food content creator

From Making Videos With Someone Else’s Phone To Digital Stardom: Polan’s Journey As A Food Content Creator

This week, we’re featuring Polan, a food content creator known for his innovative food content. Polan’s story is about passion and success, from using a borrowed phone for making videos to scoring partnerships and collaborative deals with big brands in the food industry.

Tell us about yourself.

First of all, my name is Polan, a nickname I carved for myself out of my first and last name. I am a chef, food blogger, photographer and videographer. I also run a pastry business; I make the best pastries in Lagos. 

Why food? 

My passion for food started from hunger. I didn’t want to be hungry. I haven’t always liked to cook. I grew up with three sisters and my mum. I couldn’t even make noodles. When I went to school to get my pre-degree, I planned to rely on cereals for breakfast and order lunch and dinner from restaurants. I didn’t even have a stove or pots to cook, so I ordered food for the first two weeks. Nobody told me; I knew I wouldn’t last long. 

One day during a two-week break from school, I saw a guy blending pepper and tomatoes to make what I assumed was stew. Just seeing him made me realise that I wasn’t above cooking.  I told my mum to teach me how to make stew that weekend. After that, I googled the recipe for everything else I wanted to cook. 

As I began to cook more, people told me how much they liked my cooking, which encouraged me to do more. Around this time, I was admitted to the university to study food science and technology. It’s not exactly about cooking, but understanding food science made me feel special. That also spurred my passion for food. 

How did you start your food creator journey?

Being on the internet, I was always drawn to food challenges. Whenever I could, I’d participate, and that’s how I became a food creator. I won a lot of contests, and eventually, I worked in a pasta company. That experience helped me realize I didn’t want to work in the food industry.

Then Covid happened, and I decided to become a chef during my time at home. I found a culinary school I liked, and even though it was a bit pricy, I followed through.  It helped me realise I wasn’t cut out for working in a restaurant, so I started a pastry business. 

In 2021, in a bid to create content to market my business, I ventured into photography, and that’s how my food content creator journey started. I remember that day. My friend Bankole and I were talking about food content, and I realised everyone was doing the same thing on the internet. I wanted to stand out, so based on that conversation, I started putting out content. For a while, I didn’t get the results I expected, so I paused it.

I resumed posting content in January 2022 when my friend forced me to use my phone to make a video. This time, I received many positive comments that encouraged me. I kept at it. When I started, I had less than 1000 followers on Instagram, but at the end of 2022, I had over 100,000 followers. 

SEE: How To Be A Successful Food Content Creator

What challenges have you faced on your creator journey?

My first challenge was starting my food creator journey without a phone. For the first two months, I had to record videos with someone else’s phone. Sometimes, while I’d be recording a video, a call would come in, and he’d have to answer. It was quite tough, but eventually, I got a phone, and things became easier.

The next struggle was not earning money for my content even though I was investing in it. Creating content as a food content creator is expensive, you know. You have to buy ingredients to make the food, and sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way you planned. This means everything goes to waste.

SEE: How Daniels’ Love for Cooking Made Him Millions

There’s also this thing where your audience insists on the content they want to see. In Nigeria, if your content challenges the regular way of doing things, people react with heavy undertones. One time, I made egusi soup and bread. Someone in the comment section asked, “Why do we have to Westernize everything?” I had to respond that it was not written on a slate that pounded yam and egusi was the only egusi combination we could permit as humans. 

I believe food is dynamic and that every meal we have today was created because somebody was trying something new. From the minute I started cooking, I committed to not making meals in the same boring way if I could help it. Nigerians are not always open to doing things differently, and I am trying to change that narrative. 

What is your favourite dish that you have made?

I like the idea of shakitidodo — a combination of shaki and dodo. Instead of using gizzard, I decided to try it with shaki, and it banged. The video got a lot of engagement, and that made me happy. 

How did you overcome the challenges you faced as a creator?

One of my biggest inspirations is Chef T of Diaryofakitchenlover. We are friends, and one day, when we went out, she talked to me about starting with what I have instead of waiting until I have the perfect food content creator kit. 

She reminded me that the sky is big enough for everybody. As a food content creator herself, it was heartwarming to hear. She helps me, pushes me, posts my content, and tags me. and she was even willing to feature in one of my videos. It meant a lot to me. 

Since then, my zeal and desire to go on, no matter what, have doubled. I show up every day and hope for the best. Also, watching the fruits of my labour blossom was encouraging. For example, when my followers hit 100k, I was motivated to do more. 

What are some of the milestones you’ve reached so far?

Aside from the increasing growth of my audience on Instagram, I have gotten partnerships and collaborative content with big brands. I remember when the first one came in. I was so excited I knew nothing about setting a rate card or negotiations, but it all paid off. 

How has being in the digital space affected your journey?

Social media has allowed me to meet people I usually wouldn’t have met in real life. Sometimes, when I go back to my DM, I laugh because the people I have had the opportunity to meet could only have been possible through social media. 

Recently, I received a direct message from someone really big. Long story short, we have a project coming up soon. The Internet is full of endless opportunities. 

What advice do you have for aspiring food creators and creators in general?

The next best time to start is now. Don’t look at how time has gone. Every minute matters, so why are you stalling? 

Also, start with what you have; you can have some things. I started with the basics, and I didn’t have big gadgets, but eventually, everything fell into place. Be open to growth, and see what happens. 

SEE: Building a Personal Brand: Tools, Examples and Strategies