Article Title: Video bloggers serve offbeat food TV
By Frank Sennett
“Here’s a recipe for cooking-show fun: Trade in the Food Network’s canned happy talk for the fresh abundance of video blogs spotlighting amateur chefs.
These small-screen sages range from competent kitchen hands to gloriously goofy gadflies. As someone who knows (and cares) a lot more about eating meals than preparing them, I tend to prefer the more entertaining hosts.
That’s probably why the “quick, simple, delicious” recipes of Dani Spies left me colder than leftover pizza. Her polished patter and production values suggest she’s using the Web as a stepping-stone to television. (Fearless Cooking, hosted by a friendly New Yorker named Grace, looks similarly ready for a cable slot.)
Nothing wrong with that – and Spies’ spicy sweet potatoes looked delish. But for a cooking vlog (as video blogs are known) to entice me back for seconds, it has to deliver performance ingredients you won’t find on TV.
For an appetizer along those lines, sample the amusing Fork You. Billed as “Food with Philadelphia Charm,” this vlog scores, thanks to the delightful duo of Scott and Marisa. She’s a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla who really knows how to cook. He’s a lovable hipster doofus who’s described on the site as “very idiotic.”
In each short segment (cooking vlog episodes tend to run five to 15 minutes), the young couple explain what they’re making in a cheeky style that also manages to convey a serious appreciation for good grub. A recent episode about salad dressing featured the following exchange:
Marisa: It would be great on baby greens.
Scott: Or babies.
Marisa: Yes, a nice thigh. Arrh. (Pretends to chomp on a tiny leg.)
Scott: Once again you took it too far.
Viewers won’t see anything like that from Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray. But another vlogger, Chef Melissa, does give Ray a run for her money in the earthy appeal department.
A dental receptionist from Woodbridge, N.J., Melissa follows a theme of “2 for 10” – whipping up meals for two from ingredients that cost less than $10. Episodes include crudely drawn animation – as well as a crude comment or two from the host.
“When you’re MacGyver of the kitchen like I am, you don’t need to buy crap like a double freakin’ boiler,” she said in response to one critic of her chocolate-melting technique. After that, Melissa presented a yummy-looking pair of gyros. It’s all about balance.
For a balanced peek behind the culinary curtain, try Cooking Up a Story. This nutritious vlog documents folks who produce sustainable foodstuffs. One recent episode checked in with an organic dairy farmer, for instance.
If you want to travel farther down that path, check out Freshtopia, Healthy Helpings and Organic A to Z. (But you might wish to skip Freegan Kitchen and its promise of “gourmet meals from the Dumpster.”)
Other popular food vlogs include comforting Feed Me Bubbe, aptly named Average Betty, profanity-laced Ctrl-Alt-Chicken (“for cooks who don’t cook”) and England’s amiable Crash Test Kitchen.
Those last two shows even invite viewers to learn from the hosts’ mistakes. But I think I’ll stick to take-out instead.
It shares tropical cocktail recipes as an afterthought, but Tiki Bar TV is one easy-drinking vlog. Shot in Vancouver, B.C., this high-spirited show dispenses laughs along with hideous ceramic mugs full of exotic hooch.
Episodes include an introduction to a drinking game called Bunnies, a run-in with a booze machine named Drinkbot and a hangover cure known as the Suffering Bastard. (I actually suffered through one of those at a Trader Vic’s. My advice: Stick with the Mai Tai.)
But do visit the Tiki Bar. It’ll provide the perfect nightcap after those cooking segments.“