Mahad Omar, popularly known as “HoodieCooks,” considers himself an influencer. Mahad’s viral halal food reviews, cooking tutorials and game show-like challenges have brought him over 73k followers on Tiktok.
“Recently, I did a challenge against my aunt, where we went against each other’s lasagnas,” explained Mahad. “I called it ‘hooyo wars - the battle of Somali mothers.’ So now I'm trying to see if other Somali mothers would like to go against me in their best dish, and to see how I can do. And I also do halal food reviews as well, because I want to show the food scene what we have available here in the Twin Cities.”
In early September, Mahad hosted his “Hoodie’s Phat Cookout” in St. Paul. Local restaurants and businesses were invited and many provided both free and for-purchase food and products. He says over 500 people were in attendance, with most vendors running out of items to sell.
“For me, I just want to be able to connect the regular people to halal food, as well as regular people to other folks within the Twin Cities that can provide them a solid connection, because I'm a guy that's big on networking. So I love connecting people together. And if I can connect people together through food, and games, why not?”
There were a number of games for attendees to play at the cookout, with Mahad giving out hundreds of dollars in gift cards as prizes. This and other experiences has led to him wanting to get more into philanthropy.
“I want to be in the ‘Mr. Beast’ lane where I'm just giving people cash, or I'm just giving people like access to restaurants, you know. So stuff like that where it's real interesting, real fun to watch. And also I can throw events where people can come out and build connections,” he added. “And cut back on the dedicated cooking videos because I love cooking, like cooking is fun. But I want to make it more interesting by adding in games and challenges to the cooking realm.”
Mahad says cooking has helped him create meaningful connections and build community; he hopes he can continue growing his following and expanding his reach at a national level.