Viral TikTok video recipe prompts feta cheese shortage

It all started with a pasta dish.

"Add cherry tomatoes, olive oil and salt to a baking dish and toss," says a woman in a viral video posted to TikTok by the account @grilledcheesesocial.

A blogger in Finland apparently posted this recipe to her site three years ago. Another Finnish foodie blogged her version of oven-baked feta pasta a year later. And then, just this January, @grilledcheesesocial uploaded its own, now-viral, video recipe for the dish, precipitating a national feta shortage and justifying this story which found FOX 5 NY chatting with a cheesemonger on Wednesday.

"About two weeks ago, when we went to place our weekly order for feta, our distributor, who's based in Providence, Rhode Island, said they were out of stock and sent me this link to this TikTok video," Saxelby Cheesemongers co-owner Anne Saxelby said.

Saxelby Cheesemongers receives 2,000 pounds of cheese at its Brooklyn warehouse every week. Pre-pandemic, it then distributed that cheese to more than 100 restaurants in the city. It still ships to consumers and cheese shops all across the country.

"Our mission is to support small artisan cheesemakers in the United States," Saxelby said.

But as of late, TikTok's done as much to sustain those cheesemakers as have cheesemongers like Saxelby.

"The same week we had this thing come up with the feta, another friend of ours who has a TikTok channel posted a video about another cheese that we sell called Winnimere made by a small producer in Vermont," Saxelby said, "and we instantly sold out of that, too."

New York Times internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz said these minute-long video recipes are easy to make "with usually just a few ingredients that everyone has around."

Lorenz also described these viral videos as visually pleasing in every step of their dishes' creation.

"You're not doing a lot of complicated chopping or anything like that," she said. "It's like throw the pasta in, put some tomatoes, put some feta, there you go."

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Saxelby whipped up some oven-baked feta pasta on Tuesday night. "It's really good," she said.

Lorenz eats vegan and so has not made the original iteration of the viral dish. "There's another vegan version of this pasta that's also viral in vegan TikTok," she said.

And now we know vegan TikTok is a thing. Whatever corner of social media one frequents, it now seems no realm of offline life remains impermeable to the trends of the Internet — even the domain of a cheesemonger.

"We work with about 50 small farms and cheesemakers, mostly in the Northeast," Saxelby said.

"We're seeing recipe content spread in a new way," Lorenz said.

Saxelby Cheesemongers | Chelsea Market | 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011 | 646-892-3077