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.
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.