By Esther Sun
She has over 1.2 million Youtube subscribers, a Stanford course load and is now a published author, but Rachel Fong ’21 has kept her passion for product design central in all three pursuits. Fong’s debut cookbook consists of 75 original, easy-to-follow recipes modeled after her Youtube channel, “Kawaii Sweet World,” and was made available for purchase from major book retailers on July 30.
Officially titled “Kawaii Sweet World Cookbook: 75 Yummy Recipes for Baking That’s (Almost) Too Cute to Eat,” Fong’s cookbook features recipes from hedgehog fudge to panda cakes, deer blondies to narwhal cake pops, emoji cookies to pig puffs. The Japanese word “kawaii” translates to “cute” in English and is the inspiration for the playful, colorful aesthetic of Fong’s baking creations.
The cookbook’s official release was celebrated on Sunday with a special baking party at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park.
Fong and her literary agent approached publishing houses last year with the proposal for the “Kawaii Sweet World” cookbook and, after receiving much interest from multiple publishers, signed with Crown Publishing subsidiary Clarkson Potter, which operates under Penguin Random House. At that point, Fong was able to embark on the process of selecting and refining recipes, writing descriptions, creating a shot list for the photos and seeing her work come to fruition in a final print product.
“I’m very used to sharing my recipes through video where I get to narrate and show frame-by-frame how to make something,” Fong told The Daily. “Figuring out how to explain that through print media was a different challenge.”
She identified her two main methods for thinking of new recipe ideas: watching for food trends, like edible cookie dough, or just letting her imagination take control.
“I take something kawaii and then pair it with a dessert by figuring out how I can transform the dessert into some cute character or an animal,” Fong said. “I also do try to keep an eye on food trends and then figure out: Is this a good fit for my channel? And if so, how can I put my own spin on it and make it very kawaii?”
Fong started her Youtube channel as a 12-year-old in Dec. 2010, just to submit a video entry for a crafting competition. Though she didn’t win the competition, she received requests for tutorials in response to her first video, and she began building her channel from there. Her first videos included tutorials on how to make various clay charms, which progressed into demonstrations on Easy Bake Oven goods, and eventually developed into the more advanced baking tutorials she still makes today.
Fong films her videos on a professional kitchen set, complete with pastel blue walls, lighting equipment and colorful props. Her videos receive hundreds of thousands of views, some reaching upwards of two million, with thousands of comments and likes as well. A few of her most recent videos include, “How to Make Giant Pancakes in a RICE COOKER!” “How to Make BTS / BT21 Cake Pops!” and “How to Make a Rainbow Stripe Cereal Cake!”
While exploring her creative side through baking and Youtube, Fong has also pushed herself academically since enrolling at Stanford in fall 2017. Though she has not yet declared a major, Fong has used her time as a college student to pursue her interest in product design, which she describes as “a cool blend of engineering and creativity.”
“The thing I like most about Stanford is the very entrepreneurial spirit there,” Fong said. “You could say a cliché about Stanford is that everyone wants to join or create a startup, but that’s a cliché I feel like I can live with. I really like everybody’s energy and that you can find like-minded people who really think that they can change the world. They believe in themselves, believe in forging their own paths, and are not afraid to break tradition.”
While testing recipes for her cookbook and, in the process, gaining a granular understanding of baking, Fong discovered an interest in the chemistry of baking and food science in general, which has led to her to consider future work in a food startup or in the food innovation space.
Contact Esther Sun at sune2696 ‘at’ lgsstudent.org.