How one Toronto foodie is using TikTok to highlight diverse local eats

There are a few things you can expect from Mariam Salim’s TikToks: witty reviews of local eats, a drawn-out “honestly”, and, more recently, poetry. Salim, 26, known as foodieinhoodiiie on TikTok, is using the platform to showcase the diversity found in Toronto’s local food scene. From bubble tea to injera, Salim is on a mission to try them all. And she’s bringing her more than 100,000 viewers along with her.Salim isn’t the only one documenting her foodie adventures on TikTok. On the app, #torontofood has over 100 million views, while #torontofoodie has a little over 44 million. Under both hashtags, TikTokers are showing off the different bites you can find in the city. With reactions filmed in real time and video clips no longer than a minute, TikTok lets foodies get the kind of engagement that they can’t find on other apps.Salim, in particular, wants to showcase Toronto’s diversity, which comes in the form of both the food she reviews and her delivery on camera. Salim speaks with an accent distinct to Toronto, which has roots in the city’s Black diasporas, including Caribbean and East African communities. She often gets comments from viewers that say, “Tell me you’re from Toronto without telling me you’re from Toronto.” “It’s actually crazy how much diversity there is and how you can try food from people who are born in those countries and who learned (to cook) from their grandmothers or their grandfathers,” Salim said. “It’s a beautiful experience.”When coming up with her username, foodieinhoodiiie came almost instantly to Salim: she regularly wears a hoodie over her hijab and is a proud foodie. Though Salim has been a food enthusiast for as long as she can remember, things really ramped up in 2019 when she and her friend decided to try restaurants they’d pass by on walks in Toronto. Before Salim knew it, she had visited an encyclopedia’s worth of food spots in the city.“It kind of escalated during the pandemic because there wasn’t much to do except to eat,” Salim said. “I actually decided to (make TikToks) just for fun because I knew a lot of spots by that time. And I know that a lot of businesses have been struggling during the pandemic. So I wanted to help out in that sense.”In her first two TikToks, which she posted earlier this year, Salim didn’t include a voiceover for her reviews. It was in her third TikTok, a review of The Night Baker’s cookies, that she gave a spoken review. It’s also her most-watched video with almost 200,000 views.Mitchell Cabrera, co-owner of The Night Baker, felt overjoyed when he saw Salim’s TikTok, especially when she praised their Ooh Bae cookie. It’s flavoured with ube, a purple yam common in desserts from the Philippines, which is where Cabrera and his wife/co-owner are from. Cabrera and his wife have run The Night Baker since 2017 and for them, foodies on social media are an essential part of creating brand awareness. “It’s different for us to tell people that our cookies are good, but when it’s coming from foodies, it feels more genuine to other people,” Cabrera said. “It’s like your friend telling you, ‘Hey, try something that’s good.’ ”Thanks to her sweet tooth, Salim has reviewed more than one Toronto cookie spot. Her favourite interaction with a follower — when a person influenced by her review went out, ordered from the spot and tagged her in the post — was in response to her review of Biggie’s Biscuits. Seeing people supporting local businesses because of her TikToks is one of the best parts of running her account, Salim said.Biggie’s Biscuits was built on social media, launching just this past May. Its owner, Colleen Hamilton, wants to eventually open a brick-and-mortar store and reviews from foodies like Salim are bringing her closer to reaching that goal. Around the time Salim posted her Biggie’s review, Hamilton also hosted a giveaway on her Instagram and garnered 400 new followers within a month. Today, she continues to connect with foodies who’d be interested in reviewing her cookies. Hamilton is also slowly putting more focus on TikTok over Instagram — she finds TikToks more genuine than Instagram posts.“(On TikTok), you see people actually react to the food when they actually first try it,” Hamilton said. “I think TikTok will be really big for the food community.”As Salim continues to make TikToks, she tries to add variety in how she presents her reviews. Lately, she’s been experimenting with poetry. In the future, she hopes to start featuring videos of her own culinary creations, especially Kenyan food made with recipes handed down from her mother. “There isn’t like a lot of Kenyan restaurants in Toronto, unfortunately, so I’ve been trying to pick it up and learn from the best,” Salim said. Celina Gallardo is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: cgallardo@thestar.ca

How one Toronto foodie is using TikTok to highlight diverse local eats

There are a few things you can expect from Mariam Salim’s TikToks: witty reviews of local eats, a drawn-out “honestly”, and, more recently, poetry.

Salim, 26, known as foodieinhoodiiie on TikTok, is using the platform to showcase the diversity found in Toronto’s local food scene. From bubble tea to injera, Salim is on a mission to try them all. And she’s bringing her more than 100,000 viewers along with her.

Salim isn’t the only one documenting her foodie adventures on TikTok. On the app, #torontofood has over 100 million views, while #torontofoodie has a little over 44 million. Under both hashtags, TikTokers are showing off the different bites you can find in the city. With reactions filmed in real time and video clips no longer than a minute, TikTok lets foodies get the kind of engagement that they can’t find on other apps.

Salim, in particular, wants to showcase Toronto’s diversity, which comes in the form of both the food she reviews and her delivery on camera. Salim speaks with an accent distinct to Toronto, which has roots in the city’s Black diasporas, including Caribbean and East African communities. She often gets comments from viewers that say, “Tell me you’re from Toronto without telling me you’re from Toronto.”

“It’s actually crazy how much diversity there is and how you can try food from people who are born in those countries and who learned (to cook) from their grandmothers or their grandfathers,” Salim said. “It’s a beautiful experience.”

When coming up with her username, foodieinhoodiiie came almost instantly to Salim: she regularly wears a hoodie over her hijab and is a proud foodie. Though Salim has been a food enthusiast for as long as she can remember, things really ramped up in 2019 when she and her friend decided to try restaurants they’d pass by on walks in Toronto. Before Salim knew it, she had visited an encyclopedia’s worth of food spots in the city.

“It kind of escalated during the pandemic because there wasn’t much to do except to eat,” Salim said. “I actually decided to (make TikToks) just for fun because I knew a lot of spots by that time. And I know that a lot of businesses have been struggling during the pandemic. So I wanted to help out in that sense.”

In her first two TikToks, which she posted earlier this year, Salim didn’t include a voiceover for her reviews. It was in her third TikTok, a review of The Night Baker’s cookies, that she gave a spoken review. It’s also her most-watched video with almost 200,000 views.

Mitchell Cabrera, co-owner of The Night Baker, felt overjoyed when he saw Salim’s TikTok, especially when she praised their Ooh Bae cookie. It’s flavoured with ube, a purple yam common in desserts from the Philippines, which is where Cabrera and his wife/co-owner are from. Cabrera and his wife have run The Night Baker since 2017 and for them, foodies on social media are an essential part of creating brand awareness.

“It’s different for us to tell people that our cookies are good, but when it’s coming from foodies, it feels more genuine to other people,” Cabrera said. “It’s like your friend telling you, ‘Hey, try something that’s good.’ ”

Thanks to her sweet tooth, Salim has reviewed more than one Toronto cookie spot. Her favourite interaction with a follower — when a person influenced by her review went out, ordered from the spot and tagged her in the post — was in response to her review of Biggie’s Biscuits. Seeing people supporting local businesses because of her TikToks is one of the best parts of running her account, Salim said.

Biggie’s Biscuits was built on social media, launching just this past May. Its owner, Colleen Hamilton, wants to eventually open a brick-and-mortar store and reviews from foodies like Salim are bringing her closer to reaching that goal.

Around the time Salim posted her Biggie’s review, Hamilton also hosted a giveaway on her Instagram and garnered 400 new followers within a month. Today, she continues to connect with foodies who’d be interested in reviewing her cookies. Hamilton is also slowly putting more focus on TikTok over Instagram — she finds TikToks more genuine than Instagram posts.

“(On TikTok), you see people actually react to the food when they actually first try it,” Hamilton said. “I think TikTok will be really big for the food community.”

As Salim continues to make TikToks, she tries to add variety in how she presents her reviews. Lately, she’s been experimenting with poetry. In the future, she hopes to start featuring videos of her own culinary creations, especially Kenyan food made with recipes handed down from her mother.

“There isn’t like a lot of Kenyan restaurants in Toronto, unfortunately, so I’ve been trying to pick it up and learn from the best,” Salim said.

Celina Gallardo is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: cgallardo@thestar.ca