NIU alumnus finds TikTok fame through food


Darryl Postelnick

A photograph of Darryl Postelnick outside of his house where some of his cooking videos are filmed.

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief

NIU alumnus Darryl Postelnick has been gaining attention by grilling up views on TikTok and has 2.1 million followers on the platform. 

Postelnick graduated from NIU in 1987 with a major in marketing and a minor in psychology. 

“I started (cooking) early, young my dad used to always cook breakfast after Sunday church and I would then start, you know, helping him or doing it,” Postelnick said. “My mom’s a really good cook so I would learn from her.”

The inspiration behind Postelnick starting his TikTok account, @cookingwithdarryl, came from his daughter. 

“My youngest daughter at the time was in eighth grade and said, ‘dad, we should do a cooking channel because you love to cook,’ and I said, no, I’m not on any social media, I mean I’m only on LinkedIn,” Postelnick said. “She kept asking and I said ‘no I’m not doing it’ and then she drew out the ‘I just thought it would be something we can do together’ line and I said OK, if you set it up, if you manage it, if you get me set up on the app, if you edit, if you film, if you do everything, I’ll do it.”

The first video that Postelnick created didn’t get much attention, but he continued to film a second video where he cooked up some beanless chili.

“We did our first one, it had nine followers, they were all her friends,” Postelnick said. “Then the second one was the chili that ended up doing like 4.5 million views. It just blew up.”

After filming that video, Postelnick didn’t think much about it until his daughter started texting him about how quickly the video was gaining views.

“She was texting me every five minutes saying you’re at five thousand (views), you’re at 25 thousand, you’re at 100 thousand, every five minutes,” Postelnick said. “When it got to like 150 thousand views she said ‘you’re famous!’”

That video ended up gaining around 2 million views.

“Since then because I’ve been on ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show,’ we’ve been on ‘The Today Show,’ we’ve been on so many different outlets that I think people have gone back and watched my early stuff,” Postelnick said. “I think it’s over 4 million now.”

When asked what video on his TikTok account he is the most proud of making, Postelnick said it was a video he made with his parents.

“It really wasn’t even a cooking video, it was more Father’s Day,” Postelnick said. “My father ended up passing away two weeks later so that one kinda sticks out because I did it with them. He had a very funny comment, total impromptu, in the video.” 

In the video, Postelnick said that he asked his dad what he wanted to eat before his dad responded immediately with “prime rib.”

“That one maybe probably sticks out the most just because it’s the most memorable but you know, there’s certain recipes I just love and I love doing and they’ve done really well and I love cooking them, so some of those stick out to me too,” Postelnick said.

After Postelnick had been making videos for a while, his friends told him he needed to come up with a catchphrase, but Postelnick said he didn’t want to think of one and just wanted it to happen.

“It was probably my eighth or ninth video and I always, of course, take a bite of the food and say something, ‘oh that’s good’ or ‘wow you’ve gotta try it,’ and that one I said, ‘are you kidding me?’ And my buddy called me after that and he said that’s it!” 

Postelnick said that “R. U. Kidding Me?” has now become the signature trademark of his brand.

While attending NIU Postelnick said he shared a house with 14 of his friends, and that they all still get together for a Bears game every year. 

“One of my roommates that I lived with, he was on my dorm floor and then he was in the house with us,” Postelnick said. “He has interest at Saugatuck Brewery and that’s where my beer (Saugatuck R. U. Kidding Me IPA) is from so it’s kinda great how over all these years a roommate of mine from Northern (Illinois University) is the one who helped me get into Saugatuck.”

Postelnick said that he does not plan on making a cookbook. In a way, his TikTok videos replace the idea of a cookbook with something that is more personable and interactive.

“My last big career was Microsoft, I was there 15 years and I remember telling people that when I retire I gotta go to cooking classes to kind of learn more,” Postelnick said. “I never did that by the way, but instead this came about.”

Postelnick posted his first video on Oct. 15, 2020. Since then, he’s been sharing his variety of dishes and considers himself a hobbyist rather than a chef.

“I’m doing it as long as it’s fun,” Postelnick said.