The calming relatability of Emily Mariko, TikTok’s latest food influencer
Viral food, in general, falls into a few easily identifiable categories. There’s your regular cooking trick – think air fried eggs. There’s your viral, stunted food that’s insanely weird, like the pepper sandwich craze. And then there is, for lack of a better term, professional food. Stuff like Alison Roman’s chocolate chip shortbread cookies that were simply known as The Cookies or the entire ambitious account of TikTok influencer @Sad_Papi, a remarkably cold gourmet chef.
Then there’s Emily Mariko, a very popular – and growing – food influencer on TikTok. There is nothing so fussy about his food – his most famous dish includes reheated rice, leftover salmon, and seaweed wrappers. She does not offer a diet. She doesn’t do anything puny or repel energy in the eyes of insects, like men who are budding influencers. Hell, she barely speaks in most TikToks and has gone super viral for leftovers.
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And yet, Emily Mariko is the last of the food internet Thing. She has amassed 2.5 million followers on TikTok, posting mostly aesthetic meals, albeit relatively straightforward. The Bay Area creator has added nearly a million subscribers in the past two days alone. She is the queen of soothing and accessible food. Things that make you leave, all at once:
Wow she did a great job doing that
Why do I feel calm?
Damn it looks good, why am I so hungry
i should live like this
Here, watch his most popular TikTok, which has surpassed 30 million views. It’s leftover salmon, shredded with a fork, topped with a pile of white rice and then reheated – mostly – with an ice cube and a sheet of parchment that will bring the food to life. Then everything was mixed with kewpie mayonnaise, soy sauce and sriracha, topped with avocado and eaten with seaweed strips and potted kimchi.
Watch Mariko take a big bite, the seaweed creaks, and a satisfied smile settles from ear to ear. I want my lunch to do that.
Credit: screenshots: tiktok / @emilymariko
It is not perfect food. But it’s weird, excuse my French here, fucking haunting.
Everyone seems to feel that way. Scroll down your For You (FYP) page and be greeted by people who cook Emily Mariko’s dishes or people who wonder why they love Emily Mariko, or TikToks who reference her without even Actually referring to her.
Here, look at this, and this, and that. Everyone is talking about her.
Hell, TikTok itself is posting about it.
Mashable contacted Mariko through several channels, but she did not respond to a request for an interview.
Peruse Mariko’s account and you are greeted by a mixture of almost mundane but soothingly organized. Everything has its place and every place has its thing. The homemade strawberry syrup is tastefully potted, the vegetables are washed, prepared and stored in containers, the carrots and cucumbers peeled very carefully.
For people who love food – what is a lot from TikTok – Mariko’s Account is a respite for confident man-chefs who (literally) slap their meat, or people who sell you a diet crop, or yet another air fryer hack.
Yes, Mariko’s leftover salmon and rice lunch looks tasty, but maybe that’s what she’s selling without realizing it really This seems good. Her story is a window to a tasteful apartment where lunch is cooked but not prepared meal in the sense that there is boiled broccoli and steamed chicken. There is real flavor – sriracha and soy and salmon and, breathless, fitness meal preps, lovely tufts of white rice – but you can still microwave it. Everything looks good like hell but it’s not perfect or particularly difficult.
“Emily Mariko is living the adult life we should all be living”, tweeted one person. And that’s all. It’s not aesthetic like some vacation on Instagram, but her account shows an assembled life even if it’s imperfect. It’s good food, well made and well planned and my brain distracted as hell loves to see what I could be, if only …
I really dig here, but even the way Mariko squeezes kewpie mayo – clenching it in a clumsy, clumsy fist like it’s a squirming snake – would never cut into a TikTok promising fine dining. It’s not what Mariko gives you. TikToks aren’t super fast, like a lot of people (mostly men) do on TikTok. They are paced like in real life, as if we are voyeuristically watching someone enjoying their lunch break. It’s a glimpse into how we might live if we weren’t too tired or sad or busy or whatever.
Have this relatively simple avocado toast in a recent TikTok. Mariko is toasting bread, mashing an avocado, covering with a scrambled egg and sriracha. But there are little touches – a cream cheese schmear, a well-salted, folded-up avocado – that make it only surprising enough to be better than your average TikTok recipe. But it’s just pretty basic – there’s avocado toast and a simple egg left over, and its iced coffee is poured into a cup, with no effort to make it pretty – to make it feel.
It’s like a scene on a TV show, where the tension breaks down and you see a character doing something deliberate and slow – like cook the eggs in silence – placing you in their life for a moment. i saw myself Actually do this before logging in to watch a screen for eight hours.
I’m not sure Mariko will ever be a big Food Network star. It’s hard to imagine him doing all this loud and loud stuff. But his TikTok and other social accounts are increasingly focusing on all of his life. His clothes, his exercise, his cleaning routine.
It adds up. Because who wouldn’t love a calming and thoughtful life? A place where everything is put in its place, where you eat good food but where you don’t spend all day preparing it. The one where you’re just an ice cube and a sheet of parchment away from a big, relaxed, satisfied smile.