How A COVID Tragedy Turned Emmanuel Duverneau Into A TikTok Star - Exclusive

If you don't think of cooking and cleaning as a "fun" activity, you may find Emmanuel Duverneau's TikTok videos mystifying. Even if you're really looking forward to enjoying a Cheesecake Factory-inspired chicken Caesar salad in your spotless kitchen, has the anticipation of that juicy first bite ever inspired you to break into a spontaneous dance routine, the way Duverneau did in his most viral TikTok? The 25-year-old content creator, who was just named to the 2022 #BlackTikTok Trailblazers list, seems to be having the time of his life, whether he's chopping, sautéing, or tidying up.

What many might not know, however, is that it actually was a COVID tragedy that inspired Duverneau to take to the platform with his light-hearted cooking videos, as he told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "I started TikTok back in 2020 during COVID," he said. "I had some family issues with my dad getting COVID and then passing from it, and within that time frame, I felt like I started coping with something new, which was cooking." To manage his grief, Duverneau added, "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."

Duverneau honors his father with his TikTok videos

His love of cooking is something that Emmanuel Duverneau got from both of his parents, so in a way, his TikTok videos are how he pays homage to his father's memory — particularly because he uses the same "freestyle" approach in cooking, rather than being a by-the-book recipe follower. "[I learned from] watching my mom cook, and also my dad, because my dad cooked a lot in our household," Duverneau explained. "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." 

This is the same approach Duverneau now takes in his own cooking, as he added, "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 in and substitute for different things, because I grew up for 20 years watching my mom and dad do that."

Today, Duverneau hopes to inspire other men to get comfortable in the kitchen, a lesson passed down to him from his father. "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]," he said. "I hope I can, honestly, inspire more guys to feel comfortable in doing things that are not the norm, but doing it because they love it."

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