Daniel Lambert from Leitrim is a chef at Harvey’s Point who has become a TikTok star thanks to his fun food hacks and outrageous recipes – deep fried chicken filet roll, anyone?
We caught up with the social media sensation for a quick chat about his journey from software engineer student to racking up over 288k followers and 3-million likes on his TikTok food videos.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us about your journey to becoming a chef.
It all started years ago. My grandfather was a head chef in the Belgian army, so it is in my family. But when I was younger, I never had a lot of people around to cook for me. It was kind of like, you have to learn how to cook or you’re just gonna have to wait to get fed. So, once I started cooking, I just got really addicted to it and I loved it. It’s a way of expressing myself as well, as you can do a lot of stuff with food.
When I was in college in Sligo, studying software engineering, after lectures everyone was getting take away, but I was coming home and making my dinner. I just loved to cook. So I left my software engineering course and decided to become a chef. I went to the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and studied culinary arts for four years. Everything just went crazy from there.
I worked in loads of different restaurants. I got a really nice job up in Harry’s Point. I worked in Neven Maguire’s. I just became hooked on cooking. Fine dining was my area and I won three gold medals for Taste of Donegal. I was an International Dairy Chef finalist for 2020, which was organised by the French Embassy.
And then COVID happened…
Yeah, and when you go from working 14 hours a day to doing nothing, it’s really not good. It’s ok when it’s a holiday, but this wasn’t a holiday. I was going for walks and all that, but I needed to come up with a plan.
And your girlfriend helped with that...
Yeah, my girlfriend was on an app called TikTok and I decided to download it too. But it was just all dancing, so I was about to delete it, but then I saw people cooking on the app. I said, ‘you know what, I’m going to start cooking on the app and see what happens.’
So what did happen when you started cooking on TikTok?
I started doing really simple food hacks. One of the first videos I did was Doritos cheese bites and it went viral.
Then, after posting three videos to TikTok, FM104 got in contact with me to do a cooking series with them. I thought it was a joke at the time.
Up until this point I didn’t really use social media. I was posting my fine dining dishes on Instagram every couple of weeks, but I didn’t know how to use the app properly. I certainly didn’t know you could use social media as a career. But then, once my TikTok took off I began thinking maybe I could make a career out of this.
I started taking the app seriously and planning out my videos every week.
Tell us about the evolution of your TikTok videos.
Fine dining didn’t work on TikTok as I had a small following. I decided that I needed to come up with a plan to build my following so I can show off my fine dining skills. So I just started doing attractive content that my followers liked at that time, and just rebranded myself.
What’s the secret to TikTok success?
The secret to TikTok is you have to look at your analytics. When I started doing videos, I was wondering why some of them were getting loads of views and pulling in followers and other videos weren’t doing so well. Then I worked out that in the videos that did well, I had put something into the deep fryer. So I started deep-frying more stuff, and that just took off. I was deep-frying McDonald’s (Daniel’s Deep Fried McDonalds Double Cheeseburger video racked up 1.6 million views) and Terrys Chocolate Orange (1.2 million views). People thought it was crazy.
But, I was doing that on purpose. That was marketing. People thought I got lucky, but actually, I had a game plan.
Your game plan certainly worked.
Yeah! Now, I am with an agency and I’ve secured brand deals with lots of great companies. But I won’t just work with any brands, I’ve had to decline a few offers. I wouldn’t like to be promoting stuff that doesn’t suit my brand because you have to be honest with your followers. I think that’s the secret to any good, successful content creator.
So this is my full-time job now.
Any tips for people looking to find fame on TikTok?
You need to make your followers feel like they’re gaining something rather than you showing off to them. Nobody wants to watch a video of somebody just showing off. The recipes I’m doing are easy for people to make at home. If you can give people the power to replicate a dish that looks amazing, but make it look simple then people will just interact with that content more, rather than showing something impossible for them to make because you’re not providing any value.
What can followers expect from your TikTok videos?
My goal with my videos is to make food that viewers wouldn’t normally feel comfortable making, for example, homemade pasta, butter from scratch, no-bake crème brûlée, ice cream with no need for an ice cream machine. Basically, making cooking easy so people don’t have to be scared. I like to give people the tools to go and make their favourite foods without the hassle of using expensive equipment. It’s fun for the family to learn how to do this at home, and it is cheaper too. So I’m all about giving value to my followers.
What’s can we expect next from you?
I’ve built up enough followers from my TikTok videos to be able to do what I want now. So, I’m probably going to go back into fine dining. I will be going back to Harvey’s Point when it reopens, part-time though, as I can see myself continuing this food content creation. I’d like to start a brand. I have a couple of good ideas for home food utensils that haven’t been done yet. Hopefully, they’ll do well.
I’m also in the process of starting my YouTube channel where I’ll be showing people how to do fine dining the easy way, not the hard way. So people can recreate this stuff at home. I’m just going to make it fun, friendly, and entertaining so people are more inclined to actually make it themselves.
Check out I Love Cooking’s Instagram page to see Daniel making his Sausage and Egg McMuffin.
Sausage & Egg Mc Muffins: (serves 4)
For the muffins:
- 240ml milk
- 6g yeast
- 25g sugar
- 340g T55 Flour (strong)
- 5g salt
- 1 egg
- 30g butter (melted)
- 5g polenta (cornmeal for dusting)
- For the filling:
- 300g pork mince
- 4 slices of cheese
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp msg
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- Start by mixing the milk, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Make sure the milk is room temp before mixing, let sit until foamy.
- Mix the strong flour and the salt with the dough hook, then when the yeast mixture is ready add that to the mixer while adding the egg and butter afterwards. Make sure the butter is room temperature otherwise it will kill your yeast and you will have to start again, so please be careful.
- Once the dough is stiff like shown in the above video, place it into a greased bowl and allow to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Knock the dough back by pressing holes in it with your hands when ready and shape into 4 even shaped balls. Dust them with polenta and let sit for 10 mins.
- Toast the muffins on a dry pan each side and bake @180C for 10 minutes until cooked in a pre heated oven and set these a side for later.
- For the sausage burger mix the pork mince, msg and pepper together and shape in a ring mould, fry each side on a frying pan and baste with butter.
- For the egg, using the same pan, place a ring mould in the pan and crack an egg in on low heat, gradually turn the heat up and add in water to steam covering with a lid.
- Add your favourite cheese and build your muffin!
- Enjoy! Let me know how you get on.