Marco Sanchez has always loved cooking for his family, but he never could have imagined that his at-home hobby would turn into a social media influencing career. Since posting his first video to TikTok in the summer of 2020, the Turlock resident known as Woodfire and Whiskey has amassed nearly 2 million followers on the platform — and he isn’t stopping there.
From giant steaks to lettuce wraps, Sanchez’s high-quality cooking videos feature himself, a variety of different recipes and, as his username suggests, whiskey. The U.S. Army veteran has spent the last 13 years as a cinematographer working mainly in marketing, but was able to quit his job thanks to his large internet following.
His kitchen has now turned into a video production studio, where Sanchez makes videos viewed by his 1.7 million TikTok followers, 74,000 Instagram followers and 10,500 YouTube subscribers. Thanks to sponsorships and endorsement deals with brands and products he believes in, the full-time content creator now brings home triple the amount he was making at his previous job.
“It’s very surreal, but it’s an incredible feeling. I’ve been trying my entire life to do things that would take off in some way,” Sanchez said. “So, for me to make food videos and for them to take off to where they’re at now, oh my goodness. All I have to do is cook for myself and show people that it’s easy and just entertain them with my style of cooking.”
There’s a misconception surrounding TikTok that it’s simply an app for teens and children, but Sanchez says that isn’t the case. He’s discovered an audience of adults who are looking to simplify cooking at home and flock to his videos in droves. Sanchez has even been recognized in public once or twice, he said, but his fame is relatively low-key and still allows him to lead a normal life in town.
While most videos on the app are filmed via cellphone, the award-winning filmmaker values quality over everything and regularly uses a four-camera setup to ensure his posts are up to his own standard.
“I tell everybody I’m not a chef, I just understand how to cook and I’m a great filmmaker,” Sanchez said. “That’s my wheelhouse, and being able to combine my love for food and eating good things with my love for making videos is the most incredible opportunity anybody could have.”
Sanchez started out posting cat videos to social media, as many do, but was recruited to TikTok by a seasoning company that noticed a few cooking videos he had uploaded to YouTube. The app is the present and future of social media and with over 1 billion active global users per month, going viral is a possibility for anyone.
Influencers like Sanchez who are able to turn their following into cash have become increasingly popular in recent years, and a 2019 study by Morning Consult found that 86% of people ages 13 to 38 would be willing to pursue an influencing career.
Sanchez’s wife is also active on TikTok and already has nearly 20,000 followers on the app, he said. She also hopes to one day be able to leave her full-time job to pursue social media content full time. The couple’s goal is to ultimately become the Chip and Joanna Gaines of cooking, and they seem to be well on their way.
“We’ve realized that this really isn’t going to go away,” Sanchez said. “This is only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, and eventually 80% of marketing is going to come from these sites.”
Sanchez’s advice to those attempting to turn their online presence into a full-time job is to simply take the leap and to do so with something they’re truly passionate about. Despite troubling times the pandemic has brought for many, Sanchez’s love for cooking and dedication to his craft have turned the past two years into something great for his family.
“We can focus on what was taken from us, or we can focus on what we can create from what was taken from us. We can look within ourselves and say, ‘I’m good at this thing, too, in addition to what I was doing at that job. Let me see if I can exploit this for myself and for my family, and let’s see if I can turn this into something real,’” Sanchez said. “For those looking to start, don’t feel weird about how you’re going to look or sound to a bunch of people you’re never going to meet…Being a social media influencer is all about focusing on love rather than hate.”
Sanchez’s videos can be found on TikTok (@woodfireandwhiskey) and YouTube (WoodFireandWhiskey). Turlockers can also follow him on Twitter at @woodfire_whiskey_official.