This hiatus is just so blissful and uneventful that I’ve been able to catch up and discover so many new TV shows.
But today, I’m not telling you about a conventional TV show. Today I want to talk about the Bon Appétit YouTube channel.
I try to cook a real meal at least 2x week (thanks, Blue Apron! #notsponsored) and I genuinely love food but let me tell you that neither having experience cooking real food nor really enjoying it are required to fall in love with the cast of characters at the Bon Appétit YouTube channel (though I’m sure it helps a little).
What this channel gets so incredibly right (and, I imagine, why it’s so much more successful than other food channels on YouTube, not that I watch them, but again here’s why) is that it recognizes that people watch TV–whether on their TV boxes or their computers or phones or wherever– for the people. That’s why you keep coming back. And the BA channel has assembled a true cast of characters in its main test kitchen chefs. Together, they’ve gathered a near-cultish following.
First, there is Claire, BA’s resident Baking Queen. I need to say this: I LOVE CLAIRE. She may be my favorite Claire at the moment. Are you understanding what I’m saying?? Claire’s main series is a show called “Gourmet Makes, where she attempts to create the “gourmet” version of popular junk foods like Doritos, Twinkies, Kit-Kats, and the like. It is as addictive as the junk foods themselves. I binged about 10 episodes when I first discovered it, which is how I fell down this k-hole to begin with.
Claire is … perfect. Everything she does is perfect. She is brainy and witty and loves to get super scientific, though in an approachable way. She is a perfectionist, and watching her struggle to recreate these extremely specific foods on Gourmet Makes is such a delight, in an “oh my god she’s really struggling can I give her a hug” sort of way.
As she’s talking you through why she’s doing X or Y to make her version of a Dorito (which I won’t ever even eat!) I find myself thinking “God, she’s so fucking smart.”
Claire’s most chronicled relationship in these videos is with Brad. Depending on your deal, you either ship them romantically (apparently there is fic?? which is cringe), think they’re an old married couple, or are like sparring brother and sister. I fall into the last of those camps, but their dynamic is so charming and fun to watch.
Brad’s main series on the BA channel is a show called “It’s Alive,” where he makes all kind of stuff that is, literally, alive! Like yogurt. Or sourdough. Or kombucha. The production on It’s Alive is really fantastic and leans into Brad’s totally bizarre persona and habit of saying the word “water” like “wourder.” Basically Brad is like Ron Swanson if Ron Swanson ABSOLUTELY LOVED HIS JOB AND CO-WORKERS.
Our next test kitchen cook is Carla, who is the food director at BA. Her main series is “Back-to-Back Chef,” where she attempts to instruct a famous person (take your pick! From Troye Sivan to Elizabeth Olsen to Natalie Portman to Al Roker) how to cook a dish with only verbal instruction (they are literally back-to-back and Carla just talks through the recipe as they both make it). This is actually my favorite concept for a food show because it highlights just how challenging cooking can be but also how amazing a good teacher is. They make pretty involved stuff but Carla’s instruction is so perfect. Even if it’s not always technically correct ( “so, my sauce looks like it’s doing bubbly stuff, does yours look like that too”) she perfectly captures the exact way we viewers actually cook and talk about recipes.
Carla has frequent interactions with Molly, who is my favorite chef after Claire. Again, if we’re going back to Parks & Rec analogies, Molly is like a perfect amalgamation of Leslie, Ann, and April. My favorite thing about Molly is that she abbreviates everything. But not in a cutesy or annoying way. “Casear salad,” which is her favorite food, is “Cae Sal.” You get the dealio. Anyhoozles, I love Molly both for her love of made-up words and also for her fun, yet also endearingly serious demeanor in the kitchen. You can tell she just LOVES food. And she has OPINIONS and HERE THEY ARE. We stan.
I’m going to describe the last of the main test kitchen chefs together because they have similar personalities: Chris and Andy. They frequently hang in the back of other people’s videos, specifically Claire’s, and are known to give very good and very honest opinions about whatever she’s cooking up, usually with a side of comical commentary. Chris is well-known to have a perfect palate and Andy is a type A personality whom I believe really shines when he has to deal with the likes of (decidedly type B) Brad.
(There are other personalities you’ll see regularly, like Alex or Gaby or even BA EIC Adam Rapoport (they call him “Rapo”). They are all lovely and wonderful.)
I individually love all of them, especially the ladies (duh), but my true adoration and stanning reached a new level when they all came together, Avengers-style, for the most epic crossover of all time in a new series called “Making Perfect,” where they attempted to make the perfect pizza. I am being 100% serious when I say it was genuinely thrilling to watch this true mix of personalities (and chefs!) come together for this quest. I’m not even a huge pizza person and I found myself watching a FIFTY MINUTE VIDEO WHERE CARLA AND MOLLY MAKE CHEESE. GIVE THIS SHIT AN EMMY. IT WAS ICONIC.
Beyond that, what I love so much about the BA channel is just how… fun it seems to work there. The channel has all the familiar elements of a workplace reality show (oh, in case it wasn’t clear by now I desperately want a reality show starring these people. If the New York Times can get a show on Hulu WHY CAN’T THEY??? Get on it Condé Nast) while also being genuinely funny and charming and quasi-educational. I’ve yet to actually make anything featured on a video but I can wholeheartedly tell you that I enjoyed every second watching them make it.
How to watch: this shiz is free. The channel is here.
P.S. My basic hard and fast rule is to NEVER read the YouTube comments of anything but the comment section on their videos is where the true BA fandom/memes come together and I love reading them. *CHEF’S KISS*