If you’re tired of traditional cooking shows with bubbly hosts or the over-the-stove Instagram videos set to plucky music—and who could blame you, really—then might we suggest a turn towards YouTube and one of its biggest breakout food stars?
With bone dry humor and uniquely deadpan delivery, “Binging with Babish,” hosted by Brooklyn-based Andrew Rea, has become a bit of a big deal on YouTube—to the tune of six million subscribers—by way of quirky yet informative cooking videos inspired by his favorite films and TV scenes.
bangin’ Sunday marinara inspired by the great prison sauce scene from “Goodfellas,” or crispy calzones like the ones George Constanza used to win over his boss, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, in a classic episode of “Seinfeld.” Babish is funny, too, but the jokes are slipped in wryly—like movie Easter eggs—so don’t blink your ears or you might miss ’em.Though not technically ASMR, there is a wholly soothing quality to Babish’s straight and steady camera and an even steadier voiceover that makes these clever videos extremely watchable. Oh, and you’ll learn to make something cool, too, like a
Each year brings a new crop of films and TV (also known as material) for Babish to work with, and 2019 proved as strong a year for on-screen eats as any.
Netflix’s “The Irishman” continued a long tradition of mobster movies with food just as tasty as the guys are bad. Babish recreated the chili dog steamed in beer with an adapted and easy-to-follow recipe. And if you caught Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” you might remember Brad Pitt whipping up some vintage blue box Mac n’ Cheese. Babish makes that too, but don’t worry, he does his from scratch, dehydrating actual cheese to create a Kraft-like cheese powder. Impressive.
With film’s biggest night bearing down on us this Sunday, we caught up with Babish himself to get his thoughts on the year in film—and food—and dive a little deeper into the man behind the cult YouTube cooking series.
David Watsky: I’m sure you get asked this a lot (so apologies in advance) but how did you fall into cooking, YouTubing, and recreating food from film and TV?
Babish: No problem! The name of the show is proof of its accidental success. I named the show arbitrarily after my Reddit handle, which I had named arbitrarily after a minor character from “The West Wing.” I never expected it to take off the way it did—it was totally just a hobby. I went to film school, so I put a lot of stock in how the show looks and feels, and while I’m not trained in cooking, I try to use that to my advantage, making sure to show my mistakes and the learning process that every home cook experiences in the kitchen.
DW: Was there a single scene that got this whole thing rolling? A dish you simply had to recreate and film yourself doing it?
Babish: I had set up my camera and lights in my apartment kitchen—and as I so often do—had one of my favorite shows playing in the background while I worked: “Parks and Recreation.” Two characters, Ron Swanson and Chris Traeger, were having a burger cook-off. Chris’ burger was peppered with foodie buzzwords (black truffle aioli, papaya chutney, gluten-free, taleggio, etc), and I wondered, ‘What would that actually taste like?’
I tried making it myself, uploaded it to YouTube for feedback and was pleased with getting a few thousand views and some kind comments. The rest is history.
Binging with Babish: 100 Recipes Recreated from Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows, $17.99 on Amazon
In case you prefer to read your YouTube videos.
DW: Indeed it is. What’s the one video people bring up the most? And why do you think that is?
Babish: Probably my second episode, “Il Timpano from Big Night.” It’s a very challenging and dramatic dish, which despite being essentially an ornate lasagna, never fails to make collective viewers’ stomachs rumble.
DW: If you had to choose between good movies/TV or good food, which would you pick? Which one is the true passion?
Babish: Tricky question! I’m obsessed with both. I can’t really imagine life without one or the other, but if I had to pick one, I think it’d be good movies/TV. I watch my favorite films and television shows the way most people listen to music: repeatedly.
DW: Are there any kitchen gadgets you’ve discovered recently that you’re completely obsessed with?
Babish: I love my vacuum sealer, my sous vide, my high-powered blender. But a chef’s knife and a cast iron pan remain my favorite tools.
Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, $61.99 at Best Buy
As seen on & recommended by Binging with Babish
DW: Are there any pantry items or ingredients you’ve discovered recently that you’re completely obsessed with?
Babish: I’m all about homemade chili oil at the moment. I put it on damn near everything and it rises head and shoulders above anything you can get in the store.
DW: Of any category, mafia/mob movies have probably given us the most memorable food moments. Would you agree? Do you have a favorite?
Babish: Definitely. Food can play an important role in any film (see: “Parasite“), but few films use it to greater effect than those about the mafia. My favorite is probably the same as everyone else’s: the prison gravy scene in “Goodfellas.” The only film scene I can think of that *almost* makes you want to be a mobster in prison. Almost.
DW: What’s the best food movie of all time (in your opinion)?
Babish: I don’t mean to suck up to my personal hero and the author of my book’s foreword, but “Chef” has got to be the greatest food film of all time. “Big Night,” “Babette’s Feast,” “Ratatouille” are all obvious contenders, but “Chef” strikes a chord in anyone with an appetite and an understanding of both the importance of food and following your passions.
DW: The worst?
Babish: I love Bradley Cooper but wasn’t a big fan of “Burnt.”
DW: I have a crush on your knife. What’s his or her name (and brand name too)?
Babish: Haha, thank you! I can’t say I’ve named my knife. If you’re referring to the Damascus chef’s knife, it’s a Shun Classic with an 8-inch blade.
Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150 on Sur La Table
This blade made in Seki, Japan is definitely crush-worthy.
DW: Favorite food city that’s not New York? And where should we eat if we have two meals there?
New Orleans by a wide margin. If you’ve only got two meals in the Crescent City, go old-school and new-school: Commander’s Palace or Antoine’s for the New Orleans of old, Toups’ Meatery or Cochon for the new.
DW: Same! There’s not a close second for me either. How about your favorite film of the year?
Babish: I’m torn between “Parasite” for its artistry and superb storytelling, and “1917” for being a purely cinematic experience. I was absolutely glued to both.
DW: And a favorite meal of the year?
Babish: I was fortunate enough to visit Paris for the first time this past year, and while I tried my first 3-Michelin-star meal there, my favorite was at Le Bon Georges, a darling brasserie with simply and perfectly prepared French mainstays.
For more film- and TV-inspired cooking videos head over to Binging with Babish’s YouTube page.
Header image courtesy of Binging with Babish.