A gay TikTok star is entertaining millions by recreating unique recipes from “yesteryear” with a dash of personality and LGBTQ+ humour.
B Dylan Hollis tells PinkNews that he’s just “some toothpick-looking guy shouting in his kitchen with recipes that aren’t even mine”. But in reality, he’s an icon on TikTok who’s gathered a massive 8.8 million followers on the platform for his over-the-top presence while recreating wacky recipes from the past.
In one video, he aggressively spoons his “nemesis” lard into a saucepan and screams “fire” in a small kitchen as he melts it for a peanut butter soup recipe from 1941. Hollis explains the soup – which he describes as a bowl of “hot beige” – was designed to provide “ideal macronutrient intake” for people during the war.
He adds “floof powder”, “moo juice” and a can of minced clams to flour for a 1974 fishy biscuit recipe. As he spoons the strange mixture into a muffin pan, he screams “What are you?” and quips that’s what he used to ask himself about his own sexuality in high school.
He jokes about how everyone wants a “deep nine inch” as he measures a tin for a vinegar pie – yes, you read that correctly. He teases there are “two fruitcakes here” as he recreates a 1915 recipe for a pork belly fruitcake on TikTok.
B Dylan Hollis tells PinkNews that he wasn’t a baker before he joined TikTok at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as he’s a “jazz pianist by trade”, specialising in 1940s Big Band jazz.
But the Bermuda native got his start on the app because he was “beginning to speak to the furniture and appliances” in his home because of quarantine restrictions as he studied in the US.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer,” Hollis shares. “Naturally, I was expecting that to come through in the music sphere, but I found the cookbook and I said, ‘You know what, let’s put two and two together’.”
He continues: “I found this ridiculous recipe for pork cake, which was just a good old dessert bread save for the fact that there’s a pound of ground pork in it.
“And I said, ‘This is ridiculous. This is an actual recipe in print. I’m going to record it’. I had so much fun making it. I didn’t have quite so much fun eating it.”
B Dylan Hollis recalls how the reception to his TikTok fuelled him to continue making videos. He says he was also intrigued by how recreating old recipes could be a new way for him and his audience to experience the past.
“Of course, we can read about history in books, we can learn about history in a lecture, we can watch history through photographs and videography,” he says. “But to be able to taste it? Now that’s something very peculiar, very intriguing.”
He adds: “It ties into those carnal centres that we all have as humans because we have to eat.
“So this connection between eating and the past, it’s a very unique way to put oneself in the shoes of those in years gone by.”
As his popularity has grown, Hollis says some viewers have sent him cookbooks from the past which helped him “paint a picture of the cultural reflections in the dishes”.
One such dish was peanut butter bread – a recipe from the Great Depression when eggs, sugar and butter were scarce. Hollis took on recreating the bread on TikTok adding in his over-the-top energy and electric personality.
B Dylan Hollis tells PinkNews that it made sense to use peanut butter in the recipe as it was a “shelf-stable butter” and that the end product “tasted brilliant”. Hollis says it was a “fulfilling and exciting” way to learn about history differently.
He just wants to “give people a chance to laugh” by creating his videos and showcasing his “enthusiasm”.
“I’ve always been this way when it comes to just being a bit goofy and an overgrown child, and I didn’t expect so many people to like it,” Hollis says.
He describes his comedy as a “vehicle” for him to express how people feel, but “through social decorum we can’t always talk about [certain kinds of feelings]”, which was important as it can be “quite hostile” to the LGBTQ+ community “back home” in Bermuda.
Homosexuality is legal in Bermuda, and same-sex marriage was first legalised in the British overseas territory in 2017. Just a few months later, Bermuda became the first country to repeal already-legalised same-sex marriage, and there have been legal challenges to the ruling in the years since.
In March, a London tribunal upheld the 2018 Bermuda law that banned same-sex marriage in the British overseas territory despite a fierce outcry from LGBTQ+ activists.
“It’s a very exciting and very comforting idea, so there’s this desire to share this [queer] part of me,” Hollis says. “But through growing up in a country like Bermuda, I never had the means to do that properly.”
He continues: “So this has sort of been my way of sharing myself to what I assume are accepting people, and it’s proven to be that way – and it’s made me feel a whole lot better about myself.”
B Dylan Hollis tells PinkNews he’s gotten comments from fans that his videos brightened up their day or thanked him for being himself, which he admits he doesn’t know how to take. He says he doesn’t know how to be anyone else, but he encourages others to live their lives authentically as there’s “always a heavy price to pay for not being yourself.
“When you accept all manners [aspects] of yourself, when you accept who you are, validate who you are, magical things begin to happen – whether that’s just from internal recognition or from just lived happiness,” Hollis says.
He continues: “A very important facet in my life is being true to myself – whether that’s goofiness, yelling or telling off-colour jokes in the kitchen.
“I yell ‘ah-gi’ [egg], and I can’t say ‘cinnamon’ correctly. I get a lot of comments like ‘This is an overgrown child’, and I say, ‘You’re damn right. This is an overgrown child, and I’m having fun’.”