We’ve been following Daen’s epic rise on TikTok (@DaensKitchen) from day dot and watched her quickly establish herself as one of Australia’s most popular digital creators.
Drawing on her Mediterranean heritage, her food uses everyday pantry staples but coaxes out complex flavours to turn a few ingredients into nutritious yet indulgent meals.
Her ASMR-style viral food videos rake in millions of views with the sounds of olive oil satisfyingly glugging out of the pourer, hundreds of garlic cloves thudding against an enamel dish, a knife scraping against the crisp, golden surface of toast, and the crackling of coarse sea salt between two fingers.
But having her content in front of the eyes of millions has meant that the title of ‘Olive Oil Girl’ hasn’t come without its tribulations. “Growing up in a Mediterranean household, olive oil played such a huge role in my mother’s cooking and I had never even thought twice about it until TikTok,” says Daen. Behind the keyboard, some TikTok users have jumped on her videos with antagonising comments, unnecessarily counting the calories of her creations that are bountifully seasoned with high-quality olive oil. “It can be extremely triggering for me as, with most people and especially women my age, we grew up in a time where we were constantly told that certain foods were either good or bad and our bodies could always look better.”
“Receiving negative comments has been an extremely eye-opening and confronting experience for me. Unfortunately, I get hundreds of negative comments a day and they tend to focus around my weight, calorie intake and how unhealthy my food is.”
Daen rises above, using these moments as an opportunity to educate and have discussions around relationships with food and body image. And for that we are grateful.
As well as taking the time to chat with us, Daen has generously shared her recipe for Olive, Herb and Sticky Balsamic Focaccia.
Thanks for chatting to us, Daen. First up, what did you have for lunch today?
For lunch I ate a homemade miso soup with tamagoyaki. I am trying to perfect the technique of cooking tamagoyki so I find myself eating it almost every day for lunch! I then ate a slice of my strawberry, lemon and port pie with a cream cheese pastry as I needed to film and photograph that one today.
We’ve been following your evolution on social media from the very beginning. Take us back to the moment you decided to start showcasing your recipes online.
Daen’s Kitchen began over three years ago and it started out as a private account to show my mum and close friends what I was cooking for the week. Mum and I live in different states yet we find ourselves talking almost every day with the conversation always revolving around food. As I started to take very ad hoc photos of my dinner for my mum, I started to realise just how much I loved doing what I was doing. It wasn’t just the cooking part that I loved but it was the entire process. From styling and photographing my recipes to going to the markets to buying produce, becoming friends with the local market vendors and spending countless hours on YouTube learning the ins and outs of how to use a professional camera.
Never in a million years did I think I would be that person spending their last $50 at Spotlight for photography props or all their free time watching microphone reviews on youtube. It was a passion that absolutely consumed me! I began looking into ways that I could turn my passion into a job. I started to work with brands, build my website, create food videos and continue to evolve.
I’ve worked extremely hard to take Daen’s Kitchen from a small private account to a self-sufficient company. I am so grateful that I get to do something I absolutely love every day!
Where do you draw inspiration when developing new recipes?
Most of my recipes stem from my childhood and Spanish and Italian heritage. I grew up with such a huge influence of food around me. My mum, nanna and abuelo were all incredible cooks. My mum is Spanish and Italian so there was a huge Mediterranean influence in what we ate. You will notice that almost all of my recipes use olive oil and garlic.
I love to create recipes that use minimal and simple ingredients but look impressive and are incredibly indulgent, generous, and nutritious.
Several of your recipes have gone viral (with good reason!), what was it like when it happened for the first time?
My first viral video was my mum's crispy crumbed chicken. It has now reached 15 million views but when it hit one million, I was so excited! I felt like my hard work was finally being recognised.
After that, everything changed for Daen’s Kitchen. My followers were rapidly growing, everyone was making my recipes and I was getting so many amazing job offers. However, I was watching from the sidelines because I gave birth to my daughter 2 weeks later and had new things to focus on like being a mum!
I must admit, the excitement of a video going viral will never get old for me!
What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a TikTok sensation?
To find out how passionate people get about the use of olive oil! I can’t live without olive oil and it’s very rare for me not to have it in my pantry as it would lead to a minor panic attack when I go to cook something. Growing up in a Mediterranean household, olive oil played such a huge role in my mother’s cooking and I had never even thought twice about it until TikTok.
There is always a chain of heated debates in my comment section with olive oil always being at the centre of them. To be honest, it still shocks me to read some of the negative comments around olive oil. It is an extremely healthy fat that I like to also use as seasoning. And no matter what anyone says, my love for olive oil will never go away! I’ve even recently released my own olive oil with Rich Glen Olive Oil.
Being online means your content is put in front of millions of people and, sadly, some of those people can say some really negative things! How have you dealt with this side of your job?
Receiving negative comments has been an extremely eye-opening and confronting experience for me. Unfortunately, I get hundreds of negative comments a day and they tend to focus around my weight, calorie intake and how unhealthy my food is. It makes me extremely sad that we live in a world where people feel they have the right to comment on what someone else is eating.
It can be extremely triggering for me as, with most people and especially women my age, we grew up in a time where we were constantly told that certain foods were either good or bad and our bodies could always look better. It’s taken me years to unlearn the bad behaviours that stemmed from this.
I love food. It is a part of me, my identity and my heritage. I once again have a beautiful relationship with food and that is something I want to continue to promote! I would never want my daughter to be ashamed of what she eats or how she looks. I want her to be proud of her body so I will do everything I can to create a safe space and promote a positive relationship with food.
As much as I would love to say that I have tuned out the negative comments and I don’t let them upset me anymore, that is just sadly not the case. I think people tend to forget that a real person is behind the screen and I do read those comments. Whenever I find myself falling into a dark space, I just take a little time off social media, allow myself to recharge and remind myself why I do what I do.
What is your advice for people looking to start on TikTok or IG in food?
I get asked this question almost every day by aspiring content creators and my best advice is to just start! I know that can sound quite cliché but it truly is the best advice I can give. There will always be an excuse for why you’re not ready to start showcasing your work to the world and I understand just how vulnerable you need to be to do so. But the only way you are going to get to the places you want to be is by starting! You will learn as you go! Just try not to be too hard on yourself.
It’s taken me a long time to get my content and business to a place I am happy with. I look back at my first few photos and they're horrifically bad but in some way, I am very proud of them as they show my growth and a willingness for me to be vulnerable. And I am sure in three years from now, I will look back at the work I am doing now and see just how far I have come!
And lastly, can you share your favourite recipes for when you want…
Something sweet — I always choose savoury over sweet but I am such a sucker for pavlova with mangoes and cream.
Something summery — A simple salad with fresh basil, juicy tomatoes and burrata drizzled with high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Something after a rough day at work — Mum's bread stuffed eggplants as no matter where I am eating them, they always taste like home.
Something for breakfast — Eggs benedict for the weekend and a cup of black coffee and croissant during the week!
Something for your daughter, Indi — My nanna’s broccoli pasta — it’s her favourite thing to eat!
You can follow Daen on TikTok here
Discover her exclusive Olive Oil made with Rich Glen Olives, available on her website
and make her Olive, Herb, and Sticky Balsamic Focaccia — full recipe here.