Amid a Feast of Foodie Videos, 6 Unusual Cooking Channels To Try on YouTube

Cooking with dog2
Cooking With Dog: the Japanese canine chef with over 945,000 subscribers on YouTube

Not so long ago, the only way to host your own cooking show would have been to find favor with a television network. Now, any chef with an iPhone can broadcast it in the comfort of their own kitchen thanks to YouTube.

One look at the viewership of foodie content on YouTube shows that the audience is (sorry) hungry for it. According to YouTube's own figures, views of food and recipe content on the platform grew 59% in the last year alone, and subscriptions to these channels — from users wanting to receive new videos as soon as they're live — were up 280%. As for exactly who's watching other people cook online, YouTube's stats point to the fabled 18-34 Millennial generation as viewing way more food content (30% more, in fact) than any other demographic.

It all paints a picture of younger would-be cooks eager for inspiration and advice on-demand, on their terms — and as a way to learn, the runaway success of these channels on YouTube makes total sense. Why read a recipe and guess wildly at the stuff it doesn’t tell you when you can watch someone doing it, and even cook along, in real-time? YouTube says that 75% of food content views come from mobile (those Millennials again) which also makes sense for people following a video the way you'd follow a recipe in your hand or on your countertop.

Laura Vitale
Laura Vitale, host of hugely-popular YouTube show Laura in the Kitchen

Not surprisingly, some of the most successful YouTube accounts are the most professional-looking and pleasing to watch, with the slick production values of glossy TV shows in miniature. (Some actually are canny spin-offs from the shows of celebrated chefs, with one eye on those Millennials who don’t even own a TV. The wildly successful FoodTube channel of TV chef and early YouTube adopter Jamie Oliver, with its 90 million views and 1.3 million subscribers, is widely regarded as the gold standard for celebrity cheffing online.) One such YouTube phenomenon is Laura in the Kitchen. Amassing 200m views and 1.6m subscribers in just five years, creator Laura Vitale has the camera-ready ease of a veteran TV cooking host when presenting her brightly-filmed Italian recipes, and inevitably, she’s now duplicating her talents to television with a weekly show on the Cooking Channel.

Many YouTube chefs monetize their videos by permitting ads, so for those who go viral, there’s real profit to be made from cooking on YouTube — possibly even a real career. “Geeky baking” channel Nerdy Nummies, with its Angry Bird Cupcakes, Princess Peach Cobbler and Lightsaber Popsicles, is officially the most popular baking account on YouTube with over 645 million views and 3.5m subscribers. In 2014 the woman behind the channel, Rosanna Pansino, was estimated to have earned almost $200,000 from ad revenue on her videos. Hannah Hart’s “inebriated cooking” tutorials on her My Drunk Kitchen show, while comic, have gained her over 140 million views, 1.8m subscribers, a crowdfunded tour, a book deal and a guest spot from Sarah Silverman.

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But between the slick high-earning professionals and the “who watches this?” novelty accounts, there’s a bunch of unusual, often bizarre cooking personalities out there on YouTube — a passionate and active bunch of amateur and semi-pro chefs who probably aren’t making millions, but whose quirky tutorials are still worth your time. Have a taste!

6 Unusual YouTube Cooking Channels to Try on YouTube

Cooking With Dog (Subscribers: 944k)

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to cook authentic Japanese delicacies but didn’t want to learn from a human, now’s your chance! Cooking With Dog is “hosted” by poodle Francis, who narrates these zippy, easy-to-follow recipes performed by the nameless (human) chef beside him at the countertop. Unbelievably, this account has been going strong for over seven years, and for sheer deadpan fun and watchability these videos are irresistible. Putting aside the fact that,you know, there’s a dog in it, the cooking tutorials themselves — from gyoza to mochi and matcha creme brulee -- are actually really well executed. If canine instruction is some kind of educational miracle tool, then I really wish I’d had ‘Physics With Dog’ in high school.

Feast of Fiction (Subscribers: 280k)

This channel is, essentially, “cosplay for cooking.” Anchored by boundlessly-enthusiastic chef Jimmy Wong and his equally excitable pals, Feast of Fiction recreates the fictional foods featured or mentioned in movies, books and gaming. From Narnian Turkish Delight and Alice in Wonderland's Drink Me Potion to Super Mario Mushrooms, this channel truly goes off the edge of the nerd map, but it’s hard to quibble with the sheer eagerness and imagination of it all -- especially since I can imagine bookwormy kids particularly delighting in the Harry Potter Pumpkin Pasties and Percy Jackson’s Ambrosia Nectar. Bonus points for the handy full ingredient lists in the video captions, which are normally all too lacking on these kinds of channels.

Great Depression Cooking (Subscribers: 69k)

There are no end of YouTube videos offering tips on cooking within a budget, but this is the real deal: a ninety-something great-grandmother recreating the frugal recipes of her childhood during the Great Depression. Born in 1915 in Chicago to Sicilian immigrants, Clara actually passed away in 2013 at the grand age of 98, but you can still watch her many YouTube tutorials recreating the austere feasts of her 1930s childhood: recipes like the Poor Man’s Meal (basically fried potatoes and hot dogs), Dandelion Salad and a Depression Breakfast of cookies and coffee. Yes, the recipes are pretty plain and these videos, while charming, are slow. But if you’re weirdly fascinated by the idea of recreating recipes that someone, somewhere in your family tree might have relied on (albeit in pretty unfortunate circumstances) almost a century ago, they’re pretty darn interesting from a historical perspective.

Epic Meal Time (Subscribers: 6.7m)

Forget what I said up there about these cooking creators not making millions, because the men behind Epic Meal Time almost certainly are. One of the greatest YouTube food success stories, this bro-tastic channel started in 2010 as a way for a bunch of Canadian pals to showcase their penchant for ridiculously high calorie creations (or, “Jackass in the kitchen,” as their founder puts it.) In 2014 their 721m views were estimated to have earned them $1.3 million, as well as guest appearances from Tony Hawk and Arnold Schwarzenegger. From The Pizza Palace (72,532 calories)  to their Breakfast of Booze (18,531 calories), almost all of these recipes are too masochistic to ever recreate yourself in full, but they'll certainly give you some ideas for guilty Friday night gorging.

Vegan Black Metal Chef (Subscribers: 60k)

Too bizarre not to mention, the Vegan Black Metal Chef describes his channel as “a vegan cooking show like no other” — and unless you know of another vegan tutorial channel with recipes entirely communicated through black metal music, he's right. From his dungeon kitchen, the titular Vegan demonstrates how to create vegan delicacies from around the globe like Chipotle Crimson Hell and the Indian Feast of the Gods, aided by a pentagram chopping board and a miniature axe for a vegetable knife. Don’t worry, it's meant to be ridiculous. But if you’re concerned that going vegan might make you humorless, this is probably a good place to dispel that myth, and the dishes themselves actually look pretty tasty bathed in the flickering light of the altar candles. (PSA: if you’re prone to headaches, the “lyrics” are subtitled. Nobody would judge you for watching Vegan Black Metal Chef with the sound off.)

The Meat Men (Subscribers: 3k)

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Purveyors of high-end hipster meat porn, The Meat Men are a self-described “bunch of greedy guys in the creative trade who love their food” in Singapore. From Banh Mi to 5 Spice Pork Buns, their short but lovingly-filmed (and totally under-viewed) tutorials primarily deal in Asian dishes, but their meaty remit also extends to stuff like Chorizo Ravioli and Smoked Duck. There’s also some less expected, equally fancy dessert videos in there, with showstoppers like Creme Brulee and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake reinforcing the impression that each video might as well come with the words “Cook this to impress someone.” Admittedly, the twee music and typography make every video look and sound like an ad for Google, but it’s hard to argue with the magical combination of meat and depth of field.

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