With massive internet success and rumbling bellies, Catherine Holland talks to the people behind the hunger inducing sensation that is, SORTEDFood.
Jamie, Ben, Barry and Mike are the faces of leading online cooking community SORTEDfood, the British YouTube cooking channel and food website with over 1.4 million followers. SORTEDfood share the message to have fun around food and get your mates involved, as it was because of this that they began to enjoy food, cooking and the social aspect of it all. Over time, they “fell in love with it”. “We don’t see ourselves as a cooking show, but it’s very much a community,” Barry says.
So how did it all begin? They began sharing recipes with one another and were surprised at how easy it was to cook good food. Their sharing of videos and recipes started in 2010 after their own diets had become “awful” while they were in university: full of “takeaways, ready meals and fast food,” a diet familiar to many students. They decided to take control and make some changes.
The four lads had gone their separate ways after secondary school in their studies: marketing, IT, music teaching and photography, with only one of the guys having any interest in food, studying culinary arts. Despite their different backgrounds the four friends shared a common interest, aspiring to have an impact on people’s lives, “no matter how small or big”. YouTube blogging was relatively new when they began posting some six years ago, but today with over one million YouTube subscribers and seventy thousand twitter followers, they are quickly growing as one of the biggest online cooking gurus. These four men attract audiences from all over the world from America to Asia. From sharing recipes on the back of beer mats in the pub, discussing cookery amongst college shenanigans to sharing culinary ideas over media platforms to over a million people. Their impact may be greater than initially intended.
They base their workshop and cooking pad in central London where their small team create their exciting recipes and videos. Their repertoire of sweet and savoury dishes are accessible to all culinary abilities, from beginners to the Neven Maguires. The boys note that when you see others sharing your material, it’s encouraging and you feel like you’re having a “positive impact on the world”.
Popular features on their website and YouTube channel are Fridge Cam, Battles and Big Night In. They take each other on in hilarious encounters feeding their viewers with their food philosophy where their priority is “to make it as easy as possible and get people into the kitchen, to make food accessible.” They believe food has a social aspect and “doesn’t have to be a chore”. Fridge Cam records their week, what they ate and what antics they got up to, be it in Britain or Barcelona.
Comparing their first videos to what they have now, Barry jokes that “They’ve become a little bit less rubbish”. Initially the men had no training. As no one else was doing it, they started off with no TV qualifications on how to make proper shows, but after six years of “playing on YouTube” they now lead the market on how to make videos on food. “To have feedback on every single recipe what we did right, what we did wrong”, Barry remarks is “incredible”; every recipe has been tempered with thousands giving feedback. The boys express their inspiration and ideas come from their followers and growing community. “Unlike any other chefs out there who tell you this is how to cook, this is the only way to do something, our way of doing things is we work with you guys to bring an idea so far but is by no means a finished product. You can take the idea, develop it, change it and build on it.”
“Unlike any other chefs out there who tell you this is how to cook, this is the only way to do something…You can take the idea, develop it, change it and build on it.”
The first ever project the guys undertook was student cookbook Student Survival. They took staple meals and turned them into easy cheat versions, believing that “learning the simple basics goes a long way for those in university.” When asked what dish they would recommend for students lacking in culinary skills, a quick fire answering range of breakfast tortillas, avocados on toast, poached eggs followed with their number one go-to student dish “quesadillas!” Simple, tasty, hearty, suitable for both veggies and carnivores, it ticks all the boxes.
Future plans for SORTEDfood include expanding their community to all corners of the world. The four friends “want to create the world’s best cooking club online”: no matter your level, everything you need will be on their site. Plans to develop their website into a database of Q&As, videos and tutorials will leave no excuses for those lacking confidence in the kitchen.
In order to do all this, they will be travelling the world publicising their ideas, with trips planned to America, Europe and Singapore. As for teaming up with celebrity chefs or foodies, Ben, the only qualified chef, would love to join forces with fellow British chefs Delia Smith and Mary Berry. However, Barry has his eyes on the bigger picture and admits he’s not sure if their global audiences would be familiar with the two chefs popular in Britain, instead name dropping popular American YouTube food bloggers Rozanna Pansio and Anthony Bourdain.
Barry says a new book is on the cards, but when everything you need is already online for free, when SORTEDfood do write a book, it’s going to be about their experience and journey. It’ll certainly be one for all aspiring food bloggers to read.
“The recent YouTubers that are doing well are giving the inside beyond what they do onscreen,” they say. “It’s about the experience you offer with it”. That’s what SORTEDfood is all about: the experience. Join their community of friends who love good food, fun and a lot of devilment. What’s not to love?