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 salivating over his pasta posts.
It’s strangely satisfying watching short videos of him whipping dozens of egg yolks, kneading dough and sprinkling grated parmesan onto a plate of spaghetti. Shots of Peters literally cutting carbs as fresh rigatoni emerges from his Arcobaleno extruder are hypnotic.
If you aren’t hungry when you start watching, you will be within seconds.
Peters grew up in an Italian family in Reading in eastern Pennsylvania. As a teenager, he started working in restaurants that ranged from fine dining and fast-casual spots to resorts and banquet halls.
Peters attended culinary school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and then moved to Pittsburgh to immerse himself in the city’s growing food scene. He served as sous chef at Fish Nor Fowl and was a finalist in Barilla’s Pasta World Championship. His most recent stint was at Iron Born Pizza, where his pasta bolognese was a hit.
Even after working 12-hour shifts in the kitchen, Peters would come home and make pounds of pasta and sauce to share with his wife. Five years ago, he started documenting the process on his iPhone and uploading the pictures and videos to Facebook and Instagram.
While different noodle shapes don’t necessarily have a different taste, Peters says, each one has its own mouthfeel, which creates a unique experience.
“People overlook it, but certain shapes go better with certain sauces,” Peters explains. “Pasta is so simple at its core, but, at the same time, it’s so complex.”
On July 4, 2019, Peters joined TikTok at the behest of his younger brother but didn’t share content until September. That first video — Peters rolling out cavatelli to the Trey Songz 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 take a month off from Iron Born to help care for his infant son, Gavin, and create more content. The baby is a frequent guest on TikTok, much to the delight of viewers.
“After a while, I realized I was still making money working from home and spending time with my wife and son,” Peters says. “I thought, ‘Wait a second … I need to do this full time!’”
During the pandemic, he started offering pasta-making classes via Zoom, backed by corporate sponsors and hungry fans. He’s got a bunch of plans in the works, including a Peters Pasta line, a retail pasta shop and collaborations with sports teams from Pittsburgh and around the country.
Earlier this month Peters launched a new series based on making pasta in unexpected places around the country. The proud Pittsburgher started off, of course, on Mt. Washington, beating eggs and flour against the backdrop of the Steel City skyline.
He’s willing to take a gamble on the idea and hit the road this summer with visions of cranking out linguine in front of landmarks like the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
His advice to aspiring TikTok stars?
“Just do it,” Peters says with a laugh. “That sounds cliché, but you have a phone in your pocket that allows you to get creative and document everything you do. Who knows what will happen? Overnight your whole life can change. That’s the power of the internet.”