In the Spoon series Buttered Up, we interview content creators in the food space about what their job is like. This month, we chatted with Valentina Mussi of @sweetportfolio, known for her gorgeous pastries, calming social media recipe videos, foodie tips and tricks, and more.

Valentina Mussi (@sweetportfolio on TikTok) is known for her unique and aesthetically pleasing recipes, such as red velvet waffles and pasta al Limone. But, beyond her TikTok, she is a cookbook author, world traveler, pastry chef, and just a girl with a passion for sweets.

Her videos showcase her experiences with food and travel, and even feature food guides — taking viewers everywhere from Las Vegas to Italy. She even recently went abroad to pastry school in France, where she completely immersed herself in a new way of life.

As a baker and lifelong foodie, Valentina is passionate about food and its ability to create community. Her Colombian-Italian roots are planted in the kitchen, where she is able to share special moments with her family and preserve those memories forever.

With her colorful videos that are bursting with adventure and flavor, Valentina has a unique way of making her audiences feel like they’re her best friends, even with over a million followers.

We had the chance to speak with Valentina to learn more about where her sweet lifestyle all began.

Spoon University: With 1.4 million followers on TikTok and 601K on Instagram, it’s difficult to imagine you were still starting out at some point in your career. How exactly did you get started in social media?

Valentina Mussi: I started my social media journey just like everyone else, for fun. My goal was to have a page where I could share everything I ate with family and friends. Back in 2017, I used to use Snapchat for this purpose, but my dad didn’t have an account obviously, so he told me to open an Instagram and the rest is history.

I was always fascinated by the power of food, especially desserts, to bring people together, and I had a deep love for restaurants. My parents brought me along for most of their date nights, and I got to eat out with them and I was in awe. I loved watching chefs cooking and the waiters running back and forth.

When I began sharing my recipes and culinary experiments on TikTok and Instagram, I never expected it to grow into such an engaged community. I am so grateful for my platform and love sharing my love for good food with others.

SU: You also have a cookbook, The Unofficial TikTok Cookbook. When and why did you decide to create this cookbook, and what is your favorite recipe from it?

VM: Creating The Unofficial TikTok Cookbook with Simon & Schuster was a dream come true for me. I love reading and have always enjoyed writing; becoming an author was one of my main goals in life. The idea came to me back in 2020 while in lockdown when I realized how TikTok was revolutionizing how we discover and share recipes. I wanted to compile all those viral recipes into a tangible collection that people could enjoy in their own kitchens. I want good food to be easy and accessible to everyone and that is my driving motive for the book.

My favorite recipe from the book has to be the whipped coffee, also known as Dalgona. That was my first really viral recipe, and I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for its success. I also have a serious obsession with coffee, and I love how you can turn something as simple as instant coffee into this delicious, fluffy, caffeine-loaded foam.

SU: How has your Colombian-Italian heritage/identity shaped your work and creative endeavors in the kitchen?

VM: My Colombian-Italian heritage has played a significant role in shaping my culinary identity. The vibrant flavors of Colombian cuisine and the rich culinary traditions of Italy have inspired many of my recipes. The fusion of these two cultures allows me to create dishes that are both comforting and exciting, reflecting the essence of my background. I am lucky that everyone in my family knows how to cook; my mom, dad, abuela, abuelo, and nonna were all incredible cooks. I learned something from each one of them, and I make sure to embrace that in my recipe creation process.

SU: In a recent Yahoo video, you showed us how to make arroz con leche with your grandmother. What is your favorite recipe to make with your family, or your favorite recipe that reminds you of them?

VM: Cooking with my family, especially my grandmother, holds a special place in my heart. The recipe for arroz con leche we made together in the Yahoo News video is a cherished family favorite. It's not just a dessert, it's a taste of my childhood in Colombia. Watching the edited version of the video brought me to tears. I am so lucky I get to share such special moments with my family in the kitchen. Food certainly has the power to bring back memories, especially of my abuelo who I very much loved and passed away eight years ago.

SU: What was your experience being a pastry chef in France? Was it difficult or hard at the beginning, especially moving to a different country?

VM: Becoming a pastry chef in France was a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. Moving to a different country, immersing myself in a new culinary tradition, and learning from some of the best pastry chefs was tough, but it pushed me to grow and evolve. I felt like I had a bit of an Emily in Paris moment, but instead, it was "Valentina in culinary school." While I am half-European, my lifestyle is certainly American, and I struggled a bit with the culture. Grocery stores closed at noon on weekends, most restaurants opened for lunch only, and I struggled to find "healthy" foods I am used to like salads and smoothies. It was hard to adjust to life in a small European city, but I really had the best time at school and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

SU: What are your must-have ingredients?

VM: High-quality vanilla extract for desserts, a nice strong extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, and tomato paste to make sauces and bring an umami taste to dishes.

SU: What kitchen essentials should every home cook have?

VM: I am a baker, so a stand mixer is a must for me, as well as a food scale. It will make the baking process much easier and stop you from making any mistakes when measuring ingredients. Also, a virtual assistant like a Google Home is helpful. My Google is my sous-chef, I get her to set timers for me, to answer quick questions in the kitchen like, "What's the ideal internal temperature for a medium rare salmon?", "How many grams are in a cup of brown sugar?" and much more.

SU: What kind of advice would you give your younger self, perhaps just starting your cooking/social media career?

VM: I would tell her to trust her instincts. You don't necessarily need formal training to be a good chef or to have an understanding of what makes food good–all you really need is passion. I went to pastry school 7 years into my career and achieved most of my success before that. School is important, but it doesn't necessarily dictate whether you'll be successful or not. And be kind to yourself. I can sometimes be my biggest critic and need to take a step back and give myself some more credit and love.

Follow along Valentina Mussi's sweet journey on TikTok and Instagram