Cooking his way to the top
According to Firebelly, a top-ranked social media marketing agency in the United States, food videos are the most watched content across all platforms.
Whether they are trying out new recipes, or mukbangs with a copious amount of food, food influencers have become a dominating force on the online space.
Kenneth Tebogo Middleton is amongst those creatives who possess the skill to make our mouths water at the swipe of a screen.
With a combined 377, 000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok, Middleton is Botswana’s most followed food influencer.
In this feature, the Molepolole native takes us on his journey with food and how he has managed to secure the bag, one ‘like’ at a time.
Let’s tuck in straight away – tell us what initially piqued your interest in food?
My interest in food started when I became bored of the food I was eating and the limited options available at shops and restaurants.
At the same time I started becoming unsatisfied with the quality of food offerings from our local establishments.
And how did this lead you to becoming a food content creator?
I started trying out recipes I found on websites, cookbooks and on Youtube.
I wanted to get feedback on the food I was making, which led me to start a Facebook group called Foodies Botswana.
It started as a small circle of friends and family sharing pictures of their meals to become a large and thriving community of 310, 000 members as of today.
So as I kept making new dishes and learning more and more about everything related to food, I fell in love with cooking and naturally I was becoming better and better but I am sure I still have a long way to go.
I wanted to share recipes for the dishes I had learned and so I have since opened my own Facebook page [67, 000 followers], Instagram page [165, 000 followers] and a TikTok account [145, 000 followers].
Your content is unmatched locally and demonstrates how intentional you are about your craft. Is there a team behind your creations? Take us through your creative process?
For now there is no team.
I am a one man band.
I cook, I take pictures or videos and I do the editing and posting.
As far as choosing the recipes of what food to make, because I am on a mission to learn and try out as many dishes as possible, what I share is basically what I have been learning and perfecting or what I want to learn next.
Once in a while I could have a series of content dedicated to groups or categories of food.
For example, I recently did a chicken wing series because there is a variety of wing flavors and also wings seemed culturally relevant.
Next I am planning on doing a ‘rice so good, it don’t need gravy’ series because I am bored of the usual way that rice is served with a sauce, soup or gravy.
I have made a few in the past like garlic rice but I have been doing a bit of desktop research to find other dishes of rice that are so flavorful that they do not require a sauce, soup or gravy.
So, after all the cooking, I wonder, who gets to share in the spoils of your creations?
Usually friends or family, or anyone who is luckily around after I have clocked and completed a video or picture shoot.
What about the cleaning up, who is responsible for that?
When making content there are more than the usual amount of dishes and utensils that need cleaning because I want to go all out and I will not spare any effort or tool that I might need.
Also for videos it is sometimes necessary to make several attempts at something or sometimes you need to make several takes in order to achieve the right shot.
At the end of the day I clean it all up with my headphones on and a YouTube video playing.
I find cleaning dishes very therapeutic and I try to do it as patiently and diligently as possible.
At this time I get to think and reflect on a lot.
I hope men out there are taking notes! So do you post the same content across all your social media platforms or do you have a strategy considering the different audiences on each platform?
Yes, I do post the same content across all platforms almost at the same time because I have noticed that I have a different audience on each platform.
Some dishes or types of food actually perform better or worse on different platforms.
I suppose also different platforms attract different types of people.
Since you first started, how has your content, as well as the process of creating it, evolved?
Well, initially I only did pictures and recipes in picture form, with a still image for each major step.
I have since started creating video recipes because I wanted to grow a following on TikTok.
Also, Instagram Reels became a focus for Meta and I saw this as an opportunity for growth because they were, and still are, pushing good video content across the world.
What kind of content gets you the most likes and views?
Depends on the platform and also it varies quite a lot.
My pictures do well on Facebook, while video does not quite reach the same results.
On Instagram, my video recipes do particularly better than pictures.
Considering Botswana hasn’t arrived at a point where you can actually get paid for content, how do you monetize yours?
Because we are unable to monetize with in-stream ads and payments from the platforms, the only other way I am able to make money is through brand deals or brand promotions.
This is where a brand has a product to promote or to generally promote their brand.
I would then use their product in a video recipe.
I have also been able to monetize our Facebook group by getting brands to sponsor our food challenges.
Members would then create user generated content which further a brand’s visibility, or to launch a new product into the market.
What is your definition of being an influencer and do you identify as one?
I suppose I would define ‘influencer’ as someone who has the ability to affect consumer behavior or purchasing decisions of segments of a populace, particularly online or on Social Media.
Given this definition, I guess I could consider myself one!
So what do you love most about being a food influencer?
What I like the most is that it is tied to my personal growth as a cook.
I love the fact that I am on a journey to master cooking and learning all these wonderful dishes from all over the world.
I am so excited to have a subject to work on and learn all by myself.
I go to sleep thinking about the things I am learning about food, I dream of the food I want to make and when I wake up it is the first thing on my mind.
Should we anticipate a ‘Kenneth Tebogo Middleton Cookbook’ anytime soon?
Yes, I will most definitely launch my own cookbook soon.
I am working on it but it is such an extensive project.
It is a lot of work and I will need to collaborate with a publisher, food photographers and food stylists to bring my vision to reality.
My book will be called ‘Satisfaction’ and will feature some of my favourite dishes from all over the world.
If you were trying to impress someone on a hot date, what would you serve up?
If I was trying to impress, I definitely wouldn’t just make one dish.
It would have to be a 3 or 4 course meal.
What the dishes would consist of would depend on who the person is.
We all like different things, so I would have to tailor it to what they like and I would try to elevate it so that it is not the same as how they have had it before.
Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this weekend?
Same as every weekend: I will be working on my craft – either researching, making a dish or creating a content plan for the coming week.