In her apartment kitchen, School of Public Health student Tasha Edwards explains in front of the camera how to make her latest dish, vegan macaroni cheese. Fortunately for viewers, it only takes a click of the replay button to see any steps they may have missed in the recipe for Edwards’s “Sweet V’s.”
Edwards is the creator of the Sweetest Vegan cooking channel on YouTube and the winner of YouTube’s Next Chef Competition.
“It was kind of surreal, like most big things that happen in your life,” Edwards said. “I had a feeling that I had a worthy enough channel to win, but you kind of never know … it was rewarding.”
Edwards’s channel, along with 14 other YouTube cooking channels, was named a finalist in the competition last month. YouTube users from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Canada, India and South Africa submitted their channels to be judged on the ability to attract a large audience and originality.
After winning the competition in early November, Edwards participated in Google Plus Hangouts, which allow video communication sessions between users, with YouTube employees to learn how to improve her videos. She also received advertising and new video equipment, including a camera, tripod and microphone, valued at $15,000.
According to the competition’s website, it was created as a part of the YouTube NextUp program, a development and training program for potential YouTube partners. Austin Lau, who works for the YouTube Next Creator Programs, wrote on his blog that the finalists of the competition will now receive continuing education in culinary arts via the Google Plus Hangouts.
Edwards, who grew up in Atlanta, has been cooking for her whole life with her family, but only became more interested in cooking when she went to college at Clemson University and had to cook for herself.
“You can only afford Burger King so many times,” Edwards said.
In her senior year of college, Edwards decided to become a vegan because of the health benefits. She taught herself how to make vegan food since vegan dining at restaurants was limited.
“I was gaining weight, which is the reason why I decided to try a vegan diet,” Edwards said. “After I went vegan, I lost about 10 pounds, which for me, I wasn’t that large, so 10 pounds was a pretty good chunk of weight.”
Last August, Edwards recognized that there was a disparity in cooking shows for vegans and started producing her own show to teach viewers how to prepare different recipes. However, learning to make vegan food and recipes was a challenge at the beginning.
“I used to have about a 50-percent recipe fail rate,” Edwards said. “Cakes would fall, stuff just wouldn’t ever rise, things would just fizzle and pop.”
But as time went on, Edwards learned more about how to remedy problems with recipes for vegan diets, and now she rarely has recipe mishaps.
As a School of Public Health student, Edwards wants to use her show to promote healthier eating, rather than pursue a culinary career.
“I really want to use the Sweetest Vegan as a platform for health promotion programs that I have,” Edwards said. “I want to teach people how to cook at home … I really want people to leave the junk food, leave the bad food, leave processed packaged stuff at home, bypass the fast food restaurant and come home and cook, and I would love to be the person to teach them how to do it, why they should do it and hopefully see America get healthier.”