How Dancing And Recipes Made Emmanuel Duverneau A Viral TikTok Content Creator - Exclusive Interview

He's got a spotless kitchen, yummy recipes, and dance moves that will make you drop your oven mitts. Meet Emmanuel Duverneau, a 25-year-old content creator with 1.5 million TikTok fans who was named to the platform's coveted 2022 #BlackTikTok Trailblazers List. It's nearly impossible to keep scrolling once you see Duverneau getting down to "Work from Home" as a smash burger sizzles on his range, so what's his secret?

Like many TikTok legends, Duverneau rose to virality quickly during the pandemic, when quarantine dance routines and banana bread rituals propelled the platform's popularity ahead of that of Instagram among younger users (per CNBC). What makes this sales manager by day/dancing chef by night very different from others on TikTok, however, is his interest in breaking gender norms — as he pointed out to Mashed in an exclusive interview, being a man who cooks and cleans is a fresh take in a genre where women more frequently hold the whisk and mop. Duverneau also opened up about his aspirations for the future, his favorite fast food restaurant, and why he may be Gordon Ramsay's biggest fan.

What it's like to be an almost overnight TikTok sensation, according to Emmanuel Duverneau

How does it feel to be named to the TikTok Black Trailblazer list?

It feels amazing. I think that the biggest thing that I realized over the time of being on TikTok is that there's not a lot of, I would say, guy food content creators and dancers who actually love what they're doing or showcase [dancing]. To see someone like me, [who is also] a person of color, in any type of different categories, being honored for their creativity, their authenticity, is really great, especially because I feel like there's still some of that social or societal norms that women should be doing a lot to cooking and cleaning, and a lot of different things. That's what I'm showcasing on my page.

It's great to see someone like me doing that. I hope I can, honestly, inspire more guys to feel comfort in doing things that are not the "norm," but doing it because they love it.

How did you end up becoming a TikTok sensation?

Long story short, I started TikTok back in 2020 during COVID. Everyone was bored. I was working my solar [equipment] job, and I started doing dance videos on TikTok. I loved it. I enjoyed doing it. I'm huge into performance arts. I used to do a lot of plays in high school. I did flash mobs in high school, so I am really a creative person. I had some family issues with my dad getting COVID and then passing from it, and within that timeframe, I felt like I started coping with something new, which was cooking. I started cooking a lot more. I wanted to experiment more, because it was the only thing I felt that could take my mind off a lot of different things — putting meals together and having people enjoy the comfort [and] the food that I would make.

I remodeled my home. We purchased the home, remodeled it, and I was talking to my wife. I said, "It doesn't hurt my situation to post on TikTok." I picked up my camera, and I didn't know what I was going to post. I think that funny thing — I posted me vacuuming and cooking, things I usually do when I'm bored or when I want to feel at peace and do something that's soothing. It blew up.

I started cooking, and I incorporated dancing. Within October, when I really started posting, to now, I accumulated ... I remember I had maybe 50 followers, and now it's 1.5 million supporters on the app. I didn't know it was going to be like this, but I guess people really believed in what I was doing when I started to believe that I had something to share with people.

Why dancing is always part of Emmanuel Duverneau's TikTok videos

What do you think it is that people find so relatable about your content? 

I think it's a combination of all. I think the biggest thing I find that people really enjoy is how I make it look simple. For me, you might not know, but I'm an introvert. I don't like to go out a lot and do a lot of things. I don't have many friends or anything like that, only because I try to find peace with myself and with my family, my relationships and stuff like that. I think what really brings people to the page is seeing how I can make one of the meals you would find in a restaurant at home, and I could show them step-by-step on how [to] do it.

I'm not being too "serious" in the kitchen. I think, most people [believe], "If I'm cooking, I have to be serious. I have to make sure I'm doing everything right." By adding the dancing and the humor to it, I think people could relate to it. Most of the time ... growing up, your parents would cook, but sometimes music was playing in the background, too. Parents would dance and have fun and interact with your kids or family members. I think people could relate to that because I think that's how most people grew up. It wasn't just quietly cooking in the kitchen. It was having fun and enjoying your craft.

Do you recommend that people dance when they're cooking at home?

100%. I recommend not taking it too seriously. Have fun with it. Be careful — you don't want to dance with a knife, but have fun with it. Really enjoy it. I think it ... brings joy. I think it brings a lot more joy. I like to dance and cook, but if someone likes to sing, I recommend when they're chopping, sing a song. Let that inner energy out and put it all towards your craft.

When you're cooking, is there a certain moment where you're like, "Now it's time for the dance routine"?

There's two things I do. One, I want to do it in a way where I catch people off guard where, if I'm cooking, I hit them with something fast, where I feel like they will like it, and they will stay engaged. In reality, that's a snippet in that video. That's just a snippet. Most of the time, I'm dancing. We're listening to music as we're cooking. It's only when we're getting those frames [that] we pause the music, so it's not too distracting. Throughout the whole process of the video, we're doing some dance moves. I'm listening to music. I'm cutting. I'm cooking. Then I place those different snippets that we captured in certain places in the video.

These are the recipe videos Emmanuel Duverneau's fans like the most

What's your most popular recipe?

I would say my steak that I made on my birthday ... is definitely one that really took off and that the community really enjoyed, and people really enjoyed me making. It was steak with pan sauce, mashed potatoes, and also asparagus. Then I also made a cheesecake ... I think that was surprising how I made [that entire] meal within a day's time. I think that was really popular. Recently, I made this Caesar salad that was an idea from this other creator who went to Cheesecake [Factory] and ordered the salad. I recreated it at home because so many people were craving it. I [thought], "Why not show you that and put ingredients on Instagram on how to do it for yourself?" That [got] 14 million views, and I think it's been a week. I think people really like that one.

Which was the most viral video?

The steak on my birthday. I think that's currently 17 million, but that's been three months. The salad's 14 million in a week, so it's going to surpass that, 100%.

Many of your followers comment on how spotless your kitchen is. How do you keep it so clean?

I'm going to be fully transparent with you: I am a clean freak. I enjoy cleaning. Growing up, we cleaned our home every Saturday. [With] my grandma [and] my mom, we lived in a three-family apartment. My aunt was on the third floor. We were on the second floor. My grandma was on the first floor, and it was always instilled in me that Saturdays are the day to clean. We always had to clean up after our mess. I lived in a home with eight people in an apartment with one bathroom and a small kitchen, and not even enough bedrooms for all of us to sleep in. It was messy all the time, but we had to clean it all the time. 

I [realized] as I was getting older and over time, I found peace in cleaning when I had spare time. Whereas most people would probably want to play games or read, which is great, I would find myself cleaning my range and cleaning down the countertops because I enjoy looking around and having a clean environment.

[As far as] keeping it stylish – I think that I watch a lot of styling shows and I'm into decor, and my wife is as well. We like nice things, too, so we go out, we pick things that we think will look really good, and we style our kitchen, but things that we could also use. We don't want it to just look good; we want the functionality of it to be great.

How Emmanuel Duverneau's mother influences his recipes

You've mentioned that your mother taught you to cook. What's the most important lesson you got from your mom about food?

You have to cook with love. I think that when you're cooking with the love, you can make great dishes. She told me this all the time: Cooking is not supposed to feel forced. You're supposed to experiment and play around. I watched her do things [like] not even using a measuring cup. How did you know how much seasoning or chicken bouillon to put in there? How did you know how many peppers to put in there? It's all based off of the taste and what you think in your head is good enough.

[I learned from] watching my mom cook, and also my dad, because my dad cooked a lot in our household. It was more ... it looked like they were experimenting to me. Over time, I think that [it was based on] their taste buds or their experience — they knew exactly what to do in each individual meal.

That's how I am now. I know exactly, in a way, how much to use certain things. I don't really have a recipe in mind, or sometimes I'm loosely following recipes, but I know exactly what I could put and substitute for different things, because I grew up for 20 years watching my mom and dad do that.

Do you ever change up your recipes?

100%. All the time. Even on TikTok when I posted something, and then I talked to my wife. I said, "Wow, I think red pepper flakes would've really given it that extra kick. Let's tell them to add red pepper flakes because I know, in my mind, it would be a little bit better with that." So, 100%, I do that a lot.

If you could have anyone cook dinner for you, who would it be and why?

If I could have anyone cook dinner for me, I would probably say my mom, again, because I really miss her food. I used to eat her food all the time, and I moved out to California in 2017. I see her maybe twice a year, so I do miss my mom and grandma's food all the time. I usually ask them to ship me some in ice boxes. That would be great. That's where my mind goes to, because I really love [their] authentic food.

That aside, if I could have anyone [and] really taste their food, I would say Gordon Ramsey because he's the hot shot, and the guy that is all over the place of cooking. I've never tasted his food. I want to know if it lives up to the hype.

Emmanuel Duverneau on his favorite foodies--and fast foods

What other TikTok food creators do you admire?

I admire the @GoldenBalance [Ahmad Alzahabi]. I think he's a huge inspiration on the app, and I think that the food content that he makes, it's American, but also he dives really deep into his culture ... [I also admire] @Violet.Cooks [Violet Witchel]. I love her approach to gluten-free, dairy-free, and catering to specific niches of people who are having problems with those different food things. I think Golden Balance [and] Violet Cooks are really great, two people that I started looking at the moment I [started interacting with] food TikTok. I saw a few videos, and I was completely hooked. Recently, there's this guy called The Rapping Chef [@_mrpyrex]. He raps as he's cooking. Every single time, he's rapping something new as he's cooking, and [there is] a creativity there and authenticity of doing that time over time again and having great meals, definitely inspirational. Those three people keep me on my toes to constantly be innovating.

Do you have a favorite food TV show?

Anything with Gordon Ramsey. I really enjoy [him] because I feel like he's really put a test to the content creators or the food chefs. Under pressure, they perform really well. I like watching that, although it gives me a little bit of anxiety! I love watching it because it shows me how great people are at their craft, and how, even under real pressure, they could still come out with a great outcome and deliver. The other show I mentioned that I recently finished watching was [Baking Impossible] with the "bakineers," baking and engineering ... where they are literally using engineers and bakers to come up with these great ideas, and making sure that they pass the engineer test and also taste really great and past the bacon test. That's another show that I really enjoy watching.

Do you have a favorite fast food? Or do you not eat fast food?

I do eat fast food. I think anyone who says that they don't is lying. Does Chipotle count as fast food? You get it pretty fast. I absolutely love Chipotle fast food. I do like Popeye's. Their chicken sandwich, it's really good. Chipotle, I would say, it's one of my favorite fast foods. I could eat that anytime, any day.

Here's what we can expect from Emmanuel Duverneau in the future

So you're young, and you're already so successful. What does the future hold for you?

As of now, I'm taking it day by day because this is also new for me. As far as the goals of the future, I'm huge into sustainability and renewable energy. That's what I do during the day. When I'm not cooking and dancing on TikTok, I'm helping homeowners with solar [power] and advocating for clean energy. I would like in the future, for me, to have some type of brand where I could do cooking and sustainability, or making food packaging, or certain things that are great for the environment, but also would help people out in the kitchen.

I also would love to, honestly, do something in the creative arts with people, having a show [similar to "Baking Impossible"]. I would love to have a show where we have talent, people who could cook a meal in the kitchen, [and] within 30 seconds or 40 seconds, they make this painting masterpiece and get right back to cooking. People could dance or get on a microphone and sing, and then get right back to chopping and making a delicious meal. I think that would be pretty entertaining, so who knows?

Final question: What is one kitchen item that no home chef should be without?

You need a really good knife. I think that knives are really important because almost anyone who's cooking will need a really good knife, and I've had problems in the past. You're chopping something, [like] a tomato, and your knife is really dull or it's not great, and all the juices spill out. I think every home chef should have a really great knife because it really does make the experience better and the cooking process faster.

Follow Emmanuel Duverneau's cooking and dancing adventures on TikTok.