This Self-Taught Cook Shows More Than 2 Million Subscribers How to Make the Snacks and Meals You See on Screen
If you’ve ever watched a TV show or movie where the characters are having a meal that looks particularly delicious -- or gross -- and thought, hey, I wonder what that actually tastes like? then it’s likely that self-taught chef Andrew Rea has figured out the recipe for his popular YouTube channel Binging with Babish.
Since launching in 2016, Rea treats his more than 2.3 million subscribers each week to a tutorial that brings the delicacies you see on screen to life, from tamales from the Pixar film Coco, fantastical spreads from Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, bar fare from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Twin Peaks-style pancakes.
Rea’s M.O. is to inspire other like-minded home cooks to dive in and give the recipes a try. He also has a second series that is all about showing viewers how to make basics -- aptly named Basics with Babish -- including steak or simple sauces.
He films his distinctive videos from his kitchen in Harlem, NY, and in October 2017, Rea reached a milestone and published his first cookbook, Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers.
Entrepreneur spoke with Rea about how his accidental hobby turned into a highly watched favorite.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start with YouTube?
Quite by accident. I had my channel since college. I uploaded various odds and ends projects and never really took it as a career. Then about two years ago I bought a camera and lights to do some freelancing work, making nonfiction content for nonprofits. I set it up in my kitchen just to practice lighting a little bit, and I thought, I've got a pretty good setup for a cooking show here. I had just seen an episode of Parks and Rec where there was a burger cook off [and that was the first recipe I tried]. So basically I combined things that I really enjoyed and was passionate about and tried to find unique ways to present my take on those things.
How much of your time do you spend on a video and what does that entail?
It can vary so wildly depending on the concerns of that week's recipe. So there might be three to six hours of research. For apple strudel from Inglorious Bastards, that was an old Austrian recipe. So I was looking for old recipes that contained the word "oma" so I could get some legit grandma stuff. A recent episode was chicken parm heroes, something I've been making for a long time, so I just made them the way I like to make them, so no research required.
Shopping can vary wildly. I could go to Whole Foods around the corner or I need to go scour Brooklyn for Durian fruit out of season. It can take an hour or it can take a day. Then the actual filming can take between four to 16 hours. It might be shot over the course of multiple days if it's very complicated then editing generally takes between four to eight hours, depending on how complex something is.
That's just for Binging, and then for Basics, I have a film crew come in for a week every quarter and we try to knock out like 10 episodes over the course of five or six days. Those are 12-hour days for five or six days. It's very much a full-time job.
How do you leverage your YouTube channel and to what extent do you monetize it?
I really wanted to grow it on its own merits, which is why I didn't monetize it for the first year and a half. I was just treating it as a hobby. Even though I was making it every week and expending a lot of time and energy doing so, I was using copyrighted movie clips and music and I didn't want to change anything until I was absolutely happy with how product ended up. So I didn't monetize until this past spring and as far as monetization goes, typical YouTube ad monetization. I do some brand integrations with Squarespace and Crunchyroll and I've got a couple new ones coming up.
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
Try to find what you can say uniquely and share whatever part of yourself that you think people are going to want to hear about. Don't try to imitate others. There's definitely ways to make money doing it but if you really want and try to grow a brand you need to put your unique voice out there.
What's a misconception many people have about YouTube?
Older generations might view YouTube as a fad, but it's really poised to become how a vast majority of the new generation consume media. [YouTube] is growing the potential to be a platform for everyone to get their entertainment, be it long-form shows or short-form videos. [Another is that] it's like a dream job, super easy, but I'm working harder than I ever have before. To make and maintain a successful channel takes a pretty sizable amount of energy. Also, there are lots of us that are trying to make quality, fun, engaging, informative content that doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator. I hope to be one of the many people that helps to change that misconception of YouTubers.
"This is one of my favorites because it was an opportunity to share a recipe I've been working on for years -- the perfect chicken noodle soup. Not to mention homemade stock, something I hope to help make a mainstay in any burgeoning home cook's kitchen."
"I like this one, because despite it having no specific pop culture tie-in, and being a relatively simple recipe, it's one of my audiences' favorites. Not only did it showcase a recipe easy enough to try themselves, but more than usual, it gave them a look into my goofier side."
"My second-ever episode, and by far one of the most challenging. This episode was the moment I realized I'd go to great lengths to make the show accurate, playful and informative."
"Far and away the most important episode of the show -- not only has it been recreated by thousands of first-time home cooks, but two years after its creation, it got me in the same room as Jon Favreau."
"A great example of how flexible my show format was, and how important that proved to be in its growth and success. With the Rick & Morty premiere airing and going viral on a Sunday, I was able to crank out this episode in less than 24 hours."