurant setting to further her culinary techniques. After two and a half years in the restaurant world, Rie decided it was finally time to pursue her dream of working in food media. She heard of Tasty through the food world grapevine and saw that they were expanding their operations to Tasty Japan. They were looking for someone who had graduated from culinary school, had food experience, and could speak Japanese. Having all of those qualifications, Rie knew it was the job for her!
Rie nailed the interview, which should come as no surprise, and landed her dream job. Now, after 3 years at Buzzfeed, she has over a quarter of a million followers on Instagram @thedessertsnob and a community of 300,000+ subscribers to her own Youtube channel. Her followers are loyal—with each video that she produces, she garners millions of views and people across the world love recreating her recipes. If you aren’t already following her, you definitely should be!
This month, we sat down with Rie to learn about her career as a Tasty video producer and how she uses her culinary training to influence the videos that she creates. Below, get a glimpse into a day in the life as a video producer for Buzzfeed’s Tasty!
What was your life like before culinary school and was cooking something you were exposed to at a young age? Did you have a career outside of the kitchen before going to culinary school?
Growing up, I always loved to eat, but I wasn’t interested in the food industry. My grandmother had a café so I was always surrounded by food. In my early years, I didn’t necessarily think that my goal was to be a chef. I actually majored in English at a college in Osaka, Japan. After I graduated, I started working for a culinary school in Tokyo as an event coordinator. I was organizing trips to New York City for our students to visit what was then the French Culinary Institute, now ICC. We brought the students for a one-day chocolate class. During this time, I met a lot of students who were passionate about cooking and they influenced me a lot. Through these experiences, I got to know the food industry more and more. At that time, I was already in my mid-20’s, so to be honest, I thought it was too late for me to be a chef. Instead I thought maybe I should pursue a different career path within the food industry. I wanted to be a food stylist, which was one of the reasons I applied to ICC as I thought that going to culinary school would offer me this opportunity.
I enrolled in the 9-month evening culinary program and graduated in 2014, but during the day I was working at Korin Knives as a sales person. I was able to offer my classmates and teachers knife sharpening for free!
Why did you choose to go to ICC? Was there a reason that you decided to attend culinary school first instead of jumping into the restaurant industry?
I wanted to be a food stylist, but I didn’t have any connections. I was looking for an opportunity to study and felt that going to school would provide me with the best education to learn the techniques. ICC’s location in Soho was so convenient for me, but I also chose ICC because I already knew it was one of the top schools to go to.
So, what did you do after culinary school? What made you want to make the move to Buzzfeed?
Right after I graduated, my husband and I decided to move to California—this was always the plan. After we moved, I wanted to further my professional cooking skills and got a job in the kitchen at Rustic Canyon in California. Even though I wanted to pursue a career in food media, I knew I needed to gain experience in a restaurant atmosphere. After working as a cook at Rustic Canyon, then A.O.C. Wine Bar for about two and a half years, I applied for a job at Tasty Japan as a Recipe Developer.
I started to feel like I was ready to go after what I had originally set out to do—to work in food media—which is when I found the Tasty Japan job. Using ICC’s alumni network, I found that a few people were working at Buzzfeed as food writers. Buzzfeed’s website listed that they were launching Tasty Japan and looking for someone who lived in LA, graduated from culinary school and could speak Japanese. I immediately knew that this was the job for me because my experience was so unique to the position!
What do you do at Buzzfeed?
After some time as a recipe developer, one of the video producers who was on the Buzzfeed Tasty team ended up leaving the company. My manager asked me if I wanted to learn how to edit videos, something I desired to learn. At Buzzfeed, they offer beginner courses that you can take, so one of my coworkers was teaching me how to shoot video while another was teaching me how to edit.
Now, I’ve been at Buzzfeed for 3 years and my official title is “video producer.” That means we develop the idea, shoot the video and edit it, but we are also the hands and talent in the video. We work with amazing recipe developers that help us with the back-end of the recipes. After we publish the video, we discuss how the video performed and analyze the data.
Where does the inspiration come from for your videos?
It’s a little all over the place! I feel like I get inspired when we’re brainstorming and working with other colleagues to come up with new ideas. The environment at Buzzfeed is very collaborative. One time, I made this aquarium cookie that ended up going viral—that idea came from a Japanese website. This type of cookie was popular at the time in Japan, but the process was very complicated. I ended up simplifying it for home cooks and that was really cool to see. We always get inspired by other creators, but our end goal is to always simplify it for our viewers at home.
My culinary training has helped me understand the process of simplifying recipes for home cooks. I’m one of the only video producers that went to culinary school, so I’m able to use my education to recognize mistakes and provide feedback for other producers.
What is your favorite part of the job?
A huge part of my job is being in the front of the camera, so a lot of people have gotten to know me and follow me on social media! When I share my videos, a lot of the time people will recreate what I make and will message or tag me on Instagram to show me what they’ve made at home. It’s very rewarding—I brings me a lot of joy knowing that people around the world are making my recipes!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in food media or as a video producer?
I think that if you want to work in food media, you just have to follow your passions. I was hesitant to apply for any food media jobs because I felt that I didn’t have any media experience, but I took a chance on myself. When you see an opportunity to transition into this part of the industry, just apply and see where it takes you. Right now there are a lot of platforms that allow you to express your creativity, so even if you feel like you don’t belong on one platform, you have many choices to find your niche. If you keep doing what you love and what you’re passionate about, it will continue to expand your skills and techniques. There’s always an audience out there looking for something new!
Rie’s Headshot By Photographer Taylor Miller