Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Karissa Dumbacher loves to eat.
Tune in to any one of her videos and you’re likely to see her consuming a variety of dishes, from one-bite street snacks to full spreads, all with a beaming smile and a bright voiceover that’s so openly joyful it’s almost impossible not to go out and get one of whatever she’s eating for yourself.
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Dumbacher’s inspired by people like Anthony Bourdain and Mark Wiens, “these guys who just travel around and eat everything, they’re not afraid,” she says. Their particular fearlessness is something she wants to embrace in her videos–especially because woman are still pressured to eat small and eat neat. They’re still told, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
Well, Dumbacher’s not about that life–and considering she’s now got more than 2 million followers on TikTok and is rapidly closing in on a million subscribers on YouTube, it’s clear she isn’t alone.
Dumbacher didn’t start off making videos with any particular plan. She grew up in Orlando and has loved theater and performing since she was young, so when she went out for a job, it was only natural that she end up at Universal Studios. Then, in 2021, she got the chance to work the grand opening of Universal Studios Beijing. But, because of COVID, she ended up having to quarantine for weeks upon arriving in China.
Another friend of hers had also dealt with quarantine, and had started vlogging on TikTok about his experience. Dumbacher dug the idea, and started doing the same. She thought maybe the videos could be a little journal, a memento of her trip. Instead, they started finding viewers. A lot of viewers.
Dumbacher thinks that early traffic maybe came from Chinese citizens who, because of COVID travel strictures, couldn’t return, and were missing home. There were also people curious about the quarantine procedures. To Dumbacher’s pleasant surprise, many people were most interested in the same thing she was: the daily meals being delivered to her quarantine quarters.
Dumbacher eventually made it out of quarantine, through the job, and back to the States. All along, she’d just…never stopped making videos. Once she was back home and waiting for her next contract–a cruise ship performance job–to start, she filled the time with a new video series where she challenged herself to things like only eating one type of cuisine or only eating at one restaurant for a full day.
To date, Dumbacher’s YouTube channel has racked up nearly 400 million views, and while making videos isn’t entirely her full-time thing (she still loves performing, might get another cruise contract, and is planning to audition for film roles), it’s pushed her to create more, travel more, and, mostly importantly, to eat more.
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: For anyone who’s not familiar with you, could you give me an introduction about you, where you grew up, and how you ended up on YouTube?
KarissaEats: Sure. I grew up in Orlando. I was always into theater and performing and so I ended up going to college for that. I got my BFA in musical theater in Orlando at UCF. Then I got into theme park work because I was in Orlando. I worked at Universal Studios for a while and then 2020 happened and there was really no theater happening in the States. I got an offer to go open up the new Universal Studios in Beijing. I was like, “Heck yes,” Like, “Get me out of here. Let’s go.” I went and did that.
Then it’s just funny, the way it happened. My friend was in quarantine in his college and he was making TikToks about it and I was like, “That’s really interesting, they’re fun to watch.” While I was in quarantine in China, I was quarantined there for three weeks at the beginning. I was just like, “I have nothing to do so I might as well document it.” I started making TikToks.
The thing people were most interested in and what I was most wanting to talk about was the food, because I thought it was amazing. Just coming from the United States, never having lived outside of the country, to living in China, was just such an interesting change in scenery. Obviously, the food is incredible there. People just like to hear about the food, and I like to make videos about food, so I just kept doing it. And I’m still doing it!
Tubefilter: Did you have culinary interests growing up? Or in terms of food are you just like, “I like to eat food”? Which I also understand.
KarissaEats: I love to bake, so baking was a big hobby of mine. Anytime my friend had a birthday, I would make this elaborate cake. It’s just a destresser for me because I was in school for musical theater while working two jobs, so I was constantly busy. When I could bake, I could just focus on one thing and not think about school or work or anything. I also just love to eat, and I’ve always loved to eat everything.
Tubefilter: That’s a mood, believe me. I understand. You said you were documenting being in quarantine, so when did that go from like, “I’m going to make these videos because I am bored as hell,” to “I’m going to keep making videos”? When did it become a genuine interest for you?
KarissaEats: Well, they blew up right at the beginning just because no one was going to China. I feel like there was a lot of Chinese people stuck outside of China that were like, “Oh, I want to go back. Just show me what you ate for lunch. I just miss it.” I think I gained an audience of people that were craving Chinese food and videos in China pretty quickly.
Then. actually, it’s a long story, but my account got shadowbanned on TikTok because I was using a VPN. For the first six months of creating content, I wasn’t growing at all after that initial little boost. I was like, “Ah, maybe I’ll just give up.” I was just making the videos at that point for me. Just as a little journal. I was like, “Oh, a day in the life, what I ate today. This will be a fun way to remember my year in China.” Then my boyfriend was like, “Why don’t you just start a new channel? I’ll post the videos from here.”
So I would send him the videos and he would post them so I didn’t have to use the VPN. Then that started growing like crazy. I think I gained 300,000 followers in the first month or two. Then by the time I got back, I had half a million. At that point, I was like, “Oh, I guess I better keep doing this because people like it.”
Tubefilter: Half a million’s nothing to sneeze at.
KarissaEats: That one grew pretty fast. I think I just had a little hiccup there with the VPN issue. The VPN will get you.
Tubefilter: When did you expand from TikTok to YouTube?
KarissaEats: When I got back to the States. We were like, “Okay, this is growing.” Shorts were just getting started, and so I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll just start posting Shorts too because nobody’s really doing that. So it’s like an easy way in.” I’ve been watching YouTube foodies since I can remember having internet.
Tubefilter: Do you have any favorites?
KarissaEats: Oh my gosh, yes. Stephanie Buttermore was my first girl foodie that I just loved. Natacha Océane is super inspirational with food and fitness. And I really loved…oh, she’s not around anymore. What is her name? I want to mention her because she stopped making videos, but I feel like maybe I’m still subscribed to her channel, because she was my all-time favorite. She did mukbangs and stuff. I’ll remember her name at some point. I love, especially, women eating, because I feel like in the street food, food exploring, going around the world, kind of eating, it’s very male-dominated at the moment, or it has been. I especially love women who will just eat. I’m like, “Yes, girl, eat!”
Tubefilter: That’s what really drew me into your videos, actually, because when I eat meals, I love to eat small portions of like 10 different things. You order so many different things and try so many different things at once. I’m like, “That is exactly how I like to eat!” It’s great to see a woman who unapologetically eats whatever she wants, in public especially.
KarissaEats: I know, and it’s so inspirational. Anthony Bourdain, Mark Wiens, these guys who just travel around and eat everything, they’re not afraid. But there hasn’t really been a niche for that for women, in my opinion. I think we should just start doing it more.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. Let’s see, so you got back from Beijing, and I know you just got done working a cruise ship, so what’s been your mix of focusing on YouTube and making content versus having jobs?
KarissaEats: I’m very lucky in that my job is something I’m super passionate about too. I’m not wanting to be like, “I’m going to quit my day job to create content because I love performing.” I love that they can kind of go hand in hand.
When I got back from China, actually the day I landed in Seattle, I got an email asking me to do this cruise ship contract. I just hopped from one contract to the next. I had three months in the States where I was just waiting for the next contract to start, which was amazing. I could just chill for a minute. Then I started making more U.S. content, but I still just have such a passion for different cultural foods. A lot of the videos I was making was “eating Jamaican food for a day,” “eating Puerto Rican food,” because I still want to try foods that aren’t just McDonald’s and stuff, even though those videos are fun too. I just love trying different foods I’ve never had before, and you can do that in the States too. You don’t have to travel to do it.
Tubefilter: Like you mentioned, you do a lot of videos eating at specific restaurants for a full day or eating specific types of cuisine for a day. Where do you get the ideas for these? Do you take viewer requests? Do you pay attention to what your audience wants? Where do you get your inspiration?
KarissaEats: I should honestly take viewer requests more frequently, because they have a lot of great ideas. While I was in the States, when I started those full day of eating at restaurants videos, is when I was in rehearsals for this cruise ship contract. I was rehearsing eight to 10 hours a day, six days a week, and then on the day off, you had to do homework and learn the whole show. I had no time to really be creative and be like, “Oh, I want to go drive two hours to get Haitian food,” which is what I could do when I had a month of freedom.
That’s when I was like, “The only things around me are Chili’s and Taco Bell and Outback, so I got to work with what I got.” I love those videos too because I was eating at places that I never usually go to. That was fun too. I just think it’s all fun, when you’re eating and just making content, you can’t not have fun.
Tubefilter: I’ve got to know, what was your schedule like on the cruise ship? Especially with making content while you were doing it.
KarissaEats: It was a lot. It was a lot, but it was worth it. The specific cruise that I was offered was a world cruise, which I was very fortunate. We started in Greece and we sailed basically all around the Mediterranean, a little bit of Egypt, some Middle East, and then through Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. I got to see stuff I had never seen before, which is amazing.
Most days, you’re able to get off the ship, and so on the days that we could get off, I was like, “Okay, I got to go film this, this, and this.” You don’t really have internet on the ship either. You get off the boat, you spend an hour doing research like, “What am I supposed to eat here? What are they famous for?” Then you’re frantically running to restaurants. It would just be me because my friends don’t really want to spend all day chasing down specific niche foods, so I just went off, me and my backpack, running around town with Google Maps like, “Where am I going?” Then you film food for two or three hours, however long it takes to get everything. Then back on the ship, we usually had a tech rehearsal and then a show. We usually had to be back on board by 3 or 4 p.m. and then you do a show at night and then you wake up the next day and do it all again.
Tubefilter: That is insane. It sounds like it was very fun, though.
KarissaEats: Yes, it was super fun. There were only a few times that we really couldn’t get off because we had duty days, so once a week, you had a day where you just had to work all day. It’s just rare occasions where we had barnacles on our ships so we were stuck at sea for two weeks. That was an adventure. Other than that, most days you could get off, which is awesome.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Is there a possibility for you to do it again?
KarissaEats: Yes. I have been avoiding it just because I don’t want to jump right back into it. I want a few months maybe to calm down, and I also have so many travel plans lined up. Just my own travel plans, so I want to spend some time and see stuff that I want to see too. I have some callbacks lined up that I’m supposed to submit, so I’ll do that eventually.
Tubefilter: Yeah, I feel like you deserve a break.
KarissaEats: Yes, I’d love a break! But I also love performing. Both are good.
Tubefilter: Do you have anybody working with you behind the scenes right now, or are you still editing all your own content and doing all your own stuff?
KarissaEats: I edit all my own stuff. No one helps me with editing, but like I said, my boyfriend was helping me with posting everything, so I would edit the video and then send it to him. Because, again, on the cruise ship, we didn’t have wifi, and TikTok was actually blocked on their wifi, so I couldn’t access TikTok.
Tubefilter: Oh, that’s interesting.
KarissaEats: Yes, it was wild. I just sent him the video and was like, “I hope I didn’t say anything stupid.” “I hope people will like the video because I don’t know what anyone’s saying about it.”
Tubefilter: The whole time you were on the cruise, were you able to look at comments?
KarissaEats: When we were on land, when I had a second to check, then, yes, I could. It was maybe an hour a day I could check and send him some comments to respond to. Other than that, I wasn’t signed into the account the whole time I was gone because again, the VPN thing, I just don’t want to mess with it. TikTok is so…If you log in to your account from a different place every day, it’s going to be like, “Something’s fishy,” and then, yes, all that.
Tubefilter: I feel that’s an interesting approach to it, the art of it. Like you just throw videos out there and you can’t see the reaction, you can’t see comments and focus on comments 24/7. You just make it and it’s out there.
KarissaEats: Yes, it’s nice because it doesn’t really affect me like what people say. I’m just like, “Okay, I’ll find out tomorrow maybe, and then deal with it then.”
Tubefilter: Clearly it’s worked for you! What does your current schedule look like? Do you try to do a video every day? What’s your production behind the scenes?
KarissaEats: So I do a video every day. I’m currently focusing on traveling as well. I just got back from a trip. Then I have another one at the end of the month, hopefully. I just have a lot lined up that I really want to do, because I want to do more traveling on my terms where I can go to a place and really be there for a week rather than just see it for four hours and then be gone. I want to focus more on traveling this summer, and then we’re hoping to make the move up to New York this summer. That’s a focus as well, just to get my whole life packed up and everything.
Tubefilter: Do you have any other plans or goals for this year?
KarissaEats: Yes! I want to audition for more film stuff for sure. That’s always been a goal of mine. I love acting. It’s my first love. Singing I enjoy. Dancing, I’m not very good at, tut I love acting. I definitely want to try to do more film stuff or more straight plays or just really really dig my teeth into the acting world a little bit and get back into that. Then for content creation? I think just focusing on travel, because that’s what I’m passionate about, is trying foods from different countries. I don’t want to just make my niche the States and only do food here while I’m here. I still want to explore.