By Perry Smith
Sunday Signal Editor
The Guinness World Record Book once estimated that every minute, YouTube users upload about three days’ worth of video.
With more than 1.3 billion users worldwide, and tens of millions of channels, you can find a video to watch for almost anything you’d like to look at, and needless to say, there’s not enough time in the day to watch them all.
In addition to people who make tens of millions of dollars on the platform, there’s a growing community of people who share, building virtual online communities around everything from video games to hobbies to cooking.
And within the cooking genre, there’s just about any channel you can imagine: “The Hillbilly Kitchen — Down Home Country Cooking” to “Great Depression Cooking,” which features a 98-year-old cook, author and great-grandmother Clara, who recounts her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares food.
Talking to a few of the virtual chefs who regularly produce videos, a few trends started to appear: All of these cooks enjoy a very particular niche, networking and even friendly competitions and, of course, making good food.
YouTube has seen an uptick in traffic, too, and the online cooking community even created a hashtag, so if you search #QuarantineCooking on April 18 (or anytime after), you’ll be able to find a lot of how-to’s for quarantine-friendly recipes.
The Cooking Cop and Babe
“Our niche is stuff that you can easily do at home with little to no experience,” said Josh Dubin, who co-hosts The Cooking Cop and Babe with his girlfriend Bethany Hill. “You don’t have to have a lot of cooking knowledge, and you don’t need a lot of tools, either.”
While Dubin leans more toward grilling as his go-to, Hill often contributes unique, but delicious takes on stuff that’s very likely to be in your pantry and doesn’t take much effort, like their grilled PB&J (Ed. note: It’s just as simple as it sounds, but delicious.) or the french onion soup made from a grilled onion and a 50-cent packet to Top Ramen.
The idea is to create menus that work around their schedules — in addition to having kids, both work long hours, Dubin works as a Southern California law enforcement officer and Hill as a hairstylist.
“Maybe I’ll get home late, you know, get off duty late one night, and so we want to assemble a recipe and we don’t want to set up the whole barbecue,” Dubin said. “So, it’s really kind of just based on our real everyday life.”
Hill said their channel is not just about instruction or the recipe per se, it’s about fun. Dubin added that they hope to make people think of their own dishes they can share, which people occasionally do in comments.
“We kind of make our videos so that they’re entertaining, hopefully, and that the recipe flows that if you’re sitting there you can easily figure out what we’re making.” Hill said, “Josh and I work together so well that (the channel) is almost more about watching us cook than it is the recipe sometimes.”
(Check out Cooking Cop and Babe here: https://bit.ly/CookingCopAndBabe)
Creating a network
Andrew Rog, who runs the YouTube channel Grill Sergeant, clearly has a lot of fun cooking and making videos — it’s evident in his comical parody of “Old Town Road” he adapted to be about, what else, his grill.
His involvement in the cooking community started when he was restoring a Weber grill from the 70s. He began watching videos on Youtube, and he was blown away by how helpful the people were when he reached out to find out about help for finding parts from the grills he saw in their videos, as Weber no longer made parts he sought.
“Through the YouTube channel, I’ve met, I guess what you’d call a YouTube barbecue community,” Rog said. “They’re a good, good group of people.”
After a few months of making videos on the channel, Rog, who works in the film industry in post-production and receives help on his video from a friend and colleague who’s a videographer, said he’d already met hundreds of like-minded people who just enjoy talking about barbecue and honing their craft.
For Rog, he’s found the YouTube cooking community is a place where he can share his reverse sear method, for example, and share information with others passionate about the grill.
“When you look at the barbecue thing,” Rog said, “it doesn’t matter — it’s about food. People can come together, and everyone loves a good steak.”
(Check out The Grill Sergeant here: https://bit.ly/TheGrillSergeant )
Growing the audience
C.J. Volkman has enjoyed cooking since he was a teenager, he said — while his mom worked to support the family, he learned his way around the kitchen.
He joined the online cooking community a couple of years ago, focusing on his enjoyment of being in the kitchen and good eating.
“I do simple dishes that everybody can make,” Volkman said. “I don’t necessarily worry about calories … I’m going to cook what tastes good.”
Volkman found a unique niche, regularly produces content and he also devotes a significant amount of time to this sidegig, which has garnered him a steadily growing audience online.
“This has truly become a second job because I try to do two videos a week,” said Volkman, who also has a day job in the mortgage industry. “It’s starting to pay off a little bit.”
His main channel, Cooking with CJ, has more than 15,000 followers. (For scale, YouTube requires its “Creators” to have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the previous 12 months for an account to become eligible for ads that a user can begin to monetize, and two of the world’s biggest accounts, Tasty and Epic Meal Time, have about 18.1 million and 7.1 million subscribers, respectively.)
Volkman might not have the biggest audience, but he’s successfully carved out a spot by focusing his cooking prowess on one product: the Ninja Foodi Grill. He even earned a spot in one of their product advertisements, and has managed to earn a top ranking when you search for Ninja Foodi Grill — no small feat when talking about the world’s largest search engine.
“You want to niche down as much as possible,” Volkman said. “You want to connect with people. I always try to respond to the comments I get. It’s all about trying to connect and all about trying to build your brand.”
(Check out Cooking with CJ here: https://bit.ly/CookingWithCJ)