Quenelles of soft compound butter are a welcome alternative to reality
TikTok is a beautiful place where perfect spoonfuls of glossy-smooth, softened-just-right butter can become one person’s entire schtick. And for that, I am truly grateful, because the sight of a spoon moving effortlessly through butter to form a pristine quenelle is so viscerally satisfying it makes me feel like I’m putting my brain on ice for a minute or two.
The person responsible for those quenelles is the London chef Thomas Straker. While Straker had found previous success posting recipes on the platform, his “All Things Butter” series, which he launched in mid-April, has made him the face of #ButterTok, a space full of butter mountains and creamy, just-churned swoops. For the series, he has posted a succession of compound butters: crispy bacon, roasted chicken skin, burnt chili and anchovy, bone marrow, and shrimp, to name just a few.
Straker’s concept is simple: he quickly shows us the process of making these compound butters, then shares his satisfaction as he eats a piece of bread smeared with an almost obscene layer of the stuff, or just a dollop of it on his finger. And it works: Almost every video in Straker’s series has reached at least a million views, though they often go much higher (as of this writing, his burnt butter video has racked up 14.9 million). This vastly surpasses Straker’s older recipe content, which drew a comparatively measly tens of thousands of views.
ButterTok is a beautiful fantasy. Straker makes the quenelles look deceptively easy, no more complicated than scooping ice cream, but there’s clearly technique at work: in reality, this is a cheffy move that requires practice (and for some people, very particular spoons). And because butter is butter, Straker’s creations look familiar and, in theory, fairly replicable — but if I’m honest with myself, I surely won’t be smoking my own butter or adding shrimp to it.
In this way, I’ve come to appreciate the butter series as a kind of digital rest stop — an online space where the reality of the world and the rest of the internet is suspended for barely-30-second increments. There, the only thing that matters is butter.