Behind YouTube’s Most Popular Cooking Show

By Noah Kaufman |
FWX SORTED FOOD PORTRAIT

From Left Ben, Jamie, Barry and Mike © Sorted Food

The YouTubean labyrinth can be tricky to navigate. How do you know if that cover of “Let It Go” you just clicked on is going to be a good one or not? What if you get stuck down a rabbit hole of Russian dash-cam footage? One group whose quality you don’t have to worry about is Ben, Jamie, Barry and Mike — the British lads from Sorted Food. With over 700,000 subscribers, they consistently put out some of the most useful and entertaining cooking videos on the web. Yesterday they made their American-network-TV debut with Carson Daly on the Today show, and I sat down with Sorted’s Ben Ebbrell to find out what makes his cooking quartet successful in the kitchen and in the world of viral videos.

On How Sorted Started:

It actually began on the back of a coaster in a pub. Between terms in school, the four friends were out and everyone but Ben had spent the year eating disgusting cafeteria food because they couldn’t cook. He wrote down a recipe and said that if it could fit on a coaster, anyone could make it.

On Being the Only One Who Knows How to Cook:

Ben is the only trained chef in the bunch, but the other guys are coming along. The videos are as much about their relationship as they are about the food they put out.

If the rest of them weren’t laughing with — and occasionally at — him, there wouldn’t be nearly as much to watch, as you can see.

On Why They’re Successful:

They are focused on being part of a conversation instead of just dictating to their viewers. They take suggestions, corrections and whatever else shows up in the comments section on YouTube, and they use them. They have built a real sense of community out of that.

Sorry if you’re looking for a magic bullet to make your “hilarious” video go viral. Sometimes it just takes hard work.

On Where They Go from Here:

You probably won’t see them with their own show on a food network any time soon. They relish the autonomy they have online and the immediacy of the response. Next week, they’re starting entirely audience-driven videos. You ask for it, they’ll bring it to you — whatever it is.

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