Cameron Brenson launches TikTok challenge: sample cuisine from every country in the world via Chicago restaurants

Starting with traditional eats from Afghanistan, Albania and Algeria, the TikTok content creator hopes to try food from new countries around the world in alphabetical order at least twice a week.

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Cameron Brenson, aka @bored_in_chicago on TikTok is taking on the challenge to eat food from every country in the world without leaving Chicago.

Cameron Brenson, aka @bored_in_chicago on TikTok, is eating food from every country in the world without leaving Chicago, thanks to the myriad globally influenced restaurants located here.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

This year, Chicago content creator Cameron Brenson enjoyed meals in Afghanistan, Albania and Algeria — without leaving the city.

Brenson, a digital creator, has amassed just over 250 thousand followers on TikTok with short videos recommending offbeat eats and activities around Chicago.

He’s currently stamping his passport in a culinary journey through the foods of every country in the world, as presented by Chicago restaurants.

Working in alphabetical order through the national dishes or most popular foods around the globe, Brenson set a starting goal of two new restaurants a week. He’s currently sourcing recommendations for Andorra, Angola and Antigua and Barbuda.

The challenge began with kabuli pulao, an Afghan rice dish, at Afghan Bamyan Kabob in North Park. Then, Albanian food brought Brenson to Rogers Park, where burek — a flaky filled pastry featuring meat and raisins — was an instant favorite.

“It just kind of sounds like a meat pie, but it was way lighter than I expected,” Brenson said. “I could have probably eaten three more of them.”

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As he works his way through Chicago cuisines of the world in alphabetical order, one of Cameron Brenson’s favorite new foods has been burek, a savory filled pastry. Brenson tried the Albanian dish at Bina’s Place in West Rogers Park.

Courtesy of Cameron Brenson

A software marketer by day, Brenson grew up in La Grange and moved to Chicago after college. His social media presence, under the username @bored_in_chicago, started as a way to help him branch out.

“I would be sitting there on like a Saturday or a Sunday being like, I don’t know what to do with myself,” Brenson said. “I don’t really want to go to a bar and drink. What else is there to do in the city?”

Brenson built a website to give users random activity suggestions, then documented his recommendations on Youtube and Instagram before moving to TikTok in late 2019.

“I posted some random video of, like, a tequila shot I got in a bar, and kind of forgot about it,” Brenson said. “A month or two later, I opened up the app again and saw that it had like a thousand views, and my mind was blown.”

Now, Brenson plans to center @bored_in_chicago around the “Eating food from every country” series.

The series was inspired by other TikTok creators on food journeys, cooking the national dish of every country at home or eating a traditional food from every state in America.

Brenson considered a Chicago-based challenge for nearly six months, he said.

“I kind of ripped the band-aid off,” Brenson said. “I was like, it’s the middle of January. I have no idea what to do. Let’s just go to an Afghan restaurant and see how it goes. And then it was awesome.”

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Brenson’s first stop on his cuisines of the world challenge was Afghan Bamyan Kabob in North Park, where he tried kabuli pulao, an rice dish from Afghanistan.

Courtesy of Cameron Brenson

Brenson’s bites have ranged from $10-$20. He doesn’t usually let restaurant employees know he’s filming a series, hoping to stay under the radar.

Before trying a cuisine new to him, Brenson browses sites like Reddit and Youtube to learn about the history of the area, as well as check his pronunciation.

His latest post features chicken and vegetable tajine, a fragrant Algerian stew over couscous, from Halal DZ House in Belmont Cragin. The video has around 11.5 thousand likes.

Brenson hopes to keep the series going for at least a year and a half.

Another pair of creators, Lauren and Simon Willis, set out in 2020 to eat food from every country in 80 days without leaving New York City. The project ended after 99 countries.

Brenson has already struggled to find food from certain countries — let him know if you’ve ever been to an Angolan restaurant in Chicago. He’s also wary of misclassifying certain dishes that are popular across multiple countries in a region.

“I don’t want to accidentally eat food that is popular in that country, but maybe it’s more deserving to go to another country,” Brenson said, “Especially just knowing a lot of traditions carry over borders.”

This was the case for Albania. After sorting through twenty recommendations, Brenson visited Bina’s Place, a West Rogers Park spot where flaky, savory burek shared a menu with Turkish desserts and American bar bites.

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Bina’s Place at 2210 W. Touhy Ave. in Rogers Park on the North Side. After sorting through more than 20 recommendations from friends and followers, Cameron Brenson stopped here to try traditional Albanian food.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Most restaurants in the challenge have been on the north side of Chicago so far, Brenson said, especially in Rogers Park.

Brenson plans to skip over cuisines he can’t find, keeping a running list in mind.

“If a restaurant literally opens up or someone else points me towards one, then I’ll circle back and cover it,” he said.

In an upcoming video, Cameron Brenson tries food from Argentina for his eating around the world in Chicago series on TikTok.

In an upcoming video, Cameron Brenson tries food from Argentina for his “eating around the world in Chicago” series on TikTok.

Courtesy of Cameron Brenson

Brenson’s TikTok and Instagram followers have submitted tips on future dishes from Chile to Kyrgyzstan, as well as their fair share of jokes. In one search for Australian restaurants, a commenter recommended Outback Steakhouse.

Next up for Brenson as he finishes off the “A”s: Argentina, Armenia and Australia.

“The reception has been really exciting to see,” Brenson said. “Tons of people have awesome recommendations.”

Working on the series has broadened Brenson’s relationship with Chicago, he said, bringing him in touch with communities from places he’s never been able to visit on his own.

“Most people [live] in a bubble in Chicago,” Brenson said. “And it’s really fun to explore a new neighborhood, a new type of food or activity you may not even think you would enjoy, just to try it out, see how it goes.”

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