This Quirky Office Chef is Asia’s Newest Internet Celebrity

This Quirky Office Chef is Asia’s Newest Internet Celebrity

You’re at the office and suddenly you’re craving for grilled chicken. Instead of ordering from UberEats, why not break apart your computer and turn it into a grill?

This is what Ms. Yeah did. Ms. Yeah, who goes by her stage name, is China’s newest internet star. But the Chengdu native is known not so much for what she cooks – it’s how she cooks it. Videos of her cooking elaborate dishes with everyday office supplies went viral in China.

Her antics – cooking spicy Sichuan skewers in an electric kettle, frying a pancake on a computer case, making buns from scratch in a standing steam iron – have catapulted her to internet fame.

“I’ve been cooking in the office long before I filmed myself doing it and uploaded the videos online. Though I wasn’t cooking dishes as challenging as you see in the video. It was more like cooking dumplings in a tea kettle—that sort of easy stuff.” Ms. Yeah told Quartz. 

Ms Yeah’s colleagues at online content producer Onion Video can be seen in the background as she finds unlikely alternatives to traditional cookware and often she’ll make utensils from scratch. The programme planner has fast become the company’s biggest money-spinner.

“The other day, I was at a construction site picking up some bits and pieces to use as tools in my video. A girl appeared out of nowhere, called me Xiaoye and asked to have her photo taken with me,” Ms Yeah, who did not want to give her real name, told the South China Morning Post from her office in the Sichuan capital. 

Ms Yeah has 2.55 million fans since she started posting videos on Weibo in January and she is an example of how internet fame can be turned into cash. 

Ms Yeah computer pancake video. Image: Quartz
Ms Yeah the office chef. Image: Quartz

Internet celebrity is a big business in China. Businesses generated by internet celebrity, including revenues from viewership, advertising and sales of relevant products, raked in an 58 billion yuan (about $8.5 billion) in 2016, more than China’s box office in 2015, according to CBN Data, a Chinese commercial data company.

Ms Yeah said, adding that her company charges 500,000 yuan (US$73,600) to feature a product in one of the cooking clips.

“I’m very careful in selecting the right products based on the principle that the sponsors won’t interfere with our creativity and harm the interests of our fans,” she said.

The office chef has, however, built up a far bigger overseas following than internet celebrities such as Papi Jiang – in less than six months.

On Facebook, Ms Yeah is followed by some 2.8 million people from around the world – from Southeast Asia to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. That’s more than her following on Chinese social media. Her fans leave words of encouragement and comments, mostly in English, marvelling at her latest creations.

She has about 380,000 YouTube subscribers and her top video, posted in March, has chalked up over a million views. But the numbers are still in the hundreds on her Twitter account.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all blocked in mainland China, and but the accounts were all set up over the past few months.

Ms Yeah office, Onion Video, said to the South China Morning Post that it was negotiating with potential investors, without further elaborating. However, its online strategy suggests an ambition that extends beyond mainland China.

Are you interested to be an internet celebrity?


Indah Gilang Pusparani

Indah is a researcher at Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Daerah Kota Cirebon (Regional Development Planning and Research Agency of Cirebon Municipality). She covers More international relations, tourism, and startups in Southeast Asia region and beyond. Indah graduated from MSc Development Administration and Planning from University College London, United Kingdom in 2015. She finished bachelor degree from International Relations from University of Indonesia in 2014, with two exchange programs in Political Science at National University of Singapore and New Media in Journalism at Ball State University, USA. She was awarded Diplomacy Award at Harvard World Model United Nations and named as Indonesian Gifted Researcher by Australian National University. She is Researcher at Regional Planning Board in Cirebon, West Java. She previously worked as Editor in Bening Communication, the Commonwealth Parliament Association UK, and diplomacy consulting firm Best Delegate LLC in USA. Less
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