Features News TikTok

Meet the Food Content Creator That Normalizes Mental Health Care and How Food Plays a Positive Role

Photo: FoodwithSoy

In recent years, and with the help of social media, the food content game has exploded. You no longer need large camera crews to produce quality content, and now many prefer more stripped down relatable guides into the world of food.

Technology at its best helps to uplift voices from the unlikeliest of places. One such voice is Soy, or FoodWithSoy, a successful food blogger making her mark by not only sharing delicious foods with her followers, but also highlighting small and local businesses. 

Raised in Florida, her mother taught her everything about Vietnamese cuisine, passing down their cultural heritage. It also was the only area of food her mother covered.

Where Soy grew up, food options were less diverse. Thankfully, watching Food Network fed her natural curiosity. She would discover classics like Philly cheesesteaks and dumplings and attempt to recreate them. Although she had no culinary experience, her interest would follow her to college in Florida, a more culturally diverse place where she experimented with recipes. 

“The first time I drank boba was in college. A lot of people hear that and they’re like ‘What, that’s so crazy!’ But there are so many people out there that want to learn about things but don’t have access to it right away,” Soy shared.

Photo: FoodwithSoy

Following college, Soy moved to California where she found that sometimes experimenting is far from the real deal. A melting pot of international cuisines, California allowed her to experience authentic versions of amazing foods she’d been learning about. As a recent transplant, eating at local restaurants also helped Soy adjust to a new home and jump start her food blogger journey.

Although Soy feels like she got a late start in life, being open minded and eager has allowed her to cultivate over a hundred thousand followers. Her content now impacts people worldwide, showing how food has the ability to spark joy simply by watching a video and trying it for the first time. What makes Soy stand out is how she not only highlights new foods but also shares meaningful narratives behind them. 

“The main point about the content I make is, I want to go out there, explore the world as much as possible with an open mind and heart. I’m here to share my experiences and to show people that food is not scary. Just because you haven’t seen it before, I want to make it more accessible so that you understand it and want to go out and try it. And if you like it, you share it with a friend of yours.”

The impact of the pandemic inspired Soy to move towards content that is supportive of small and local businesses. The same restaurants which helped her discover her passion were facing closure and Soy knew her platform had the potential to help. Jayrell Ringpis, owner of Snoice in San Diego recalls it feeling like a “second grand opening” after Soy shouted out their famous Halo-Halo, a Filipino dessert.

Photo: FoodwithSoy

Mental health is another area Soy has a passion for. Growing up she never had conversations about how to deal with mental health. Realizing her experience mirrors many others, she uses her platform to help normalize talking openly about mental health and also how food can play a positive role. 

“We’re all just people on this tiny rock trying to make it through like human beings and I love opening up that conversation with people all the time. When you’re able to normalize something that’s not considered a beautiful thing and make it something beautiful I think it makes the world a better place.”

After being recently awarded 2022 API trailblazer for TikTok, Soy plans to continue sharing meaningful content. She hopes to leave her followers with a sense of safety and courage to go out and try new things. What’s most important to Soy is focusing on the now while continuing to carry the purpose and drive to tell stories that matter.

Culture Features Recipes TikTok Video

Content Creator Highlight: The Golden Balance

Photo: Facebook

If you didn’t know, this is Arab American Heritage Month. While this is a newly recognized celebratory tradition in the states, it’s long overdue. The purpose of this month is to honor Arab Americans and Arabic speaking Americans by highlighting their culture and contributions to the world. 

Here in the U.S., Arab cuisine is loved yet the culture’s representation is not prevalent. One content creator illuminating Arab culture and traditions is Ahmad Alzahabi, aka The Golden Balance. Inspired by his last name, which means golden, Alzahabi initially had an interest in documenting his journey to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Not long after he started sharing his daily routine, his culinary content began garnering attention, drawing more and more eyes to his delicious creations.

Alzahabi admits to having more culinary passion than experience in the beginning. During high school, he interned in Dubai at a four-star Swiss hotel, which taught him the ropes of working in a restaurant. While his knowledge grew, his hunger for more culinary growth pushed him onward. Fast forward a year later, along with countless trial and error attempts, and now The Golden Balance has millions of followers across three social media platforms. 

His self confidence undoubtedly plays a part in The Golden Balance’s success. Instilled in him by his parents, Alzahabi believes that it isn’t an insecurity if it’s something you embrace. This spirit can be felt in his content, which not only features mouthwatering food recipes, but also messages of positivity and encouragement. 

Although it was never his original intention, The Golden Balance has helped shed light on his Islamic roots. He later realized that for many Muslims, sharing their culture was a hurdle. Burgeoning fan interest in his culture inspired him to not only share more of it, but was also the origin of his tagline, “Now Bismillah.” The suggestion was made to him by Arab fans of his content who naturally identified with it. Alzahabi fondly recalled the impression these cultural interactions had on him:

“In their head it was like, sometimes it’s tough to embrace who you are, given your surroundings. So, when they see someone that’s representing who they are, and what they say and normalizing words in Arabic or foods that previously were looked down on — like look at this weirdo, look what they’re eating. And now, it’s making it cool, people feel represented. People feel represented through you, your name is Ahmad Alzahabi, you’re putting out dishes that your mom taught you that are completely Syrian, you’re saying ‘Bismillah’ at the end of every single video. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, I just said it because someone commented on it and thought that’s a good idea.”

During last year’s Ramadan, an Islamic observance of fasting, prayer, reflection and community, Alzahabi would break fast around 8pm or 9pm, and then create food content until the wee hours of the morning. Through this experience he was inspired to begin sharing his process along with other aspects of his culture through a series aptly-named The Ramadan Chronicles.

Moving forward, Alzahabi hopes to continue sharing his culture and making the kitchen a lot less intimidating for people. While he’s unsure if he does the best job expressing it, his goal is to encourage you to embrace who you are and be unapologetic as a person through food. “You gotta embrace the process,” he underscores. 

To follow Ahmed Alzahabi’s journey and learn some amazing recipes while you’re at it, you can visit his website here.