Coronavirus imposed social distancing has some of us a bit anxious. And now more than ever, good distractions are welcome. Enter Babish, a YouTuber whose fiction-to-reality food show has earned him 6 million subscribers.
Binging with Babish is a remarkably simple idea. A gentleman named Andrew Rea, a.k.a. Babish, records himself cooking iconic dishes from film and television, edits in a voiceover and puts up the results on YouTube. Since the series began in 2016, with the burger cook off from Parks and Recreation in case you wondered, Rea has cooked dishes ranging from the prison sauce from Goodfellas, to lemon cakes from Game of Thrones to even Jjapaguri from Parasite, racking up 6 million subscribers on the way.
I can almost sense the disapproval here. I can hear the sceptics roll their eyes and complain about feckless millenials monetising television and food again. It is true that Babish combines the two forms of entertainment most favoured by millenials – television, and aesthetically pleasing food on a screen. It could well be a sign of the Kali Yuga that with everything going wrong in the world, a bespectacled, bearded gentleman with tattoos has just paid for his house by cooking fictional foods on camera.
But hold that thought. Food television is an actual thing. It’s the kind of low stakes, no stress, escape we need from the terribleness in the world today. Look at Masterchef Australia – we love watching people make food. And unlike the spherified-kangaroo-tails-with-fennel-foam-molecular-whatever creations and long-drawn pressure tests on Masterchef Australia, Babish’s videos don’t end in your favourite contestant going home.
The food feels real and accessible — only a tiny bit out of the reach of the average home chef. Rea credits professional chefs whenever he borrows their ideas, and puts his mistakes and missteps on camera for his viewers to see. Given enough time and money to buy fancy ingredients, many of us could make Babish versions of Carmela’s lasagne from The Sopranos, or ramen or strudel from scratch, perhaps learning a few lessons from Rea’s own mistakes.
The sources may be fictional, but the food is ever so real. Indeed, Basics with Babish, the spin-off series where Rea cooks real basic food, is a delight in itself. This show is for the less television-worthy dishes that you and I could cook at home, such as French onion soup and pan pizza, complete with beginner-friendly instructions.
While Babish does try to teach its viewers how to cook, it’s Rea’s mock seriousness that makes the show so endearing. The show goes to comic lengths to keep the dishes true to the source, with Rea even, famously, making a panini from canned sausages and Cadbury eggs in his car.
Rea tastes everything on camera, however horrible, from Kevin’s Famous Chili (The Office) complete with office carpeting or Rachel’s English trifle layered with beef and mash (Friends), or even Matilda’s chocolate cake made from actual blood and sweat. And he does it all with the air of a gentleman scientist heroically experimenting on himself. You could never make a giant robot pancakes, or the aforementioned car panini, but Babish can and did. He found out, so you don’t have to.
Maybe it is the millennial in me speaking, but Binging with Babish is one of my favourite things to watch on weekday evening. It’s got food, television and a healthy dose of hipster silliness. What’s not to love?
Watch the channel trailer here: