Has YouTube killed the TV chef?
Many of our culinary giants have some history with screen time, and quite a few have even become famous because of it. Delia Smith may have reached her level of popularity on the Family Fare, while The Naked Chef catapulted Jamie Oliver’s Career. Though there are still shows like Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, there is a trend that is seeing new celebrities emerge online, specifically through YouTube.
YouTube has gained popularity for its accessibility and this is especially important for recipes. Available anywhere, anytime, and with the ability to rewind back through the confusing parts, it is no wonder we are leaving Rick Stein behind and turning instead to the likes of Donal Skehan.
Though some YouTube cooking channels may lack the refinement of a television production; I think that this is part of the appeal. Without studio lights, a set, makeup and hair stylists, the people on YouTube seem far more real and approachable, even fallible, giving us all hope in our own kitchens.
The ability to search any recipe that suits your fancy is a great help. No longer do I have to sit through half an hour of a chicken supreme recipe to get to the part of the episode that deals with choux pastry. Instead, everything is instantly accessible in small manageable chunks.
Some would claim that while Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off thrives, the TV chef is not yet dead, but is it the cooking that is the draw, or the competition? How many people would watch Mary Berry bake her own recipes instead of the relatable disasters of the general public (#bingate)? I believe that it is the human element that makes it so compelling and this applies to YouTube. I spoke to Alyssia Sheikh from Mind over Munch about this trend.
Though certain chefs specialise in a food group or a cuisine there are very few that cater to the truly niche. The joy of YouTube is that with a little digging, a user can find even the most specialised recipe. Mind over Munch is a YouTube channel that is all about maintaining a healthy diet with light alternatives to favourite dishes. Alyssia Sheikh is the mastermind behind the site and as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has nutrition in mind for many of her dishes.
The Human Element
TV chefs have to be personable to make them appealing to an audience, but they are sometimes set unattainable standards. Whether this involves a gleaming set, beautifully ripe ingredients, or perfect hair, it has many viewers looking around their own kitchens with a touch of disappointment. This is a part of YouTube channels that Alyssia thinks is attractive to viewers:
“The beautiful thing about YouTube is that anyone can do it! ‘Regular’ people create YouTube content, and ‘regular’ people consume it. Celebrities can be intimidating; we feel that we could never be them– but we can be like ‘regular’ people. You don't have to be an expert in any specific field to create YouTube content. You don't need to be a chef to cook, an artist to create, or an actor to perform.”
The lack of polish can be important as ‘Regular’ people express themselves and their talents, it is consumed by ‘Regular’ viewers. The aspect of community is what drives the site but it is also a platform for people to share life events and their successes. Alyssia often finds this one of the most rewarding aspects of the channel:
“Hearing real stories and connecting with real people from all over the world is inspiring, for both the creator and the viewer. It's an exciting cycle of hope, encouragement and endless possibilities. Traditional TV idealizes people and life; YouTube remains relatable and accessible to all– there is something there for everyone.”
The internet has proved itself a fantastic tool for sharing personal passions with absolute strangers with an immediacy. Knowing people are watching, following and creating along with you makes it less of a teacher/pupil relationship and more of a mutual culinary discovery.
Those who create channels on YouTube all have different aims, whether it is to be informative, to spread the word on their ideas or just to have fun. However, what you want from the site determines how you measure success. For Alyssia it is about the positive community she has gathered:
“There are different ways to approach YouTube as a creator, but valuing the community has always been my goal. If I'm not connecting with, learning from, and helping other people, then what's the point? The platform is constantly changing– but people are human, and they want connection. Showing the community that I appreciate them, value them, and learn from them is what I think makes our channel and space so strong. Our team works hard to create great content, the viewers recognize that and show their appreciation by watching and interacting, we learn from each other along the way, and the cycle repeats/continues endlessly. The possibilities are beautiful!”
This is the main reason I think YouTube will surpass television cooking shows. Some of the biggest names like Gordon Ramsey have already jumped ship, but though the culinary stars may be trying to straddle the different media, it will be the kooky, quirky and personable home chefs who become our next food idols. As a culture that is steering away from on-screen perfection, this is the moment for the new YouTube cooking sensations.