For TikTok Chef @NanaJoe19, Her Recipes Are An Act Of Cultural Appreciation

“My family always calls my recipes experiments, but they always work.”

Originally Published: 

Even the least experienced home cooks have likely found themselves falling down rabbit holes on the food side of TikTok. The video-sharing platform can turn just about anything into a super viral online moment — butter boards, tinned fish, grinder sandwiches — and for California-based home cook Alejandra Tapia (@nanajoe19), it turned her lifelong love of cooking into a full-time career as a content creator.

Tapia was born in Mexico. As the oldest of four sisters, she prepared meals for her younger siblings as early as age 9, but what was once considered a chore eventually became a passion. “My mom would always tell me not to waste the food on my ‘experiments’ because she's really traditional when it comes down to her recipes and I’d say, ‘We’re not doing that. We’re tweaking it. That’s the way we’re going to do it.’ My family always calls my recipes experiments, but they always work,” she says. As for those “experiments,” they’ve gotten Tapia nearly 250 million likes on her page, a spot on TikTok’s Latinx Trailblazers List for 2022, and the opportunity to cook a vegan meal for Lizzo. It’s safe to say her experiments have been working. Her 6.4 million followers would probably agree.

Tapia makes it a point to add a Mexican-inspired spin to trending foods and shows followers how to make traditional Mexican dishes. “Whenever I marry cultures with food, I like to introduce people to the love that I have for culture in general. I show them a piece of my culture and then a piece of another one, and make something for people to enjoy. It’s a way of showing love to my followers and my supporters,” she says.

Below, Tapia talks through a typical day in her life, where she emphasizes “every last minute is accounted for,” from dropping off her teenager at school to the seemingly endless piles of dishes that take over her kitchen by the end of a day of filming.

24 Hours With @NanaJoe19

3 a.m.: My husband gets up and goes to work, and I stay in bed for a few more hours, especially if it’s not a day I’ll be packing lunch for him and his co-workers, because if it is, they take their lunch around 8 a.m.

6 a.m.: I set my alarm for 6 a.m. on busy days, but I know I’m going to wake up at 7. I check my phone in bed. I check my emails. I check my text messages. I check my social media and answer comments here and there.

7:15 a.m.: I get up, I make my coffee — I refuse to drink instant coffee, it gives me the jitters — so I brew a pot. Then I start prepping for whatever it is that I’m making that day. Most of the time, I’m not just making one meal. I’m always trying to make three things all at once.

8 a.m.: I drop my teenager Josiah off at school by 8:30 a.m. He runs on my time because he can never be early for anything.

9 a.m.: I come back home and I start prepping baby Joseph’s little snack box that I make him for when I’m at the gym. I take my pre-workout — I know I shouldn’t be drinking coffee with pre-workout, but it gets me going.

10 a.m.: I go to the gym and stay there for an hour. This is what I consider my me time because I put my earphones on and forget that everybody else is waiting for me to do something else.

11:30 a.m.: I start doing everything in the kitchen — I’m a tornado in there. I start preparing, cooking, and filming my content because I like to post my first video of the day by 1:30 p.m. I try really hard to finish everything that I have to do within a timeframe when I get home. I have two hours to finish cooking everything that I have to cook and then post by 1:30.

11:45 a.m.: I’m cooking. The main things at my house I always have to have are onion, garlic, tomatoes, and chilies. With those four ingredients, you can make so many toppings for things, whether it’s salsa, chilaquiles, huevos [eggs] rancheros, chicken ranchero, or camarones [shrimp] rancheros. My best advice? Invest in a good, nonstick pan.

1:30 p.m.: My first video of the day has been filmed, edited, and posted to my TikTok page and I can breathe again. I start cleaning the pile of dishes that I have and the living room that I let my son Josiah destroy because while I was in the kitchen filming, he was in the living room doing the absolute most. I clean everything up and get dinner ready. Sometimes if I have leftover food from whatever it is that I made, then that’s what everybody eats.

4 p.m.: I’m always late to pick up Josiah from high school since every minute of my life is accounted for. If I’m not done cleaning yet, he’ll help me with the rest of it when we get back home. If that gets done early enough we’ll head to the grocery store, but if not we’ll save that part for later and continue cooking dinner.

5 p.m.: My husband gets off of work around 4 p.m., so dinner gets served super early at my house, but we all eat at different times. Around this time, I’ll play with Joseph and we go to the park and feed the ducks their bread and lettuce. We do our little routine with him, let him burn out his energy, and come home.

6 p.m.: If I haven’t already, I go to the grocery store and buy everything else that I have to make for my next couple of meals because this stuff doesn’t fit in my fridge. I wish I had two or three fridges in my house so I could at least shop for a whole week, but I can’t, so I shop for two days at a time. I make my weekly plan on Sundays for the recipes I’m doing that upcoming week.

7:30 p.m.: I return home from the grocery store, put all of the groceries away, and make sure all of my dishes are washed — the tower of dishes never ends; I wash dishes about three times a day. I have to have a clean canvas to start everything that I have to do for the following day.

8 p.m.: I start pulling groceries back out depending on what I’m making tomorrow and prep what I can ahead of time. I can cut up the vegetables, I can make the salsas, I can make the chicken, I can make the beans ahead of time, so in the morning, I can rewarm everything for my recipes.

11 p.m.: After three hours of prepping for the next day and cleaning yet again, I’m done in the kitchen. I’ll go to the living room for a little breather and get on my phone to unwind.

11:30 p.m.: I jump in the shower and do my nighttime routine.

12 a.m.: I finally lay down in bed, knowing I won’t actually get to bed until 1 or 2 a.m. My brain never sleeps when it comes down to creating content. It’s such a mentally draining job, but I love it like this. I love this.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

This article was originally published on