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TikTok Food Vloggers Eat Their Way Through South Florida

Image of a TikTok video showing Haitian cuisine
Kristin Moorehead
/
WLRN News
A screengrab from Josiah Cafiero's TikTok video featuring Haitian restaurant Nana's Sapibon.

JosiahEats

The food is here, but Josiah Cafiero and his girlfriend can’t eat it yet. Cafiero is still taking pictures and videos for his TikTok food page, @JosiahEats.

This time, he’s at a Georgian place called Kavkaz.

He ordered khachapuri. It's boat-shaped dough filled with lots of cheese and baked. The dish is topped with butter and a runny egg yolk.

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Cafiero said he likes to get certain kinds of shots for his videos.

“The pans, the zooms, the action shots, I like to call them, or the 'food porn' shots" said Cafiero.  "Like if it's something real cheesy, getting the cheese pull. Or if there's like a dip, dipping whatever it is. And then I'll also get a couple shots of me taking some bites of the food."

Cafiero's girlfriend and dining companion, Crystal Rodriguez, pulls a chunk of bread off the edge of the khachapuri, and starts stirring the cheese with it.

Then she pulls the cheese into a long string. That shot makes it into the final TikTok.

Kavkaz TikTok 8-11-21.mp4

Cafiero said the main goal of his page isn’t to show off the trendiest or most popular restaurants, or the “Instagram-worthy" restaurants.

"They're just pretty colors and food where it's just ridiculous, giant milkshakes and stuff like that," he said.

It’s to showcase local businesses that he thinks don’t get enough recognition. And the places he picks are places he really wants to try.

“There’s specifically food content creators who post places that they don’t even like. Like, ‘Yeah it’s alright.’ But they got paid, or a meal out of it, you know? And that hurts to hear. Cause then why are you doing it?” he said. 

Cafiero now has more than 90,000 followers — but he doesn’t consider himself an "influencer."

“That word feels kind of gross, you know, like, I don't know, there's just something weird about it. And I don't think it's inherently a gross word, but I think it's become gross, at least to me,” Cafiero said. 

Cafiero does have influence, though. A recent TikTok featuring a Haitian restaurant in Hallandale Beach has racked up more than 237,000 views.

Nanas Sapibon TikTok 8-11-21.mp4

Mona Levine is the daughter of the owner of that Hallandale Beach restaurant, Nana’s Sapibon. She works there with the rest of her family.

“My mom, she just cooks with her heart and her soul. A lot of people, they come in and they love the food because it reminds them of home, it reminds them of their Haitian mother or grandma cooking,” Levine said. 

Levine said she didn't know ahead of time that Cafiero was coming. Her brother called her at work and let her know what had happened.

“I called my sister and when she looked at the video she said ‘I know exactly who it was.’ Like, what customer, she just remembered,” Levine said. 

While the initial boom in customers has died down, Levine says they’re still seeing the effects of the video.

“I would say a couple times a week we’re getting people now coming in saying TikTok, I’m here because of TikTok,” Levine said.

Cafiero eventually wants to monetize his TikTok page and make it his full time job. But for now, he’ll keep eating and sharing it on TikTok.

Couple of Foodies

Holy Shakes TikTok 8-12-21.mp4

Kobie Simmons and Tatiana Rodriguez also run a food page on TikTok, @WeEatFoodSoFlo.

Rodriguez said her childhood was full of food experiences.

“My grandma owned a restaurant before I was born and so I grew up always having her food,” she said. 

That restaurant was Breda, which served Haitian cuisine in Delray Beach. Her grandma ended up selling the restaurant, but Rodriguez remembers helping out her grandma in the kitchen at home.

Simmons said his family also loves to cook, although he’s still learning. He and Rodriguez like to experiment with different recipes at home.

“My mom and her parents, they know different things that we’re probably not there yet. But we just try to take notes and write [things] down, so in the future we just put everything together that they taught us,” he said. 

He and Rodriguez started their TikTok page during the COVID-19 pandemic, in July 2020. Rodriguez said their goal in the beginning was to support local restaurants during a difficult time.

“When we first started, we were still ordering takeout from those small businesses. That was the mission. That was the goal,” she said. 

After their first few posts, they quickly racked up views. Their page currently has more than 53,000 followers and more than 1 million likes. Their most popular videos are restaurants that serve fun desserts or have clever names.

Sugar Daddy TikTok 8-12-21.mp4

But like every popular page on the internet, they received more than a few hateful comments. In the beginning, the negativity really bothered Rodriguez.

“I felt like I had to pronounce — be louder or more cheerful, like, you're either too loud or too low. It was always something. It was like, ‘Oh, she's so loud’ or, ‘Oh, she sounds annoying,’ or, ‘Her voice is so raspy,’” Rodriguez said. 

Now, she and Simmons ignore the hate comments. They eventually want to expand their reach into other states, and buy the domain name “WeEatFood.”