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"Let Me Pose You A Question": People Dragged This Chef For Her Viral Take On The "Seasoning Police" Of Social Media, And There's A Lot To Unpack Here

"This is a PSA to the seasoning police..."

If you've ever scrolled through cooking videos on TikTok or Instagram, you've likely read your fair share of comments from users who have a bone to pick with the seasonings involved in these social media concoctions...or, as those comments often suggest, a lack thereof.

Zoe Barrie, a professionally trained chef and food content creator with a background in fine dining, is intimately familiar with these types of comments. But recently, the creator found herself in the middle of a particularly heated discussion turned internet event about those who post these types of comments — and it ultimately stirred up a lot more than just strong feelings about salt and spices.

Zoe smiling with a sunset behind her

It all started when Zoe posted a TikTok chronicling her experience of putting together a meal made out of whatever she could find in her brother's nearly empty kitchen while visiting him. The results: chicken braised in a garlicky peppered tomato sauce with a quick beer bread.

Pouring olive oil onto plated chicken dish in sauce with onion, garlic, bell peppers, marinara

The video quickly racked up over 2 million views and over 1,000 comments, but many of those comments focused solely on the perceived seasonings within the dish. Though she clarified in the comments that she did season throughout the cooking process with salt, it did little to stop the negative comments from rolling in.

Various comments on the TikTok, like, "You're screaming northerner by only using salt as seasoning," and "Not even salt? You should be arrested!"

"I filmed in sort of a haphazard manner and only recorded what was necessary," Zoe later told BuzzFeed. "It always feels a bit redundant to record up to 10 clips of myself adding salt, so I only included a small snippet where I added salt to my sauce."

Turning seared chicken that's golden brown on one side

After Zoe directly engaged with several of the negative commenters, it was clear to her that there was a general misunderstanding regarding the term "seasoning" — specifically the power that salt can hold. So she made a response video "in an effort to discuss that salt and acid are necessary for all foods and that fresh aromatics can be used to flavor food too."

Zoe's TikTok, saying: "This is a PSA to the seasoning police on this app; if, in your brain, you only view seasoning as things like garlic powder, onion powder, or maybe something like rosemary. let me pose you a question"

In the video, she pulls out various dried herbs and spices — a large container of garlic powder, onion powder, a bottle of dried rosemary, and a spice rub — and reminds viewers that these dried flavorings come from once-fresh ingredients...


Replying to @hudaam i will also bet that none of the best restaurants in the world are using powdered spices to flavor their food, respectfully #seasoning #cooking

♬ original sound - Zoe Barrie this case, the exact same fresh ingredients she added to the sauce from her previous video, which she recalls through a black-and-white clip. "What is so funny to me is if I had just doused my chicken in this [spice] rub, and this rub alone, the seasoning police would be out of my comments," she says to the camera.

Zoe cooking the original dish in black and white, saying "I sautéed those bell peppers along with my onion and garlic"

The comments on her response to the "seasoning police" are where things first turned contentious. At a glance, many of the nearly 9,000 comments appeared to be in support of Zoe's take.

Various comments from the TikTok that are positive, including "TikTok thinks the only way to season food is to overload it with powders until it's grainy"

But you don't have to scroll long before you encounter some serious pushback. Other commenters insinuated that the "seasoning police," in this instance, was a euphemism, and the discourse continued to spark opposition beyond the comments section and platform itself.

Negative comments, including "Watch your tone with that 'seasoning police'"

As the video made the rounds on Twitter, users called out Zoe for her choice of words.

@JustinTarnation This smells racial…the “seasoning police”you know what she wanted to say

Twitter: @BlackBostonSpo2

Back on TikTok, several users shared their own takes on the video, often citing perceived racial undertones in Zoe's word choice and delivery. Fellow creator Shelah Marie saw her stitch on the topic garner over 100,000 views. "I saw this video on Twitter, and I just found it so interesting," she says. "Who's the seasoning police, bae? Say the quiet part out loud." She goes on to say that she sees "white folks' inability to not be the authority on something" as the impetus behind the video, and even pulls out one particular thread of comments on Zoe's video to illustrate a point.

Comment saying between the seasoning police and glove police, foodtok has some of the most annoying commenters

And the latest plot twist in this story: Twitter has now become rife with alt-right users taking "seasoning police" out of the original context, using the phrase as code (along with memeing screenshots from the original video) so they can effectively tweet appallingly racist sentiments without getting banned.

I won't platform these people any further by providing y'all with links, but trust me, this stuff is out there — and it's disgusting.

According to Zoe, the discourse around her response came as a shock. When asked about the backlash surrounding her video, specifically those who called out racist undertones or coded language in her response, she explained to BuzzFeed that she was speaking to internet trolls (and internet trolls only) and never intended the video to come across as a demonization of dried herbs and spices, cultural practices, or specific races. "My intentions were to share what I learned in cooking school when it came to the term 'seasoning,' and nothing more than that," she clarified. "I mean, I wouldn't have a Costco-sized bottle of garlic powder if I was anti–dried spices."

Zoe holding up a bottle of Costco's Kirkland brand garlic powder to the camera, with an arrow pointing to it

She went on to explain that she didn't mean to suggest that granulated spices or aromatics were at all bad. "I just wanted to say that fresh aromatics also serve a purpose when it comes to flavoring dishes," she added. "And at the end of the day, salt and acid actually hold the most power in all cooking."

Zoe pointing to salt in video and saying "if your food tastes a little off, it's not because you need to add more powder; most of the time you need more salt or some sort of acid, like lemon juice or vinegar"

On the subject of intentions, the catalyst Zoe cites for filming the video in the first place — the "Where's the seasoning" comment that broke the camel's back, so to speak — is one that appears to be a common nuisance for other creators in the food space. A quick search for "seasoning police" on TikTok pulls in countless stitches and reactions to this particular controversy, but it also unearths several instances in which other creators aired qualms similar to Zoe's. One of the first results is a 2021 video from Craw King, replying to a comment that read, "he lost me with simple salt and pepper."

Comment saying "he lost me with simple salt and pepper" and the flushed emoji

It's worth noting that the types of comments referenced in Zoe's TikTok and the video referenced above are commonly found on content featuring cultural dishes, as "proper" seasoning looks different just about everywhere in the world. One supporter in Zoe's comments argued that many Asian cuisines rarely use dried spices and powders, and they often incorporate salt through the addition of ingredients like soy sauce, fish sauce, or dipping sauces when served. As evidence, take this video of Hmong-style crispy pork belly that popped up on my feed just this morning.

Crispy pork belly on a plate

Traditionally, the cooked pork is dipped into a mega-flavorful pepper sauce when served, as shown in the first five seconds of the video. As a result, the meat itself is minimally seasoned with only salt — and these were the most prevalent kinds of comments on that video.

Crispy pork belly with negative comments overlaid: "Bro start seasoning your food, "Llooks good but needs more than salt wtf," "No sazón, ajo or orégano?"

This one-size-fits-all idea of proper cooking is worrisome to Zoe, who makes it a point to let the types of dishes she cooks inform the flavors she adds. "I am part Hispanic, my mom is Mexican, and my grandma uses an abundance of chiles, garlic, and onions in her cooking," Zoe said. "What I've learned from cooking foods from all cultures is that I'm going to add flavors depending on the dish. If I'm making a French-inspired dish, I'm not always going to add the chiles that are used in Mexican cooking. It's so case by case that cooking is never one-spice-fits-all."

Ultimately, it appears that Zoe stands by the sentiments in her video and hopes that it's helped to spread the message that there isn't (and shouldn't be) one singular "best" approach to cooking. At the time this post was being written, she hadn't posted any sort of formal response to the controversy, only an entry in her Sunday Feast series where she intentionally films every single moment salt is added. Based on the comments, it appears to be a nod to the entire situation.

Zoe looking into the camera while sprinkling salt over raw chicken, with comment, "Laughing at the intentional videos of every salt addition; looks divine go off!"

What's your take on this "seasoning police" controversy? Drop your thoughts in the comments below. 👇