The Rise of Food on YouTube

When I was in elementary school, all my classmates would be talking about a show on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but I grew up watching something else. The Food Network was my Disney Channel. Programs like Chopped, Iron Chef, and Cupcake Wars prompted my love for cooking and baking. I continued to watch those shows, and as I began to actually make the recipes I saw, I turned to YouTube for help. Unlike traditional cooking programs, YouTube gave me a platform to find detailed instructions on any kitchen related question I had, from julienning a bell pepper to how to properly ice a cake.

Food content on YouTube in the earlier days were just shorter versions of the ones on TV, but they began to evolve into something much more. In recent years, people have become obsessed with sharing their latest meal on social media. Pictures of food on your Snapchat and Instagram feeds are now just as common as selfies. The increase of food in media has helped fuel the explosion of food-related content on YouTube. There are still plenty of traditional shows, where a chef teaches viewers how to make one or two dishes, but now there is so much more.

The food industry has been no exception to the trend of using social media platforms to deliver their content. The Buzzfeed series, Worth It, follows Steven and Andrew (and Adam), as they taste the same foods at three drastically different prices. The series started out small, but as their popularity grew, they traveled to countries like Japan and Korea, trying even more elaborate dishes. As of 2018, the series had 1.5 billion minutes of watch time. Another popular series is Hot Ones, created by First We Feast. Celebrity guests are interviewed by Sean Evans while eating chicken wings that get increasingly spicier as the interview goes on. The show has had a very diverse list of notable guests such as Gordon Ramsey (this video has over 51 million views), Billie Eilish, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s not just companies like Buzzfeed and First We Feast that have found success, there are individuals who have risen to the top of YouTube through food as well. Binging with Babish is a YouTube cooking channel, where creator, Andrew Rea, recreates recipes from iconic movies, television, and video games. His channel now has over 5 million subscribers, and he published a cookbook in October 2019. There are also many Mukbang channels, which originated in South Korea, where creators just eat tons of food on camera.

This next cooking channel is probably the best on YouTube (although I may be a little biased). Bon Appétit has been around for a while as a typical food magazine, but in recent years it has expanded into the world of YouTube. Their popular series, such as Gourmet Makes, It’s Alive, and Back-to-Back Chef has quickly developed a community of enthusiastic fans. At first glance, the content doesn’t seem to be anything extraordinary, but the channel’s popularity made me wonder what sets them apart from traditional food on television. I later realized that it’s the human element they bring that makes it so interesting to watch. Viewers get to see the mistakes and failures that cooking always entails, but that traditional cooking shows never revealed. The casual vibe of the videos lets the personality of the chef shine and it’s far more entertaining than the formal, scripted videos of the past. Much of the food content on YouTube is pretty simple. The concepts of the shows are straightforward and it doesn’t take a genius to come up with them. But the reason for their success is because of the people that make them.

Allison Hong
Arts & Culture Editor 

Graphic: Nicole Kye

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