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Saturday, June 25, 2022

The joys of online cooking

Katerina Lygaki explains how she learned from celebrity chefs at Michelin-starred restaurants - all without leaving her bedroom.

Learning how to cook has been a great source of pride for me. But becoming a chef whose lentil ragu brings tears to people’s eyes is not always an easy journey. Let me let you in on some of the secrets of  how I learned from the best – without even stepping foot into a kitchen. 

Of course, primarily, it is my raw talent. No recipe is needed when I’m in the kitchen, as I move serenely amongst the pots and pans, intuitively stirring and tasting. However, what also guides my actions is a tiny, talented chef from the most unlikely of backgrounds. Some may call him ratty, others may call him a health hazard, but I like to call him little chef. Okay… I may be describing the plot of Ratatouille right now. Fine, you got me. But I’m not joking about my raw talent and allure in the kitchen. Fine, again… I just might be exaggerating a little.  

Cooking used to be a generational experience, with recipes and techniques being passed down from your grandma: the one who pinches your cheeks every time that you visit her. I have countless memories in the kitchen with my own cheek-pinching grandma, making spanakopitas and baklavas. I’ll always cherish these experiences: they taught me how to conduct myself in the kitchen and how to care for the people that I love through food.

However, my real cooking skills stem from somewhere else. As I got older, and my cheeks became less pinchable, I had to make my own way in the modern culinary world. And that is where the magic of YouTube comes into the picture. I cannot count the hours that I’ve spent watching cooking videos on this platform: anything from deep-fried oreos to beef wellingtons.

I started dipping my toes into the online culinary world through channels like ‘Binging with Babish’ and ‘Tasty’. Whilst the former is more traditional, with the chef talking his viewers through the recipes as he cooks, the latter is more experimental, with two-minute videos that cut out the middleman and instead opt for an overhead shot that emphasises the chef’s worktop. Both channels create food that is inspired by pop culture: in Babish’s case by recreating foods from mainstream TV shows, and in Tasty’s by creating outlandish concoctions that are inspired by current trends. Such channels will forever hold a special place in my heart, as they piqued my cooking interests and have consumed a considerable portion of my life.

For all the lovers of pop culture and food, who also want something a bit more refined than Tasty’s TikTok-long videos, I’d strongly recommend you watch ‘About to Eat’. Also created by Buzzfeed, this contains more researched and thoughtful videos that delve into the culinary world with a little more sophistication than Tasty’s Pizza Toastie.

After having submerged myself in the pop culinary world, I decided to explore a bit further. I watched short documentaries on Michelin-Star chefs and some of Julia Child’s TV episodes on YouTube, but these endeavors felt somewhat impersonal. I was looking for quality chefs to guide me through my culinary life. Eventually, after much searching and scrolling, I found just that: channels like ‘Bon Appetit’, ‘Food 52’ and ‘Delish’. These all take the idea of pop foods but approach it through the expertise of professional chefs. Their content is a treat: fun to watch, fun to experience, and even more fun to replicate. What I really take from them is the meaning behind food; something that I glimpsed during my time with my cheek-pinching grandma. The chefs in these channels make sophisticated recipes accessible to all. Three chefs which epitomise this concept for me, and who now have their own YouTube channels, are Carla Lalli Music, Claire Saffitz and Alison Roman. 

I love cooking. It makes me happy, and like I said before, it brings tears to anyone who is lucky enough to eat my food. And I only have one all-powerful extrinsic force to thank for that. Thank you, YouTube, for making quality food content available to all, and for igniting my passion for cookery. 

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