A YouTube-able Feast
Online food culture has transformed into digital art form
By Alec Warkentin, Staff Writer
The common adage is that food is as reliant on smell as it is on taste, but the current trend being explored by the likes of internet personalities such as Matty Matheson and Brad Leone of Bon Appetit, prove that visuals are just as important.
Food culture has taken to the digital sphere like white on rice. From the early whiffs of superstardom with Emeril Lagasse and No Reservations/Kitchen Confidential, food expert Anthony Bourdain, to the contemporary likes of Munchies, Bon Appetit and Hot Ones with Sean Evans.
Often loud-mouthed and/or tattooed, the progenitors of the business end of restaurants seemed to guard the secrets of what Bourdain once called the “culinary underbelly” of the food service industry as closely as Colonel Sanders’ KFC protected their blend of 11 herbs and spices.
Bastioned behind obscure and occasionally unpronounceable terms such as vichyssoise, confit, mise en place, remouillage, almondine, emulsification and the concept of deconstructionism, fine dining seemed inaccessible to all but the upper crust or particularly snooty “foodies.” A vocal minority who would take any chance to lord their delicate palette over the common folk enjoying a fast-food style cheeseburger.
But the time for change is extremely nigh. We can thank personalities such as Matty Matheson, who’s unpretentious food-centric show Dead Set on Life just wrapped its third season and now hosts the Viceland-produced It’s Suppertime!. Even Brad Leone of It’s Alive!, produced by the Conde Nast-helmed Bon Appetit magazine and Sean Evans of Hot Ones (the interview show with hot questions and even hotter wings), allow a new generation of gastronomes to get their fix without spending outrageous amounts of money.
With each channel garnering hundreds of thousands of subscribers and millions of views, YouTube channels and the rise of the food as a primarily digital form of expression or (for lack of a less groan-inducing word) art encapsulate the importance of cuisine as a means of connection.
Across all cultures and spaces, cuisine plays a crucial role in the bolstering of community and many of these channels rely as much on the personalities of their respective hosts as they do on the food itself. Rather than sharing a meal with family or friends, these platforms offer a chance to sit down with those larger-than-life yet so intimately human personalities, romanticizing the culinary but as well making it attainable.
Take the Buzzfeed-created Worth It series, where hosts compare the quality of the same foods at different price points (i.e $17 fried chicken versus $500 fried chicken, $2 pizza versus $2,000 pizza). Yes, some of these higher-end and outrageously more expensive food options will never be explored by the majority of society, but series like Worth It go even further, showing the often unnecessarily gussied up version and deciding for certain if it’s any better than the food at your local restaurant.
It’s the perfect example of the kind of disassembling this digital age has the power to do, taking these obfuscated ideas of one of humanity’s most basic needs and showing that at the end of the day one thing is rarely different from the other in quality if not breadth.
It’s the true awakening of the third sense, sight, that along with taste and smell have the power to connect eaters around the world.