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Lisa Nguyen is showing off Kansas City restaurants to millions on TikTok and YouTube

 Creator Lisa Nguyen regularly visits Kansas City restaurants on her YouTube and TikTok accounts, which have millions of followers worldwide.
Lisa Nguyen
Creator Lisa Nguyen regularly visits Kansas City restaurants on her YouTube and TikTok accounts, which have millions of followers worldwide.

After going viral for trying the crab rangoon pizza at Old Shawnee Pizza, Nguyen has grown her audience to millions for restaurant reviews, original recipes and eating challenges. Her soaring popularity allowed her to quit her day job in 2021.

If you caught her pointing her phone at her meal at local restaurant, you might assume Lisa Nguyen is just a typical member of Gen Y or Z.

But those clips she’s capturing with her iPhone 14 Pro Max are likely to reach more than just friends and family. Nguyen, who relocated from Wichita in 2021, operates a booming YouTube channel that has grown to 4.46 million subscribers and collected over 2.4 billion views around the world. (She has another 3 million followers on TikTok.)

Though she’s based here in Kansas City, she now has a global audience that watch her review restaurants, create new recipes in her kitchen, and test herself with different eating challenges, particularly ones involving spicy foods.

Talk Show Meet two Kansas City influencers finding success with viral videos Steve Kraske

The ad revenue generated by these videos was even enough for her to quit her day job in 2019 and embark on this endeavor as a full-time career.

“It’s really hard to grasp how this has happened so quickly,” Nguyen said. “Just me, a girl from Kansas, reaching millions of people around the world.”

Nguyen’s first viral video involved a crab rangoon pizza at Old Shawnee Pizza and things took off from there. She has become a prolific content creator in a very short amount of time, with almost 2,000 videos uploaded to her YouTube channel.

Some of her more modestly successful videos will attract 10,000 views. Others have seen nearly 60 million.

Nguyen was born and raised in Wichita, but as her channel got more popular, she got tired of commuting back and forth between Wichita and Johnson County, where she was crashing at her brother’s place. Ultimately she quit her job as a paralegal and relocated to the area in August 2021.

Her soaring popularity has led to travel opportunities around the world, as well as brand sponsorship deals, including a highly visible partnership with the NFL during the 2023 NFL Draft back in April.

“They reached out to me to help them promote their NFL Sunday Ticket,” Nguyen said. “It was the first event I’ve been paid to go to that was that big.”

Her staggering viewership numbers online have opened up opportunities to travel and collaborate with other widely known YouTubers. Since 2021, her travels have taken her around the country, including: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Though her local profile remains relatively low, Nguyen has continued to amass national and global recognition:

In June, Google named her one of “10 Asian American Creators You’ll Want to Follow.” Last year, Good Morning America did a segment on her top five instant ramen recipes. Forbes named her one of three creators to “inspire your cooking habits in 2022.”

 Lisa Nguyen sampling a spring roll at Thai Orchid in Mission.
Lisa Nguyen
Lisa Nguyen sampling a spring roll at Thai Orchid in Mission.

Her culinary skills are also a recent phenomenon. She admits she never really did any cooking before COVID lockdowns went into effect in Kansas.

She transformed her online identity by embracing the challenges that came along with cooking for the first time. Two early ideas that made her a viral sensation were ramen noodle challenges, and spicy food challenges. The two categories continue to propel her today.

Fortunately, she has rather high spice tolerance.

“I put together a series on a ‘30 day ramen challenge’ that people really liked and went viral,” Nguyen said. “The spice challenges were also very popular. I was putting these little 4 oz. cups of chili flakes on everything.”

This story was originally published by the Shawnee Mission Post.

Copyright 2023 KCUR 89.3