Alexander Valentini ’24 did not have Tiktok downloaded on his phone until 105 days ago. But after starting his 30-day challenge of “trying the worst foods my dining hall has to offer” Dec. 9, he became an overnight internet sensation. In total, he has amassed a following of over 185,000 followers along with 4.9 million likes on his videos.
“My roommate and I didn’t want to work a desk job,” he joked when asked about why he started the Tiktok account.
Valentini didn’t expect Tiktok fame. He recalled how he and his roommate celebrated the exponential success of “Cafeteria Bacteria.”
“We started celebrating … when (I) hit 100 views, 100 likes, and then 1,000 views, 1,000 likes,” and so on, he said.
For Valentini and his friend Connor Theriault ’24, Valentini’s newfound fame has been odd.
Valentini “is the last dude to … do anything like that,” Theriault said.
Theriault added that he has some previous experience in social media and that “it was cool” to see Valentini get millions of views from “gagging” on camera.
Valentini started the account after finding mold on one of his sandwiches at the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall, he said. He added that his displeasure with the University’s food options also prompted him to start the challenge.
In response to Valentini’s claim, George Barboza, vice president of dining programs, wrote to The Herald in an email that Brown Dining Services takes “the quality of food very seriously.”
Valentini named his account “Cafeteria Bacteria” after the name “just came to him” in the spur of the moment.
He said he has been recognized on campus by students who watch his videos and Brown Dining Services workers whose children are fans of his Tiktoks.
Sydney Nutakor ’25 started watching the “Cafeteria Bacteria” account two weeks ago without realizing that Valentini went to Brown.
“At first I was watching and I was like ‘wow, that food looks disgusting, that sucks,’” she said. Later, her friend told her Valentini was a Brown student.
“The coolest thing I’ve seen is just the amount of people who … notice” Valentini, Theriault said. “It’s so cool to see how this … brings people together.”
Valentini is involved in other activities on campus aside from the account, including playing on the varsity men’s lacrosse team, but he said it is easy for him to balance TikTok and school.
“The hardest part for me is figuring out how to post because I’m so bad with technology,” he joked.
In his videos, he often eats tofu and lentils along with other daily Sharpe Refectory offerings. He explained that he often has a large meal beforehand which makes him full. “I’ll eat so much that I don’t want to eat anymore,” he said, adding that this was why he often gaggs after eating the food on camera.
Nutakor said that her favorite part of his videos are his ratings of the foods. “They’re almost always below five,” she added.
Valentini was often seen wearing different college sweatshirts in his videos, causing his followers in the comments to speculate which school he went to.
“I did it two days in a row and I saw a comment that said ‘where do you go to college?’ and (then) I kept it up,” he said.
While he said he does not enjoy many of the foods he tries on camera, he mentioned that his favorite foods at the Ratty are the chicken parmesan and the ice cream. His original idea for the challenge was to eat ice cream every day and rate it, he said.
Valentini said that while he made the account as a joke, he would possibly make a career out of it if the opportunity presented itself. While the original 30-day series is over, Valentini has started a new 14 day challenge in which he tries different foods that have been mixed together and guesses what they are.