Chef John’s channel Foodwishes just turned ten years old. His recipe and technique videos are essential for anyone who’s new to cooking or for people who are looking to learn more skills. He’s about to hit two million subscribers, and he’s certainly a YouTube cooking icon, despite rarely showing his face.
Here’s how Chef John became so dear to the YouTube community.
1. He follows a set of personal rules.
Other than better mics, lighting, and cameras, not much has changed since Chef John’s first videos in 2007. He doesn’t show his face, he doesn’t include ingredient amounts, he doesn’t show his kitchen, and he always says a pun when there is a part of the recipe that is up to the chef. His reasons are simple. He believes that it shouldn’t matter what you look like or how nice your kitchen is because anyone can cook. His ingredient amounts are exclusively on his blog so that he can “double drop” on the ad revenue. He’s not ashamed to admit this.
He also always adds cayenne. Always. He could be making plain yogurt, and he’ll still add an insignificant amount of cayenne. His predictability is definitely a major reason people keep coming back.
2. He always admits his errors.
Whether it’s a small timing error that makes his chicken a little too dry or an ingredient error resulting in an inedible mess, he always fesses up to it. Chef John isn’t posting videos to look good or make people think he’s the greatest chef of all time; he makes the videos to help people become better chefs, which means helping people learn from his mistakes.
He even posts videos for recipes that he doesn’t recommend. Not many YouTube chefs will do that.
3. He joined up with All Recipes.
Internet recipe conglomerate All Recipes showcases recipes from Chef John on its channel, giving him more exposure. It seems like a pretty amicable agreement, and why wouldn’t it be. Both channels benefit from being partnered up. His videos on their channel get a ton of views and their channel gets more subscribers when he sends his their way.
All Recipes has a plethora of YouTube chefs on their team, but Chef John seems to be everyone’s favorite. On all their holiday playlists, his video is the first one.
4. His recipes are simple and technique-driven.
Foodwishes has about one new recipe per week, and each one is simple enough that someone new to the channel or new to cooking could give it a shot. If the recipe has any advanced techniques, it’s usually only one. This mimics the style of an actual cooking course, which would also focus on recipes that the students can do but might throw one challenge their way so they can hone the craft.
Chef John has experience as a cooking instructor, and he brings that expertise to the channel. He even has a video where he is teaching someone with no kitchen experience how to cook, and he follows the same methodology as he does in his videos.
Chef John found success by doing what he knew and following a formula. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It took him a bit to get recognized, but once he did, he just kept going the way he was going.
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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s cooking in the kitchen.