Have you ever wondered how a food from your favorite show would taste?
Andrew Rea takes those mental gymnastics and transforms them into culinary adventures on his YouTube series, Binging with Babish. He recreates everything from the lush boeuf bourguignon in Julie and Julia to the mysterious legendary Szechuan sauce from Rick and Morty. He also does "Basics with Babish," a series where he breaks down the skills that will upgrade your culinary repertoire.
In just two years, Andrew's YouTube channel has exploded. He has over 307 million views, over two million followers, and some seriously exciting projects in the works. We chatted with him about his journey to YouTube stardom, the magic behind Timpano, and the gentle unboxing videos he can't stop watching.
What's the first TV or movie-related food that you felt inspired to make?
That would be the first episode on my channel, which was the burger cook-off between Ron Swanson and Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation. That's really where Binging with Babish came from. I wanted to know what it would actually taste like. Were the writers just having fun with this sort of string of foodie bullshit buzzwords? What was the thought that went into this?
I thought, okay, I'm going to try recreating this. I never intended to make more than one episode, but people liked it so I kept making it — and here we are!
What inspired you to take the idea and turn it into a YouTube series?
I'm a filmmaker, not a cook. And I had watched a whole lot of food videos on YouTube and I saw a gap in the market, where food content was not food-oriented enough, in my mind. So I decided that I would make this show specifically about the food. I am literally a backdrop to the food. That's why I wear a black apron, so the food pops more.
Is that why the show is shot so you can't see your face?
Yes, I didn't reveal my face for a good long while. I'm starting to reveal it now so I can be a little bit more recognizable as a personality, but it's very, very minimal.
What is the typical age range for your fan base?
Eighty percent of my viewers are ages 18 to 35. So they're right in the sweet spot when people are just getting out of college, or they're young adults who are learning to live on their own and picking up new hobbies. It reminds me very much of myself five years ago. It's people who are learning how to cook away from home.
How do you think YouTube has changed the way that people cook?
It changed the way I cook. I didn't go to culinary school, so I am a student of YouTube cookery. If I want to learn how to make something, I'm going to YouTube. Whenever you want to learn how to make anything, you can find out in an instant. You can find out in great detail how it's made and what the best way is to make it. I think it has a lot of people cooking who might not have otherwise. It's a really exciting time to be a home cook, thanks to YouTube.
When you first started getting into food videos on YouTube, who were your favorite creators?
What YouTube food creators are you excited about right now?
"You Suck at Cooking" is a lot of fun. I love his show because despite how existential it often gets it's still informative, and that's my favorite kind of content — one that entertains as it informs.
There's a creator called Steve1989MREInfo. His whole channel is opening — in incredibly painstaking detail — military meals or "meals ready to eat." And if it's remotely edible, he'll eat it. It's unbelievable. There's one ration that he opens that's more than 100 years old and it's got this powderized beef in it that he actually eats.
It is the most meditative, sweet thing to watch. I go to sleep watching his show every night.
Is there a trend on food YouTube that you're excited about right now?
I think that the most exciting trend about food on YouTube right now is that it's shying away from trends. An unfortunate side effect of YouTube entertainment is that it's often dependent on virality, so people are trying to make the biggest, craziest, cheesiest thing.
But it's trending away from that now. People are interested in content that entertains them, that keeps them engaged, but also is as informative as it is fun. There's nothing wrong with "How deep fried can we make this bacon?" type of videos, but I definitely like the direction things are moving in.
What are a few of your favorite recipes so far from the show?
My favorite of all time is pasta aglio e olio because of how many people have recreated it and have tried cooking for the first time. You can take these seven ingredients and make them into something greater than the sum of their parts. It's something exciting as a home cook that encourages you to keep cooking.
I think my favorite episode, maybe not favorite recipe, was timpano because it was just such a marathon. Now anytime that I feel like I'm overwhelmed or I don't have energy to do something, I look back and watch that. I think about how I put 14 hours' worth of work into the timpano on a weeknight when I was still working a full-time job, and I'm like okay, get off your ass and get back to work.
Is there a recipe that you can't crack?
An episode that I am (and probably forever will be) afraid to tackle is the opening scene in Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. It's basically this beautiful scene of this guy preparing a traditional meal for his daughters and he's making it entirely from scratch and using these masterful knife techniques. You can just tell from his movements that he's been doing this his entire life, and there's just no way in hell that I could ever reach that kind of mastery.
Any scene or movie that features a recipe where somebody is at the top of their game, on a whole other level that I'm not even remotely close to — that's what scares me right now.
Also bagels, because they're hard.
Any exciting stuff coming up for you in the near future?
Right now my business partner and I are attempting to launch a new channel on YouTube. It's going to be a large collaborative effort featuring the work of a lot of established YouTube personalities and some newcomers.
I'm also developing a full-length show that has to do with travel and food, and people can expect that later this year or early next year. And I'm writing the official "Binging with Babish" companion cookbook, that will be out in the fall of 2019. So just expect a lot of new content and a lot of new stuff coming from my channel.