For Ryan Peters, pasta isn’t just a meal, it’s a passion.
The chef has a farfalle noodle tattooed on his wrist and 2.1 million TikTok followers salivate over his pasta posts.
It’s oddly satisfying watching short videos of him whipping dozens of egg yolks, kneading dough, and sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on a plate of spaghetti. Peters’ plans literally cutting carbs as fresh rigatoni emerge from his Arcobaleno extruder are mesmerizing.
If you’re not hungry when you start watching, you’ll be in seconds.
Peters grew up in an Italian family in Reading, eastern Pennsylvania. As a teenager he started working in restaurants ranging from fine dining and fast-casual dining, resorts and banquet halls.
Peters attended culinary school at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, then moved to Pittsburgh to immerse himself in the city’s growing food scene. He was sous chef at Fish Nor Fowl and was a finalist in the Barilla World Pasta Championship. His most recent stint was at Iron Born Pizza, where his pasta Bolognese was a hit.
Even after working 12 hours in the kitchen, Peters would come home and cook pounds of pasta and sauce to share with his wife. Five years ago, he started documenting the process on his iPhone and uploading the photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram.
While different shapes of noodles don’t necessarily taste different, says Peters, each one has its own unique mouthfeel, which creates a unique experience.
“People don’t know, but some shapes go better with certain sauces,” says Peters. “Pasta is so simple at the core, but at the same time it’s so complex. “
On July 4, 2019, Peters joined TikTok at his younger brother’s request, but only shared content in September. That first video – Peters deploying cavatelli to Trey Songz’s tune “Slow Motion” – went viral, racking up half a million views in just 24 hours.
Soon the chef was posting several times a day and social media became his second full-time job.
Last year, Peters decided to be away from Iron Born for a month to care for her baby, Gavin, and create more content. The baby is a frequent guest on TikTok, much to the delight of viewers.
“After a while, I realized that I was still making money working from home and spending time with my wife and son,” says Peters. “I thought, ‘Wait a second… I have to do this full time! “”
During the pandemic, he began offering pasta-making classes through Zoom, supported by corporate sponsors and hungry fans. He has many projects underway, including a Peters Pasta line, a retail pasta store, and collaborations with sports teams in Pittsburgh and across the country.
Earlier this month, Peters launched a new series based on pasta making in unexpected locations across the country. The proud Pittsburgher started, of course, on Mount Washington, beating eggs and flour against the backdrop of the Steel City skyline.
He’s ready to bet on the idea and hit the road this summer with visions of linguine past landmarks like the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
Her advice to future TikTok stars?
“Do it,” Peters said, laughing. “It sounds cliché, but you have a phone in your pocket that allows you to get creative and document everything you do. Who knows what’s going to happen? Overnight, your whole life can change. It is the power of the Internet.
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♬ Brandy (You are a beautiful girl) – Looking Glass