“Minasan konichiwa! It’s me, Tofu Chan,” is how Tofu Pudding Jones, a shiba inu from Melbourne, greets his 200,000 Instagram followers. Tofu likes sharing motivational messages, teaching Japanese words and talking about his love of bread.
Behind the quirky videos are three friends: Dylan Jones, Tomoya Kawasaki and Josef Gatti.
Jones is Tofu’s human. He had wanted a shiba inu since living in Japan as a child, but was never planning on making him Internet famous. “I had an Instagram account for him, but it was just photos I took. I wanted people to be able to feel the love I got from Tofu, and I didn’t think it came across in photos. So I had this idea with my friend Tomoya to make these videos,” Jones tells SBS Food.
“My idea was to make very loving, wholesome content that people could enjoy, and that really expressed how Tofu made me feel.”
Once he comes up with a concept and script, Jones works with Kawasaki, who voices Tofu, and Gatti, a filmmaker who films and edits the videos.
“Dylan brings the script and it’s very casual, on the spot, there’s no rehearsal. I think that’s why it’s funny,” says Kawasaki.
Tofu might “just” be a dog who looks like a loaf of bread, but his positive attitude has a real impact on people. “Every day, I get messages from people saying they’re really depressed and watching Tofu’s videos really helps them deal with their day. I think it’s amazing that he has that impact on people,” says Jones.
Tofu’s fans come from all around the world, but he’s especially loved in his hometown of Melbourne, where people recognise him on the street.
Since starting making the videos, Jones and Kawasaki (who also owns restaurants Wabi Sabi and Neko Neko) have opened Chotto Motto, a gyoza restaurant in Collingwood. There, you also find the Tofu Phone, an old Japanese payphone you can use to call Tofu for pre-recorded jokes and life advice.
While Jones had been approached by several brands keen to work with Tofu, he was waiting for the right match. That’s when he found out about Hey Tiger, an ethical chocolate brand with fun flavours.
Hey Tiger brand director Mirte van der Lugt knew that collaborating with a dog might seem a bit strange. Dogs shouldn't eat chocolate, after all. “But we thought this would be the perfect way to show that Hey Tiger is not just any chocolate brand and that we don’t shy away from the weird and quirky,” she explains.
Hey Tiger and the team behind Tofu created a promotional video and a special edition Tofu’s Dream chocolate bar.
“The collaboration itself felt effortless. Working with Tofu’s brilliant team was a dream. Ideas flowed freely and we all had such a mutual love and excitement for the project,” says van der Lugt.
Tofu’s Dream is a crème brûlée and black sesame Dulcey (caramelised white chocolate) bar.
“It was a really good process. I gave them a bunch of ingredients and flavours I thought could work with Tofu and their chocolate designer made samples for us to taste,” says Jones.
The chocolate bar was the most successful Hey Tiger campaign to date, selling out in 18 hours. Another batch was made, which also sold out.
Jones says there could be another chocolate bar in the future. In the meantime, he and Kawasaki are also thinking about a new food venture, though, sadly for Tofu, it doesn’t involve bread.
Don't let the name fool you - a blend of spices elevates the humble salt and pepper tofu into a dish of addictive proportions!
This is a dish for true tofu lovers. It’s worth obtaining high-quality tofu as it really makes a difference. A very virtuous bowl, I feel very clean and fresh eating this.
This rice dish calls for firm tofu and creamy spinach. The kombu adds the perfect earthy touch and is a delicious way to incoporate seaweed into your meal.
In Indonesia, they have a particular ‘thing’ for tofu and versions of tahu goreng abound. “Goreng” simply means “fried’ and fried tofu can be sauced in many different ways. This sweet-tangy peanut-based concoction is particularly delicious; by using peanut butter and a food processor (in Indonesia they’d traditionally start by deep-frying peanuts then pound everything in a mortar), this dish becomes incredibly quick to make.