Since its launch in 2017, video sharing app TikTok has evolved into one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. In between all the short clips of thirst-trapping dances and silly pranks, TikTok has also become a destination for food videos, and a Houston woman named Amie Balesky is behind some of the platform’s best.
Known as @thebalesky on TikTok, Balesky joined the platform about 10 months ago, and ever since, her star has been on the rise. For those who haven’t seen Balesky’s cooking videos, she’s known for offering step-by-step instructions for recipes that are decidedly involved. In one recent video, she taught viewers how to make brioche in less than a minute. Then, she transformed that day-old brioche into French toast scented with cinnamon and nutmeg. Another video details Balesky scoring a lamb breast, crusting it with fresh herbs, and roasting with white wine.
Balesky’s 300-something videos, featuring how-tos for everything from homemade pierogi to chocolate chip cookies and infused with a pinch of sass and goofy humor, have proven wildly popular. She’s racked up 613,000 followers and amassed more than 20 million total “likes” on TikTok, all from her kitchen in Cypress.
In addition to home cooking, Balesky also considers herself a connoisseur of Houston’s restaurants. She’s a big fan of Hong Kong Street Food in Asiatown, a restaurant owned by one of her closest friends, and ritzier spots like Masraff’s. “If I’m going to go out, it’s going to be fine dining because I don’t have time to make a sauce that takes six hours,” Balesky tells Eater. “When I do cook at home, it’s like an art to me. I want to do it really well and base my food on all these different cultures, because white people food can be so boring.”
Even though she studied accounting in college and works at a software company by day, Balesky says that she started dreaming of becoming a chef at about 4 years old. “I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu for two years, but I figured out that my body just wouldn’t let me do it,” Balesky says. “I have a genetic illness, and it won’t allow me to stand up and cook in a kitchen for 15 hours every day.” But TikTok, with its short videos and lack of professional pressure, was a perfect fit.
Originally, Balesky didn’t even plan on making cooking videos. She joined the platform at the behest of an ex-boyfriend’s 14-year-old sister, who said she was being bullied on TikTok. Balesky made an account to support and like the sister’s videos, and eventually ended up making her own. “I’m kind of a social justice warrior, so I started watching her stuff and it made her feel better, and then my family pointed out that I had been wanting to do YouTube for a while, so why not TikTok?,” she says. “I didn’t think anyone would watch me, but I started it and the views went from 100 people to 100,000 people and it just keeps growing all the time.”
She’s been particularly surprised by the feedback that she gets from her fans on TikTok, most of whom are fully amazed by her dishes. She says that people frequently comment with questions about where to find some of the luxe ingredients she uses, like Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste and King Arthur Flour’s rich black cocoa, and she always tries to respond. “They’re realizing that they can actually make these things,” she says. “And they’re seeing that if they get all the quality that goes into it, they’re going to get a really great product.”
What sets Balesky’s videos apart from many on TikTok is the quality of both her recipes and her ingredients. There are plenty of recipes for smoothies and instant ramen and crockpot dishes made with condensed soups, but few detailing complex processes like the making of brioche. “They’re mostly blah, but it’s what people are used to,” she says of the majority of TikTok recipe videos she sees. “People are used to fast, they’re not used to making good food slowly. Those pierogi took me about 5 hours, but you see it in a minute. It takes a lot of time and love, and a lot of people just aren’t able to do that.”