Ms Yeah shot a video of herself cooking food using office supplies among her deadpan colleagues and suddenly became a Chinese internet celebrity. Now she represents a global sensation as her YouTube channel reached over 4 million subscribers
She is 24 years old, holds millions of followers on Weibo and became a Chinese internet sensation by cooking food on YouTube. So far so good, except the fact that to prepare creative dishes of the Chinese culture, she uses ordinary office supplies.
Her name is Zhou Xiaohui, but she is known as Ms Yeah The Office Chef – 办公室小野 in Chinese – and she managed to reach over 20 million viewers with a video showing her preparing a watermelon feast among her office’s desks.
Since February 2017, Zhou Xiaohui realized videos where she transforms everyday office supplies into cooking tools. She started with a mobile-shot two-minutes-clip where she cooked slices of beef using a flatiron on her office desk among her silent working colleagues. Now, Ms Yeah creations range from making a DIY oven out of a desk drawer and a light bulb to turning the office water dispenser into her personal hot pot.
© YouTube. Ms Yeah defines herself as “a walking recipe from Mars”. She became an international internet celebrity by cooking food at work using office supplies.
Although she does not speak, her broadcast is hilarious. Her deadpan attitude, as well as the colleagues who sit unperturbedly beside her while she plays her absurd performances, are the successful ingredients in her recipe for virality.
While The Office Chef finds unlikely alternatives to traditional cookware and often make utensils from scratch, the scenes depicted in the videos are surreal but also brilliant. Now her YouTube channel counts 4.7 million subscribers and her social profiles’ followers are as good.
With 4.7 million subscribers on YouTube, Ms Yeah is one of China’s newest internet celebrities. A featured product placed in one of her cooking clips could cost the product’s company $ 73,600.
Even before these videos, the 24-year-old from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China, already experimented with alternative cooking methods in the office. For example, even before she became viral all around the world, she confessed she had often used a hot kettle to cook dumplings.
In an interview with China Daily, Ms Yeah told she came up with the idea when she saw a colleague using an electric iron on his shirt but she did not expect so much international attention when she uploaded the first video.
Nevertheless, Zhou Xiaohui’s skill does not come out of nowhere. She studied video editing and directing in university but when she started out, she shot her first clips with just one colleague using an iPhone. About her cooking skill, she told she learned by watching the father who used to run a hotel.
Now she owns a 6-people team and the videos shared on Ms Yeah’s channels are the results of teamwork with the goal to create viral contents. The team, in fact, works for a Chengdu-based creative media company – Onion Video 洋葱视频 – which specializes in generating original content as well as marketing.
According to Ms Yeah, one entire video usually takes about 4 days to be produced. Although the first clips were more homebrew, now the process goes through brainstorming to scripting, while the actual performance could take from one to two days to be shot.
However, despite the fact Ms Yeah’s productions are now created with the intent to become viral, her funny videos found popularity way before the company’s co-founder, Yangde Nie, decided to invest in the project.
Food, DIY, and a speechless narration are the ingredients for The Office Chef’s international success.
The receipt for success comes from the mixing of interesting ingredients and international trends. First and foremost, the cooking theme. Food is, in fact, a renowned bridge among cultures whose trend cross the domestic borders and attract netizen from all around the world.
© Unsplash. Suan Cai Yu. In her channel, Ms Yeah uses food to gain the interest of both foreign followers as well as Chinese people who recognize in the video their own tradition.
“The reason my videos get so much attention is because the recipes I make are mostly traditional Chinese meals. No matter where you’re from, food is an international language and everyone loves it,” said Ms Yeah to China Daily.
Another aspect of the videos that intrigues people is the limitless creativity of DIY. Especially for what concerns international viewers, they tend to be interested in creative clips that show the process of actually building things.
Finally, the absence of dialogues is what makes it an international success. In Ms Yeah’s scenes, food plays the role of a universal language while the actions and DIY projects represent the words everyone can understand.
However, this kind of speechless narration could also be a double-edged sword as the interest in this kind of entertainment might not stand the test of time. Even if the location of the office is popular as it represents a familiar place where white-collars often relax with lunch or snack breaks, Yangde Nie recently revealed the intention to extend the project in the family environment in order to be able to create interaction among more than one person.
For what concerns the cooking video, the office surely plays the role of an unexpected scenario useful to create discussion as well as virality. In the meantime, it could also be a limit. Therefore, Zhou Xiaohui has recently expanded the “office” scene to Alibaba’s place where she used the eight water dispensers to cook hot pots on the spot.
Unusually for a Chinese celebrity, The Office Chef’s channel is even more popular overseas than locally also thanks to the use of English on foreign social media.
Ms Yeah is now one of China’s newest wanghong or internet celebrities, and she is considered one of the most popular Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) of the Chinese social networks. Sponsors are queuing up to have their products placed in her cooking clips at a cost of $ 73,600. The Office Chef is thus an example of how internet fame can be turned into cash.
Wanghong economy is used to describe the emerging Chinese influencer marketing based on social media, which can translate into profit through e-commerce and online advertising. When it comes to cross-border e-commerce, and even domestic e-commerce, Chinese consumers are turning to KOLs to better understand the latest products and trends so wanghong play an important role in this new digital world.
© Weibo. New Balance recently embraced the influencer marketing and launched a campaign featuring Papi Jiang, China’s number one wanghong.
China’s internet celebrity industry experienced an extraordinary boom last year, as social media personalities got skilled at converting their influence into cash and video clips became one of the core exhibiting methods to present valuable content. According to the 2018 China Online Celebrity Economic Development Insight report, the value of the video clip market rose 156.3% to over $ 700 million last year with a forecast to reach $ 11 billion by 2020.
The wanghong business is so big in the PRC that a college in Zhejiang province – the Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College – started a three-year associate degree course on the art of becoming an online star in 2015.
The Office Chef has, however, built up a far bigger overseas following than Chinese internet celebrities in less than six months and her overseas popularity is expanding further. Therefore, following her channel’s cross-border trend, Ms Yeah engaged in many YouTube and Facebook activities in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2017.
Moreover, since the channel was born, the Onion Video received many commercial requests, but Ms Yeah revealed she is refusing any offer that is not in line with the project, even if the team seems to consider the idea of expanding in the movie or television industry.
Though the videos are fun to watch, the cooking videos’ strength is that they show things people want to do but are unable to. In China, food represents not only the joy of life but also a mean to relieve a white-collar job pressure. In a strong KPI – Key Performance Indicator – culture Ms Yeah thus builts a utopic scenario that turns the office into a better place through food and creativity.
“Our videos aim to make people laugh, and I hope that when everyone watches our videos, they’ll be able to be happy and see the often-ridiculous side of life,” said The Office Chef.
Zhou Xiaohui is actually the face of a creative team and the company’s biggest money-spinner. Her role as the protagonist of the videos is still the focal point of the project’s success. Both local and foreign followers love her natural makeup or dressing showing that, although the project is smart, it is the person and her innate sense of humor that people love the most.
However, even if popularity could wane as quickly as it rose, it seems like Ms Yeah’s creativity and the Onion Video’s marketing skills are going to build the bridge that will bring wanghong to become new overseas sensations.