ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — A Minnesota woman has turned cooking into a full-time business, but she’s not a chef.
She’s part of a growing group of “celebrity foodies” that share their passion online.
Justine Nguyen Wynn learned to cook from her family, who grew up in Vietnam. She started posting her recipes on YouTube — and became a social media celebrity.
WCCO’s Kate Raddatz went to Rochester to meet the woman behind the J-N Cooking Channel. Food has always been at the heart of Justine Nguyen’s family.
“We compete with each other. Everyone’s like ‘I’m bringing 6 dishes.’ My sister will bring five, everybody cooks. My younger brother cooks, my older sister cooks,” Justine Nguyen said.
Born in Vietnam, Justine moved to Canada with her family when she was 6 before coming to the U.S. Food was a way to stay connected.
She was a natural in the kitchen. As she got older, friends started asking for her recipes so she posted simple cooking demos on YouTube in 2010.
“All of a sudden I’ve got college students can you make this? I miss my mom, I need to make this,” Nguyen said.
Justine continued posting videos, under the name the “J-N Cooking Channel.”
“My first few videos on YouTube were horrible. People still love it, I’m like OK?” Nguyen said.
They loved it a lot. Today, she has 16,000 subscribers on YouTube and close to 50,000 followers on Instagram.
People of all ages and cultural backgrounds are wanting instructions on how to make Vietnamese spring rolls, skewed meats and special sauces.
Justine films all of the videos in her kitchen with nothing more than an iPhone. A three-minute video takes an entire day to shoot and edit.
“I’m an artist too so this is my art, my paint, my brush. I’m painting in my kitchen,” Justine said.
Everything is taste-tested before it’s posted online, often by Justine’s husband. You may recognize him — that’s former WCCO Anchor Dennis Douda.
“If she has to be away doing one of her projects I go to the YouTube channel and look up a JN Cooking Channel dish, follow the recipes and recreate my favorites,” Douda said.
Justine has been able to make money off of YouTube views and gaining product sponsors. She says the money is nice, but the greatest gift has been sharing the food dear to her family, with people all over the world.
“My sister was like that girl, that 10-year-old girl who wanted to do a cookbook, you’re doing it! I said yes. I’m following that dream,” Justine said.
Justine will be doing a cookbook to share some of her favorite recipes offline. She says while she specializes in Vietnamese cooking, she also does other types.
Of those, her favorite thing to make is spaghetti. She also loves McDonald’s when she’s not cooking.