Former BuzzFeed Tasty Producer Alix Traeger Talks Viral Content And More - Exclusive Interview

We all know those recipe videos— the ones from BuzzFeed Tasty that you would scroll for hours through on Facebook. Whether it's a chicken cordon bleu bake or stuffed rigatoni poppers, there are indeed people behind your favorite content. Alix Traeger, former BuzzFeed Tasty producer, knows exactly what it's like to be the hands in front of the camera. Her most popular videos, such as the barbecue bacon ice tray meatballs, took food creations to a whole new level of entertaining.

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Traeger revealed what it was really like to work for BuzzFeed Tasty and brainstorm a constant stream of food ideas for the public eye. The food influencer, now with approximately 805K followers and 33.2 million likes on TikTok, left BuzzFeed Tasty to focus on content creation full-time with recipe-oriented and comedic videos. Traeger even landed a menu item at The Cheesecake Factory after her salad hack went viral. 

The social media personality sat down with Mashed for an exclusive interview and shared some behind the scenes stories, including the wackiest BuzzFeed Tasty recipe she's ever made. Does the banana bread corn dog sound familiar to anyone?

Traeger reveals how she became a BuzzFeed Tasty producer

I saw from your TikTok that you were hired as an intern for BuzzFeed Tasty fresh out of college and then hired as a full-time producer from there. Is this a career that you thought you would originally be doing?

No, not at all. I knew I really wanted to be somewhere in the food industry, but I actually had studied health and human science, [pursuing] a bachelor's of science in college. I figured I would go into something a little bit what I thought was safer, like a nursing degree or nursing career. Pretty close to the time I was going to graduate, I realized that I really wanted to go for something in food, but I didn't know what, because I'm fairly clumsy. 

I knew I didn't really want to be in a restaurant, so I decided to buy myself some time. At the time, I was food blogging on my own as a creative outlet, although it was still really small and not really a career path so I thought. I decided to move to Stockholm, Sweden. I moved there as an au pair.

This was a chance to buy myself that year of time before I felt like I really needed to settle down and get a job. In that year, I continued to blog. I got hired as an assistant food stylist for a food stylist in Sweden named Mia.

While I was working for her, I saw myself in that line of work and I really loved it. It was the first time I felt like there was a path for me. In that year is when cooking videos and food media really started to boom on the internet. I had seen my first Tasty video when I was in Sweden and I thought, "I can do this." From there, I knew that that was my path. Sure enough, that's how it unfolded. It's so funny because I look back and I had inklings of wanting to be in the food industry, but I hadn't seen where I belonged. It luckily evolved in perfect timing.

That's wonderful. I love the videos. I watch them all the time.

It was definitely not as easy to make the videos as I had suspected. I needed to be an intern at Tasty to develop the skills because I had no idea how to shoot videos. I knew how to cook and I was very tech savvy, so I basically told them when they were interviewing me, "Tell me what button to push and I'll figure it out."

Traeger names her most viral food video

What was your most successful BuzzFeed Tasty video? I know you did so many.

It depends on what format. When I started out originally, I was making the early top down Tasty videos that we all know by now. That was only my hands. You wouldn't know it was me unless you were really looking out for me. — actually, I would say when I was an intern, I started buttoning pretty soon after my first video that I made. As an intern, we were originally doing classes to learn how to make Tasty videos. We were supporting other producers, doing things like grocery runs and even the dishes at that time. 

I wasn't able to make my own video until a few months in. I was so excited. I remember being so ready to hit the ground running and make my own video. I was like, "I know I can do it."

My first video was a flop, which was disappointing. It was a banana monkey bread, but my second and third videos buttoned, which at the time was a really exciting thing that happened, if your video hit over a million shares in the first day or so. My second and third video buttoned, which was really important for me because I was still trying to secure a job. I was an intern and I was like, "It could end at any time." [Those were] chicken parm lasagna and a cinnamon roll apple pie, I believe.

They both did crazy well and went super viral. Those were my two first experiences ever going viral on the internet and it's such a wild feeling. It was really cool to see. It was something that I created and put so much thought into. Watching it post up onto this page and then set fire on the internet, it was crazy.

The weirdest recipe Traeger ever tried for BuzzFeed Tasty

You do a series on TikTok where you review your weirdest Tasty videos. I was watching one the other day. It was the stuffed rigatoni poppers, which went viral. What is the most out-of-pocket Tasty video you've ever produced?

Yeah, definitely the banana corn dog. The reason this TikTok series that I've been doing started was because I randomly thought of this video for the banana corn dog. It was so weird and I was like, "This needs to be talked about." The video didn't do very well on Tasty, and this was years ago. I was like, "You know what, I'm going to revisit this." 

I thought it'd be funny to tell the story of how that video came to be and why I thought to do that. It's so crazy and silly and it ended up going super viral on TikTok. It was also because I mentioned that Tasty didn't want me to call it "banana corn dog" because they thought it was too weird. I had to call it "banana bread on a stick" or something.

I had no idea this video would go as viral as it did on TikTok years down the line. All these people started commenting on Tasty that they needed to change the name from "banana bread on the stick" to "banana corn dog." It set off this whole movement and Tasty was so confused. They didn't know what was happening at first. They reached out to me and they said, "By the way, this all happened. We figured out what was happening, and we have changed the name from 'banana bread on a stick' to 'banana corn dog.'"

That is so funny how it actually translated to something in real life. That video, the banana corn dog, is so weird and silly, but it was essentially a corn dog made sweet. I made banana bread. I dipped a banana into banana bread batter, and then essentially fried it to make it look like a corn dog. It's so weird, but it's funny to see that get reimagined or come back to life. These videos never really die.

They are always circulating the internet.

Exactly, and that video went so viral on TikTok and that kicked off, "Oh, there's something here." It was a series that I continue to do. People comment and they're like, "I always used to watch these videos, and it's so funny to see that there's actually people behind them and there's actually stories behind them." It's fun to get to talk about those.

How Traeger maintains inspiration for content creation

Do you ever find it hard to keep up the inspiration for recipes and food videos since you've been doing so many for so long?

Absolutely. It's hard to continue to be creative. I don't find that there's ever a shortage of ideas. I think ideas can be endless, and there's always going to be something new: new products to try, new formats to test on videos. It is hard because it's a creative field. It moves very fast. There's often a pressure of, "If I'm not posting today, I'm going to fall behind." You can be really susceptible to burning out, and I often burn out and I'm still trying to figure out how to spread balance. 

It's a challenge to keep up with creativity. People are so creative, especially with TikTok, with people feeling like they have agency to create their own videos now versus working with a brand, like I did with Tasty. People are so creative. They're so talented. They can make videos with a phone that's in their pocket, and it's so cool to see, but it also puts the pressure on, like, "Oh man, I got to keep up."

It's a saturated industry, but at the same time, we always need the extra content because we go through it so fast. If you could give food creators advice to be successful in the industry, what would it be?

It's definitely to, and this goes for any content creator, is to start posting. You hear that a lot, but really, I've talked to so many people who are like, "I want to be doing what you're doing," or, "I really have a great idea, and I think it'd be so cool," but they sit on it and then they don't do it. It's never going to be completely perfect, but [you need to be] getting your content out there, getting your voice out there, getting your style, [and] starting to develop it.

I can look back and I've been making cooking videos for years, but when I started on TikTok, I look back to my old TikToks, which was only just over a year ago, and they were so bad, not my style at all. It wasn't until I started posting and learned the platform and learned what I did and didn't like, that I was able to develop my own TikTok style. I wouldn't have gotten there until I started doing it, and that's what you have to do. You have to just do it.

How Traeger got her own menu item at the Cheesecake Factory

That shows throughout your videos and it explains why people enjoy them. The Cheesecake Factory added your Caesar salad to their menu for the first ever fan-made creation. What inspired this dish?

I was at The Cheesecake Factory with my girlfriend who loves The Cheesecake Factory. She always has this little hack that she has done for years, which is to put the Louisiana fried chicken on the Caesar salad, along with caramelized onions. We were sitting there and it was a random afternoon, eating lunch at The Cheesecake Factory when we were traveling in San Diego. I randomly was like, "I should film this because it's so funny." 

It was such a quick little thing to film and I posted it, and went on about my day. We were traveling again, so I was not really looking at my phone. I was shocked to see that it immediately started going viral. Then, we started communicating with The Cheesecake Factory, who had seen the video. Sure enough, they decided to try putting it on their menu, which I was really pushing for, because I do brand deals on my own.

I love when an opportunity aligns to create something of substance and a real, actual item. This was one of the first and biggest times that this has ever happened. It was so exciting for us as well as people who got to actually try this salad on the menu. I couldn't have asked for anything better. My girlfriend Soya, all of her friends know her as someone who has loved The Cheesecake Factory. For all of them to see her get a menu item, it was hysterical and yeah, it's an amazing salad. I'm not sure if it's still on the menu, but they ended up putting a button [on the menu]. 

It was a partnership with DoorDash and The Cheesecake Factory and they had it through DoorDash ordering. I know that at The Cheesecake Factory, they put a button on their cash register for the Louisiana chicken Caesar salad. We got all these reports that either Cheesecake Factory employees were annoyed because they kept having to modify the salad until it actually got a button for it. It was so much work, but we heard from all over the country that these salads were being ordered. It was so cool to watch something from a video come to life.

Traeger reveals her favorite breakfast hack

Changing the world one Caesar salad at a time. I was looking through your TikTok a bit and I saw that you have quite a few breakfast videos. What is your favorite breakfast food or hack and why?

I don't really eat breakfast on my own. I'm generally not that hungry in the morning. I drink a lot of coffee, and I do like to eat breakfast more on the weekends. When I execute brand deals for work because I operate on my own now, this is my full-time job, I always try to hopefully add value in a way that people are still getting a recipe or something of substance. That French toast bagel was fun because it was  something I came up with. I was like, "What's a new way to eat a bagel?"

This is often how I come up with cooking videos in general. It is taking something people know and love, taking a flavor, taking a product that people know and love and trying to imagine it in a new way. How can we combine two flavors that are really popular into a new thing? How can we transform this? You still get that hit of nostalgia within whatever flavor or product it is, but then you get to see something maybe visually interesting or see something in a new way that you wouldn't have thought of. 

I would do these mashups at Tasty and now I do them on my own. I made banana bread cheesecake and cookies and cream creme brûlée. Trying to mash things up is one of my favorite things to do. The French toast bagel was something that I was like, "These two great breakfast foods that are similar, but you don't normally imagine together." It worked.

Traeger hints at her upcoming fall content

That makes sense. Now that we are going into fall, are there any recipes that you're excited to share with your fans?

As fall approaches, this is the busiest time we're approaching in the food world, holiday season. It seems to go by in a flash because you are prepping for Halloween, for fall in general, pumpkin spice season, all of that. Then that rolls into Thanksgiving, which rolls into Christmas, or the holidays, and it's a crazy time. I'm not that big of a pumpkin spice girl even though that's the name of the season, but I'm always excited to work with different fall ingredients. Different hearty soups, I love. They're easy to throw together — different variations of squashes. 

All the holiday desserts are fun. Themed things are also fun. I see them going crazy, different Halloween themed videos, like pretzel fingers and witch's caldron drinks. There's a lot of room to have a lot of fun and also hit on some personal notes ... I look back on holidays and they're the times I remember most of cooking at home with my family. Sharing bits and pieces of your own life and what you like to eat in the holidays and how that ties into your own family or culture is really cool as well.

What is the one ingredient you could never live without? This one always stumps people.

I love butter. It makes everything taste better.

Traeger names her go-to fast food order and details her next project

What is your go-to fast food order and why?

In-N-Out double-double animal style, both kinds of onions and fries, well done. I like a good menu hack and that's my insider In-N-Out order. As someone from California, I'm obsessed with it. I'm not sure to what extent that is nostalgia and pride, because I do hear a lot of people who've heard about it for years and finally tried it and are a little bit underwhelmed, but I love it and also, Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme.

Are you excited for the Mexican pizza? Are you a fan of that?

I actually made a Mexican pizza for a video once, so that was fun. Honestly, no, I'm more of a Crunchwrap Supreme girl. I probably won't stray much from my order.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?

Actually, something that's really exciting I've been helping my girlfriend work on is her new plant-based fish. It's called Fysh Foods, and I have been helping her as a small part ... we're going to start building out social for the company, but it's a plant-based raw fish that can substitute sushi as Sashimi, smoked salmon, any raw fish product. It's super exciting to watch this company be built from the ground up, and the product is really amazing. It's made from cassava root and sea algae and different vegetable powders for flavoring. It's all natural and premium, and it looks so similar to raw fish and tastes so similar and good. 

[It's] also an amazing, not only substitute for vegans, but for everyone. Having a part in a company that will help with sustainable fishing practices and be a replacement to reduce the dependence on fishing is really cool and important. We're so excited to launch this company. It's launching in Erewhon this week in their sushi aisle. I'm telling you, it's really going to blow people's minds because it's so spot on. Getting to work with my girlfriend in the food industry and build this company is an exciting new venture and I'm so excited for what's to come. Eat Fysh Foods!

Check out Alix Traeger's Instagram page or TikTok to keep up with her latest videos and projects.

This interview has been edited for clarity.