When the “Rick & Morty” surprise episode that dropped last Saturday gave nod to a long lost Szechuan McNugget dipping sauce, the internet blew up and “Binging with Babish” was on the case to try to recreate the mysterious sauce.[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBhhlE92mIQ]
Andrew Rea, the man behind the hit YouTube channel has carved out his own little corner of the web cooking famous dishes from movies and TV shows. From the burgers of “Bob’s Burgers” to the prison sauce from “Goodfellas,” he’s cooking his way through the screen canon.
“Since before movie theater snacks were a thing, people were sneaking Baby Ruths into movie theaters back in the ’20s,” Rea said. “You can’t go see a movie in a theater without a box of popcorn or sneaking in some goobers in your jacket.”
Although his mother taught him how to cook at a young age, Rea’s background is really in film. He didn’t go to culinary school, but his love of movies and television — fostered while at film school — led him to food.
“I’ve always loved television and movies and TV and movies always seem to love food,” Rea said.
He started doing the show accidentally. After investing in a camera and light kit, he found he had the perfect set up for a cooking show and decided to give it a go.
“I had just seen an episode of ‘Parks & Rec’ where Chris and Ron had a burger cook-off, and Chris’s burger was this list of bullshit foodie buzzwords,” Rea said. “And I was like ‘Would that actually taste good?’”
In the episode, Chris cooks a turkey burger with a papaya chutney, taleggio cheese crisp, micro greens and black truffle aioli all on a gluten-free brioche bun. So, yeah, basically a mess of trendy, pseudo-healthy food. Ron deftly beats him with a beef burger on a classic, white bun. In his video, Rea cooks both, and he comes to a similar conclusion. The beef burger wins, but Chris’s burger does taste as delicious as Beyoncé smells.[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP_nWuLYpJw]
“I had to take some creative liberties,” Rea said. “Like taleggio, that’s an example of where I know the writers were just fucking around because taleggio is a soft cheese and there’s no way you can make a crisp out of it, it’ll just bleed oil and turn into a mess, I tried.“
Instead, Rea blends Fontina and Parmesan to create a similar funky taste to the taleggio, but with a harder cheese. Rea does pretty thorough research for most of his dishes, synthesizing parts from various recipes to create something he thinks to be most true to the source material.
“For ‘Inglorious Bastards’ ’s strudel I was looking at the oldest, Austrian / Viennese strudel recipes I could get my hands on to try to recreate something that would have been of that era,” Rea said.[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H3z3J50XCs]
Beyond historical and textual accuracy, Rea’s signature is to make as much from scratch as possible, even when it’s not necessary. He grinds his own beef, makes his own pasta and even made a whole Thanksgiving dinner for the “Friends” episode.
“There wasn’t really any need for me to make an entire Thanksgiving meal and make every element as good as I possibly could,” Rea said. “They like it when I’m a little over the top I think.”
YouTube is the perfect platform for that sort of over-the-top content. With hundreds of super quick Tasty and Tasty-spinoff videos spamming newfeeds and timelines everyday, the internet seemed to be the right way to break into the food entertainment world.
“YouTube and Internet cooking videos in general are the way of the future,” Rea said. “This is a generation that likes compact, information rich entertaining.”
Rea was inspired by fast, aesthetically pleasing style of Tasty videos, but wanted to make videos for people who were more serious about cook.
“Let’s do this same thing where it’s like a nonstop barrage of information, food porn and let’s throw a little entertainment in there as well,” Rea said, “That’s what I think people are after.”[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roCX0AfBseQ&t=5s]
The match Rea has made — that of food and film — seems to be one made in heaven, and Rea hopes to develop the channel into a fulltime career.
“I have a lot of ideas for verticals and spin offs, different little show concepts that I want to explore and as soon as I’m able to make this my full time job,” Rea said. “Which I hope will be pretty soon.”
In the meantime, he’s going to keep binging on, well, everything.