If you’ve ever suffered through the experience of watching Netflix while hungry, you probably understand the joyful pain that is fictional food. You watch a beloved character eat something that looks either too good to resist or so weird that you can’t help but wonder what it tastes like.
Admit it, you’ve secretly wondered if Buddy the Elf’s diabetes-inducing candy and maple syrup spaghetti is as disgusting as it looks. When the climax of “Ratatouille” centered around Remy’s Michelin star-worthy dish, you were dying to know if it was really as mind-blowing as the story made it seem. These are existential questions that demand to be answered, and as is the case for almost any subject, there’s a YouTube channel that will answer them for you. Indeed, “Binging with Babish” is changing the world one culinary experiment at a time.
“Binging with Babish,” named for the character of Oliver Babish from the long-running television series “The West Wing,” takes the food from some of the most popular films and shows and provides a step-by-step recreation for viewers to watch. Andrew Rea, the Harlem-based body and voice behind the series, takes suggestions from viewers to determine the most pressing food mysteries that entertainment media has to offer.
He got his start two years ago on Reddit, where he recreated the legendary burger cook-off between Chris Traeger and Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation,” and his channel now boasts over 3.5 million subscribers. Some of his videos have even included celebrity guests like Maisie Williams and John Favreau.
One of the most impressive parts about the show is that Rea isn’t some formally trained chef. He’s completely self-taught, and he decided to combine his lifelong passion for food with his background in production in order to start “Binging with Babish.” His videos include a variety of food combinations, from the undoubtedly delicious to the more questionable.
Some of his selections are pretty straightforward, like The Krabby Patty from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Kevin’s Famous Chili from “The Office” and ratatouille from “Ratatouille.” Others are a little more complicated, like timpano from “Big Night,” which required 17 active hours of work, and the Every Meat Burrito from “Regular Show,” which cost over $500 to make. And some are just flat-out disgusting, like the milk steak from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the spaghetti from “Elf” and Peter Griffin’s Peanut Butter Cup-Dorito-Sausage-Cadberry Egg Panini from “Family Guy.”
Perhaps the greatest expression of Rea’s skill and creativity is his ability to take even the most disgusting concepts and turn them into something edible and enjoyable. The milk steak from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” might be the best example of this. On the first try, the plain chunk of meat boiled in milk and topped with jellybeans was so vile that it made Rea gag and spit it out.
But then he made a few changes. He seared the meat in bacon fat, deglazed the milk with bacon and added vegetables and seasoning before putting them together and braising it for two hours in the oven. The difference in quality and presentation was obvious, and it clearly demonstrated how much time and effort Rea has put into learning his craft.
But aside from the fact that it might make you feel ashamed of eating your Easy-Mac while watching, “Binging with Babish” brings something special to a YouTube landscape that seems to be filled with monotonous content. The channels you probably hear the most about are full of a lot of mindless antics, vlogs and trick shots, and for some people, that constitutes entertainment. But after a while, it doesn’t feel so interesting anymore, and it exposes the need for a new idea for content.
That’s exactly what “Binging with Babish” brings to the table. It has that unique style that ultimately appeals to those who want something more out of their YouTube experience. It’s obvious in every video that Rea himself has little interest in being the center of attention, because he consistently angles the camera to keep his head out of frame.
The viewer keeps their focus on the food itself, and they’re able to follow the process intently as Rea explains it step by step. It’s practically addicting to see him create even the most complex of dishes from scratch, and it makes you feel like you could figure out how to do it yourself. The channel even has a series called “Basics with Babish,” meant to help even the most amateur of cooks feel like a true Gordon Ramsay wannabe.
“Binging with Babish” even manages to set itself apart from similar food-related content. You can always watch someone cook on any Food Network show, and you’ve probably scrolled past a BuzzFeed Tasty video or two on Facebook. But when you watch content like that, you don’t feel any sort of connection with the person who’s showing you what to do. If anything, it just feels like you’re watching someone do something that you yourself will never be able to do. Rea takes a completely different and slightly less formal approach, making even the most complicated of tasks less daunting and giving you the confidence to feel like a master chef yourself.
Through “Binging with Babish,” Rea takes advantage of the natural curiosity that comes with watching film and television and uses it to draw in subscribers. When you see a disaster scene in a film, you might wonder what it would be like to experience it in real life. The same could easily be said for food, no matter how weird it might be. It’s a simple idea, so much so that it’s kind of surprising that no one else thought of it before, and yet his videos are able to perfectly mix the fun of trying an interesting recipe with the enjoyment of watching someone else do something that you yourself don’t really feel like doing. But once you’ve unintentionally spent an hour and a half watching, don’t be surprised when you suddenly feel the urge to make something yourself.