As a culinary specialist at San Diego Unified School District, Juan Zamorano spends much of his workday training staff and writing cooking manuals, but he doesn’t get to spend much time hands on in the kitchen.
A chef for over 30 years, Zamorano recently started making home cooking videos on TikTok as a way to return to his roots.
“[The videos] are like a creative outlet for me in my present job,” he says. “You can take the chef out of the kitchen, but you cannot take the kitchen out of the chef.”
What began as a fun outlet has allowed Zamorano to reach a wider audience and set the groundwork for him to implement newfound skills in his role at San Diego Unified.
Learning new skills
In his videos, Zamorano tries to put a spotlight on fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as local farmers and vendors. One of his latest features a strawberry vinaigrette made with locally grown strawberries.
Sometimes, the videos are quick and can be shot and edited in a day, while others are made over a two- or three-day period. While the cooking portion is easy, he says, the editing can be difficult, especially with TikTok videos, which have a time limit of one minute. Keeping sequence and making sure to tell a story—“to have a good beginning and a good end”—isn’t always easy, he says.
Zamorano also found the editing controls on TikTok to be limiting, so he purchased an editing software to help expand his creative control during post-production.
Reaching new audiences
Zamorano has built up an audience of roughly 250 followers and routinely receives comments and questions from viewers. While his goal is not to become a social media star, he says it’s been fun to interact with others online, and he encourages his peers to start playing around with different digital platforms and to find new ways to reach others.
“I think all of us in school food should start venturing out to try new ways of communicating with all of our stakeholders,” he says, adding that the skills he has taught himself while making the videos can be applied to his day job. “There's a lot of transferable skills that I will be able to apply to my daily work in the future.”
Zamorano also hopes to use his new editing abilities for things like staff training videos. “We have a workforce of 1,400 employees,” he says. “So, learning these skills is a really good asset for us in the future.”