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TikTok’s new brand plans to deliver feta pasta and smash burgers

Baked feta pasta became a viral sensation on TikTok.  (Aaron Hutcherson/For the Washington Post)
Baked feta pasta became a viral sensation on TikTok. (Aaron Hutcherson/For the Washington Post)
By Emily Heil Washington Post

If you want to try the baked feta-and-tomato pasta dish that was all over TikTok this year, soon you won’t even have to flip on your oven. The video-sharing platform will be partnering with a ghost kitchen service to offer the TikTok Kitchen brand, serving the foods that have gone viral on the app.

TikTok Kitchen will be run by Virtual Dining Concepts, a company that runs ghost kitchens producing brands created with celebrities such as Mariah Carey (Mariah’s Cookies), YouTube star MrBeast (MrBeast Burgers) and Guy Fieri (Guy’s Flavortown Kitchen) as well others, like NASCAR Refuel, the company announced. Typically, these brands operate out of existing restaurant kitchens or other commercial spaces.

The company says it plans to “celebrate creators” who come up with the recipes, but did not specify how such arrangements would work. “Proceeds from TikTok Kitchen sales will go to both support the creators who inspired the menu item and to encourage and assist other creators to express themselves on the platform,” Virtual Dining Concepts said in a news release.

It may be difficult to pin down who is responsible for a particular recipe. For example, as my colleague Aaron Hutcherson reported, in the case of the blockbuster feta pasta, a blogger named Tiiu Piret posted a version of the dish on her blog in February 2018. A year later, Finnish blogger Jenni Hayrinen shared a simplified version, but the recipe took off in the U.S. last January when MacKenzie Smith, the blogger behind Grilled Cheese Social, posted a video on TikTok.

Representatives for the company and TikTok did not respond to queries about how the dishes’ creators would be identified and paid. TikTok Kitchen, which will be delivered via Grubhub, Bloomberg News reports, will switch up its menu quarterly to reflect the foods that are hottest on the video-sharing platform.

Its inaugural lineup will include the feta pasta as well as other popular foods such as pasta “chips” (fried pasta) with dip, corn “ribs” (seasoned strips of corn on the cob) and a smash burger, according to VDC. The company plans to open 300 locations and expects to operate as many as 1,000 by the end of next year, some of them running out of the kitchens of the restaurant chains owned by VDC co-founder Robert Earl – Bertucci’s, Buca di Beppo and Bravo Cucina Italiana.

Since its debut in 2018, TikTok has become a hub for food content, with creators of videos featuring their creations racking up millions of followers and billions of views. FoodTok, as it’s known, includes food hacks and stunt flourishes (one recent trend saw cooks using dozens and dozens of garlic cloves in their dishes), but also recipe tutorials and kitchen inspiration.

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