You may not be one of them (yet) but thousands click on Eitan Bernath’s social media pages daily for recipe inspiration or zany, food-related content.
The 20-year-old New Yorker — talking to me online from the Manhattan apartment he recently moved into from his family home in New Jersey — said the number of hits is huge:
“In 2022, my cooking videos reached 250 million individual people. I got a few billion impressions, so 250 million people. It’s an insane number — it’s hard to fathom.”
No surprise as he’s everywhere, with hungry internet surfers following him on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Plus, he's a television personality, as resident chef on Drew Barrymore’s daytime nationally syndicated talk show — a gig that would have many of us quaking in our aprons.
Not this Zoomer, who was first cast in the show at 18. He takes it in his stride.“I love being on camera. Especially with Drew — she’s so fun! There are a ton of things that make me nervous, but it’s a weird thing that this doesn’t.”
Even a visit to the White House last Chanukah left him unperturbed, despite appearing on camera with the United States’s Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, to discuss “our favourite foods, Chanukah and antisemitism. I’ve been to the White House menorah lighting two years running. It was very meaningful to celebrate there — hearing the brachot and the songs we sing there.”
Perhaps his lack of fear stems from having kicked off his on-camera career at such a young age. He started cooking at eight years old, alongside his maths teacher mother, Sabrina Bernath. He says she and his father, Jason Bernath (an occupational therapist), used food as an opportunity to widen their son’s horizons.
“Growing up, with both my parents on teachers’ salaries, we didn’t really travel much, but we did travel through food in the kitchen. My mom would cook Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Italian food and they always used those as opportunities to teach us. They’d say we’re making this cuisine — they grow these types of vegetables there or they’d use this.”
As his kitchen confidence and skills grew, he cooked for a wider audience, taking bakes for his classmates for class parties at New Jersey primary school Yavneh Academy. “I became the cooking kid when I realised that I could eat the foods I wanted even quicker if I cooked them myself.”
At 12 he entered an open-casting call for a one-off children’s version of US cooking show Chopped and ended up on air. “I got knocked out in the first round, which was rough on little Eitan.”
Not that it stopped little Eitan’s journey into social media stardom, with the precocious pre-teen using his moment in the sun as a springboard into the ethernet. “I created Facebook and Instagram pages and started documenting my culinary journey.”
Follower numbers kept growing so he capitalised with a cooking blog and YouTube channel — all while still attending his Jewish day school. He says all the social media platforms had hundreds of thousands of followers at that point, giving him a steady income (from advertising) throughout his secondary school years.
It took commitment. “I was working every second I wasn’t in class. I’ve always been a workaholic. If I had a free period at high school I’d go and sit at my computer and work on my next blog post or on editing social media posts. On Sunday and Saturday nights, after school or before school — I’d always wake up around 5am or 6am — way before my bus came — to work. I was very motivated.”
His parents also made sacrifices. “They let me take over the garage and build a set in there to film cooking videos; and allowed me to take over their kitchen basically every single day constantly — it was a mess — as well as driving me to the grocery store 500 times a day and paying for the ingredients before I was earning money and could help pay for them myself.”
The tipping point came when he joined TikTok at the end of 2019.
“I grew very quickly on TikTok into the millions of followers. And kind of with that came rapid growth on all the other platforms.”
He left high school close to being able to support himself purely from the income he was making from social media content — which includes fast-moving online recipe videos; fly-on-the- wall reels of his day-to-day life including TV appearances and endless ( shouty) versions of food-related TikTok trends. “Cooking’s my passion but I really love entertaining people.”
There’s also more than a sprinkling of Jewish-related material relating to festival foods and Holocaust Memorial Day, among other things. He describes himself as a “loud and proud Jew in the media” wearing a prominent Star of David and using his profile to fight antisemitism by calling out antisemites.
He also works to engage younger Jews. “I recently partnered with an organisation called Jew Belong, that does a lot of outreach work and education work with non-affiliated Jews to teach Jews who may not have any form of Judaism little ways in which they can incorporate it into their lives. It’s an incredible organisation.”
Now fully independent financially, he has two full-time staff — scaled down from eight he employed until recently making content for other people.
“At its peak I was running 10 other social media channels and that was before I had any employees — I did that myself while I was in high school. Right now, I’m very focused on my own content so I shut down that part of the business — you have to be nimble in social media as there’s a lot of volatility.”
His cookbook Eitan Eats the World was published last year, building on the idea his parents used of educating through food with an international range of recipes — from Mexican egg dish Chilaquiles Rojos to green shakshuka in his breakfast chapter, and Indian chaat to his grandma’s chicken soup with a world in between before you land on a tahini chocolate cake and a Cheddar apple pie. Bernath says there’s also a progression in skills throughout the book — from simple PBJ pancakes to a more complex babka — that he guides his readers through with a step-by-step photo guide.
Whether deep-frying ice lollies, making microwave mac and cheese or sharing his thoughts on antisemitism on one of his social media platforms, I think we’ll be seeing plenty more of Eitan.