Jonathan Tso (JT) started making food content when social media was still all about photos. The content creation space has changed since he started, but he remains one of the most followed foodies online.
Learn more about Jayteetakesabite’s journey and how he adapted to the changes in the industry.
Who is JT?
Jonathan Tso, or jayteetakesabite, is a food and travel content creator with over 110,000 Instagram followers. Check his profile to discover a wide variety of dishes available around Las Vegas and in other parts of the globe — whether that’s Indian food, sushi, oxtail stew, and many others.
Tell us more about your background and how you got into food and travel content creation.
JT started in 2017 when he was still in San Francisco. He recalls going to two or three events in a day, where he would eat and find new restaurants.
In 2018, JT moved to Las Vegas and had to start again as a content creator. He knew countless food spots back in San Francisco but had to relearn the best food spots in Las Vegas. He admits that the process was a bit of a challenge but was fun as Las Vegas was booming and had become a foodie destination.
How do you choose which restaurants and destinations to feature in your channel?
JT doesn’t have a preference. He’s not very picky and is always willing to try new things, like cooking food for the first time or trying new foods.
But when choosing what to feature in his channel, he shared that everything happens inbound — he’ll receive emails from restaurants and comments from people telling him to check out a particular place. He also has other foodie friends and influencers who suggests great spot to eat at.
How do you balance your personal life with your life as a content creator?
JT admits that balancing different roles is challenging. He spends a lot of time creating content but still tries to go to the gym as often as possible to “keep that waistline down.” Not to mention he also has another job on top of being a content creator and working out.
JT’s daily schedule is packed, and he doesn’t have any breaks. But surprisingly, he says he thrives in this kind of environment.
Can you walk us through your creative process for creating content?
JT begins his creative process by figuring out what a restaurant is known for or thinking about what would do well on video before he visits any restaurant. Once he gets to the restaurant, he orders the food the restaurant is known for and talks to the business owners to see if they have any input.
JT likes to get to know the restaurant owners, network with them, and tell them he’s there to help. But in terms of understanding their story, where they came from, why they opened the restaurant, and how they see their future, JT wants to get that information straight from the owners.
From there, he orders food and just plays around with the food. He calls it “food porn,” where he makes food look sexy. He’ll record multiple shots of him playing with the food — whether that’s a noodle pull, butter pour, or cheese pour.
You mentioned that whenever you go to a restaurant, you try to eat the dishes the restaurant is known for. Is that something you choose, or do the restaurant owners tell you?
About 75% of the time, JT chooses which dishes he will feature, but there are also times when he asks the restaurant owners for recommendations. The latter usually happens when JT doesn’t know the menu that well and needs some guidance in terms of what food will do well picture-, video-, and taste-wise.
He also relies on the recommendations of restaurant owners in order to feature unique, off-menu, or secret menu items. He cited an example when he visited a popular West African restaurant. He ordered an oxtail soup, and the owners recommended pairing it with fufu, a dough made from boiled and ground plantain or cassava, used as a staple food in many parts of Western and Central Africa. It didn’t look too pretty in the video, but dunking it into the soup took the dish to a new level.
How do you engage with your followers and build a community?
JT tries to reply to as many DMs as he can. He admits being unable to reply to every single one but tries to respond to DMs sent to his stories. He also tries to engage with the other accounts he follows whenever he has the time.
Recently, JT started posting more casual Instagram stories so his followers would get to know his personality more. He adds, “And that they have something to reply to. So that sparks the conversation between me and the audience, which is cool.”
JT received positive responses after changing his approach on his Instagram stories. Because of this, he’ll try to continue what he’s doing and use this approach to engage better with his audience.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a food Instagram account?
JT advises aspiring food content creators not to worry and start an account to see where it goes. He says, “You’ll never know what comes of it, right?”
JT shares his experience on how he started six years ago, and now, he learned how to adapt and change with everything that happens in the content creation space. Back in 2017, content creation was all about photos, then it was videos and carousels, then photos and videos, and now, it’s straight videos.
He also recommends aspiring food content creators to visit their favorite restaurants first and make cool content first and see what happens. He also says just to keep going because there will be hard and happy days, but he assures us that the entire process is super fun.
He shares, “I’ve been to some of the most amazing restaurants in the world through having this account. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s so much fun.”
Tell us about your experience creating content for TikTok versus other social media accounts.
JT cross-posts, meaning the content he uploaded on Instagram Reels will also go to TikTok. Although he wants to spend more time on TikTok, his schedule prevents him from doing so. Plus, he considers Instagram his baby, and he still holds onto it.
Tell us about the challenges you faced when you started with your content or as a content creator and how you overcame those.
One of JT’s most significant challenges was adapting and moving with the times. He found it tough to change as the changes kept coming.
The pandemic also affected JT as a content creator. During this time, Las Vegas was shut down for three months. When everything opened back up, restaurants would only accept reservations. But it was because of the pandemic, restaurant owners saw the value of social media marketing and how it’s a viable tool for marketing.
JT recalls how TikTok went viral during this time and how TikTok videos could go viral overnight. When restaurant owners saw that impact, they would invite content creators to shoot content. JT says, “It was still a busy time for us even during COVID. We were all wearing masks and shooting content together.”
Tell us about the most rewarding aspect of being an influencer and content creator.
Aside from going to the best restaurants and tasting amazing food, JT cites being able to create something for himself and paving his own legacy are the most rewarding aspects of being a content creator. The process — from creating content to engaging with his audience — does take a lot of time, but in the blink of an eye, it’s been six years already, and he wouldn’t trade any of the experiences he’s had for anything in the world.
Another thing would be being able to help local business owners increase their sales. JT also mentioned how being an influencer and content creator helped him find friends and be part of a community of individuals who love to eat. “It’s a very supportive community, and I feel nobody’s hounding at each other.”
How do you stay on top of the latest trends in the content creation space?
To stay up-to-date, JT watches popular accounts in Vegas and across the country to see what they’re doing and how they’re making their videos. He watches a lot of YouTube videos from “social media gurus” but tries to take everything with a grain of salt. He uses these resources to get tidbits here and there and learn what others are thinking and saying online.
In terms of algorithm changes, JT believes that nobody can fully understand these algorithms. So, he has to adapt to certain things, like making videos shorter or longer based on what the algorithms are pushing.
Can you share some tips on growing your Instagram and TikTok following and engagement?
JT has these to say: watch a lot of content and engage with everybody and anybody in your local area. Follow them on social media, engage with them by commenting on their posts, and just try to become friends with them. And when you have the chance to meet with them in person, strive to know them both as a person and a foodie.
He also advises staying consistent and trying to post every day, two to three times a day, if possible. Staying consistent makes it easier for the algorithms to push content.
For JT, it’s also important to be open to opportunities and visit restaurants the moment you receive an invitation. If you don’t get any, just visit your favorite restaurant, enjoy their food, and try to create content for them on social media.
What’s your favorite food destination or restaurant?
JT loves a good steakhouse. He recently went to Japan and called the country a foodie heaven. There was so much food out there, and everywhere he turned, he’d see a food stand or a food vendor. He says that the whole experience of diving into another culture was a lot of fun, and he had up to six to seven meals in a day.
What are some of the trends or changes we expect to see in the creator economy space in the next few years?
JT says the trends toward social media have been making strides, but he expects social media to make even bigger strides in the future. He also mentions that short-form content will be more important as more people watch and create it.
Another trend JT expects to see more in the future are creators being authentic and telling a story. He explains, “Having a story to tell about a restaurant will be more engaging for a person watching the story versus just talking about the food.”
How do you think brands and businesses should approach working with creators and influencers?
For JT, businesses should reach out to creators more. Businesses should understand the value that the influencer brings when they find the right influencer. It’s also important for businesses to give the influencers freedom in terms of what they can produce.
JT adds, “Businesses trying to build a lasting relationship with the influencer would be cool, too.” For instance, businesses and influencers will have a year-long contract or six-month contract and have the influencer post content every month or every two months. This way, the audience associates the brand with the influencer and vice versa. Jaytee believes this partnership will benefit everybody: the brand, influencer, and the audience.
Is there something you wish you had known when you first started as an influencer and content creator?
JT wished he had known how time-consuming these roles are. He also wished he had known the number of opportunities out there.
What’s next for you?
The F1 Races are coming later this year, and JT is looking forward to partnering with a restaurant to get a cool view of the races. He’s also visiting Denver next month, so his audience can expect him to showcase some of Denver’s best restaurants.