Coronavirus has turned Gigi Hadid and Stanley Tucci into Instagram celebrity chefs

Katy Hall

Even a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine a world where watching celebrities cook at home was our new obsession. Yet, such are the times in which we find ourselves, writes Katy Hall.

Yet, such are the unprecedented times in which we find ourselves, where actors, comedians, musicians and reality television stars are the new commanders-in-chief of the home kitchen thanks to Instagram.

Oscar-nominated actor Florence Pugh sharing her preferred pizza toppings not for you? That’s okay, Jennifer Lawrence is discussing roast chicken cavity stuffings with Amy Schumer. For those with more of a sweet tooth, James McAvoy is all about the biscuits, cookies and cakes. Oh, and in case you missed it, Stanley Tucci is now the world’s official authority on cocktails.

Without doubt, though, the runaway celebrity home cook of our confinement has been former Victoria’s Secret angel Gigi Hadid, and her pasta alla vodka recipe – which can impressively be made in ten minutes and only requires pantry staples.

Within hours of sharing the recipe via her Instagram Stories, ‘Gigi’s vodka pasta’ went viral and has since seen tens of millions of home cooks replicating the dish. It’s not too soon to assume that a cookbook from the 25-year-old is almost certainly now in the making.

In some ways, it feels counterintuitive to turn to the most glamorous people in the world for comfort food recommendations during our time of crisis, but there’s something to be said for taking tips from the average home cook – famous or not – as opposed to professionally trained chefs who often have decades of experience, technique and Michelin stars under their apron. Yes, they may be shacked up in mansions and have top-of-the-line equipment, but there’s still an approachability and togetherness to the experience.

For home cook Jessica Nguyen, who was made redundant as a result of coronavirus in March, the move to Instagram cooking paved the way for an unexpected career change.

“If I’m being very honest, I used cooking as a way to focus my energy on something and get out of bed while I was still trying to find a job,” Nguyen, who previously spent a decade working in the beauty industry, says. “But now this is the job!”

Nguyen first began sharing recipes sporadically a little over a year ago, using cooking as a way to “help decompress and switch off” after a long day at work and on weekends.

Now, she shares recipes via Instagram (@jessica_nguyen_), writes a weekly newsletter, and collaborates with brands around the world to create dining content. In just over a month her following has risen from 4,500 people to over 28,000.

“If you had told me that I would have lost my job and then become some kind of cooking influencer I would have laughed in your face,” she says. “But I’m just pleasantly surprised. And it’s created a really nice community and it’s something really wholesome – especially on a platform like Instagram where that’s not always the case.”

Nguyen, who describes her tutorials as “choose your own adventure cooking” says that while we will likely rush to return to restaurants and once again have “that dining experience most of us can’t replicate at home”, the revived, and in some cases new-found, love of home cooking is here to stay long-term.

“People have to eat to survive,” she says, “and if you’re going to eat you may as well commit to cooking something delicious.”

Not even the most famous of celebrities with the strictest of diets could argue with that. @katyhallway


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