In the year 2021, there isn’t that much originality floating around the air anymore. The internet has never been more accessible than it’s been today, therefore creating an influx of content, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Because the world is oversaturated, being able to find your audience and being able to grow that audience around your own niche is all the more impressive. I want to start shedding some light on content creators, specifically youtubers, that I find to be wildly entertaining and a bit different in their approach. As a disclaimer, I would like to make it very clear that they are by no means “small” time YouTubers. They are quite successful in what they do. But for those who aren’t aware or those who just want to see something good written about what they’re a fan of, this read is for you. Today I want to talk about two of the best youtube cooking shows in 2021.
Not Another Cooking Show
The first of the two YouTubers that I’m going to talk about today, happens to be New York’s own Stephen Cusato. He runs the aforementioned YouTube channel Not Another Cooking Show. Now, before I go any further, I want it to be known that I happen to be an absolute manic when it comes to cooking. I’m not the best cook around, but I do find myself infatuated with the culinary world. However, it takes a lot more than just throwing down in front of a camera to draw me in and keep me there. You’ve got to bring something else to the table (pun very much intended).
Rewind about 6 to 9 months ago, YouTube began suggesting a channel in my YouTube feed. This channel happened to be Not Another Cooking Show. I hadn’t really paid too much attention to it until this amazing thumbnail of pasta and meatballs caught my attention. So, I figured to myself, why not check it out? YouTube obviously wants me to watch it.
That episode became the first of about 15 that I watched that day.
If I’m a huge fan of someone’s work, then they’re probably a very funny person. More often than not, if I gravitate towards you and stay there, it’s because you make me laugh a lot. The only other way that I’ll get hooked on someone is if I think they’re just flat out cool. Stephen Cusato isn’t the funniest guy (he’s still got a bit of a funny bone) but dammit if he isn’t one of the coolest beings I’ve ever come across. He seems like the cool older brother that everyone wants to hang around. If I could take the persona of a greaser, or Marlon Brando from the Wild Ones, and make that person a chef in 2021–Stephen would be the end result.
Right away, he sets the tone for what is a super chill and laid-back show. He leans down onto his counter (or maybe it’s an island?), with the top of the camera frame barely above his head, and describes what today’s dish is about. It’s as if you’re sitting at the counter in front of him and he leans down to chat with you. Reminiscent of your favorite bartender. Because of this simple, welcoming act, I knew right away what I was getting myself into. Or at least I thought I knew.
The energy of the show didn’t just sit at a mere simmer (once again, pun) as I expected. No, no, no—in a matter of seconds, the sample-heavy, northeast boom-bap stylings of New York hip hop punched through my phone speakers, taking the show for an unexpected turn. Next thing I know, the frame switches to his second camera, which sits right on the side of where his hands would be—he’s spooning in the sauce to a dish, and the video rewinds and then fast forwards at the exact same moment the DJ scratch comes on in the song. I then find myself unintentionally nodding my head as the frame does a 360 spin into a baking chicken parm underneath the broiler. It was truly a breathtaking sequence. The contrast between the upbeat hip hop and his very down to earth personality works so well.
You’ll find yourself grinning from ear to ear, taking in the masterful and entertaining editing, only to then put back on your serious face as you pay attention to the recipe. There’s just enough flair to offset his chill vibes in the best way possible. And please don’t take that as a slight, he is by no means boring—it’s just brilliant how he’s able to combine the two into something that I’ve never seen from a food show. I will state, however, that the more recent episodes have “calmed down” a bit in terms of the music selection and how present it is. I’m not sure if this was just a stylistic change or if the viewers wanted to focus more on his speech and the cooking itself. Nonetheless, the channel is still just as remarkable, with enough pop to make one smile.
Aside from the flair, the actual dishes that he creates look exquisite. From stuffed artichoke hearts to grilled swordfish, he covers a multitude of delicious cuisine. However, there is one style of cooking that he is best known for, and that is pasta.
This man has to be the prince of pasta, well at least on YouTube. He’s introduced me to so many different pasta dishes, from Cacio e Pepe to Pasta Alla Gricia, to even showing you how to make a simple and delicious pasta sauce (nicknamed weekday sauce). He’s even stated in an interview that he was afraid of being known as the pasta guy.
Whether he’s cooking pasta or demonstrating organizational habits for the kitchen, Stephen just brings a sense of coolness to his work. Being a guy who specializes in the world of fashion, sometimes I find myself wanting to throw a leather jacket onto him and having him film like that instead. From the music selection (which is different for every single video) to the camera tricks, to the polished editing and even the credit roll of his Patrons at the end—Not Another Cooking Show finds a way to somehow differentiate itself from the other cooking shows on the internet.
SAM THE COOKING GUY
There’s something about cooking with family that always offers a sense of wholesomeness to the situation. Maybe it’s bonding over a shared love, or working together to achieve a singular goal. Nonetheless, it just seems wholesome and warming.
Now throw all of that out the window.
Sam The Cooking Guy is a culinary show on YouTube that is created by himself, Sam Zien, and his son Max, well, Zien. Traditionally, family cooking shows would feature the family in front of the camera. Not in this case. Max actually works the camera and edits the footage. Sam is the pretty face that we’re all blessed to be able to see on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The show’s mission is to provide recipes that are “big in taste and small in effort,” as quoted by Sam himself. Now, you’re probably wondering “well Meshach, what makes this show so different?” I wouldn’t say that the show does anything to reinvent the wheel, but the mixture of production quality, show chemistry, and recipe selection creates an experience, unlike anything that I’ve seen before.
Sam and Max come across more like brothers rather than father and son. Their chemistry is just flat out hilarious and entertaining. Sam loves to poke fun at Max at any given moment. At some point, he can reveal to the audience how the food can get cold because Max just has to get his thumbnail perfect, or how Max is whining about the angle of a tilted pot that’s obstructing his shot. But on the other hand, Max will turn the tides by pointing out Sam’s mistake, whether vocally or through editing text that appear on screen. There was even a stretch of episodes where Max would call Sam his monkey and edit an image of a monkey with one of Sam’s logos (it’s his face) as the monkey’s head. Whether Sam is sticking the middle finger at Max, or Max is straight-up telling his father Fxxx you, there is always a sense of banter happening that isn’t quite wholesome, but warming nonetheless.
The production quality of the show is arguably the best that I’ve ever seen on YouTube. You can tell that a lot is invested in the quality of the gear that’s used. I’ve had my mother pass by the show, as I’m watching it on my phone, only for her to ask “hey is that Food Network?” When I told her that it wasn’t and that it’s YouTube, she responds by saying it looked like something that belonged on Food Network. Max has come a very, very long way in his videography, and it shows. From transition effects to multi-camera shots, and slow panning with some kind of “Roomba” like robot that you can attach a camera to, the show just looks amazing. Several times I’ve been taken aback by the jump in production quality. It’s a testament to sticking with something that has potential because the payoff will be worth it.
Max is excellent at what he does.
The guys may not have television grade equipment, but dammit this might be the closest to it that I’ve seen.
The show is very transparent and honest. Sometimes a little too transparent. Their dog Louis, or the neighbor’s dog Astro will often bark during a shoot. Gardners will often handle their yard work during Sam’s intro, thus causing him to try and yell over the noise. They sell merch that says “if fat means flavor, then I’m fxxxing delicious,” or “make America cook again.” They’re polarizing, but they don’t care.
Sam will often mess up and Max will leave it in. Sam’s burned food before, he’s had moments where the food doesn’t taste quite as good as he expects, and sometimes he just flat out botches a dish. But it all makes it into the final edit. Sam will cut himself, and in the next shot, he’s now wearing a bandage, speechless because he was just warning against being reckless with a knife. That’s the beauty of the show. Almost everything makes it in. Sam can spill a container of flour, and yet Max will not only keep the blunder, but he’ll replay it in slow-mo, 2-3 times over. It all makes for a much more relatable and entertaining experience in the end.
Finally, I want to talk about the recipes. I’ve personally tried my hand at a few of the recipes. I’m a believer in his work. Every recipe that I’ve tried has been 100% delicious. He has a video out that’s titled “5-minute beer bread.” This was the first recipe of his that I tried. I was nervous as hell because I had not baked before and I still don’t, but it looked way too easy to not attempt. Turns out that it was way too easy and way too delicious.
Right off the bat, the video is under 4 minutes long. His usual work is upwards of 15 minutes. That alone should imply that you’re in for something easy. The bread wasn’t dense or cakey. It was light and airy because of the yeast in the beer. It was dark because I used Guinness and it had a slightly malty flavor to it. Big in taste but small in effort. Never rang so true. The majority of his recipes are very simple because it’s supposed to be for the average guy/gal. I mean, just look at the name of his show, Sam The Cooking Guy. It’s a regular Joe, cooking for other regular Joes. He’s covered practically every style of cuisine but in a super simple and fun presentation.
I am obsessed with cooking. I’m obsessed with cooking content. I’m even more obsessed with these two cooking shows. When I find something to be awesome, I want others to experience the awesomeness along with me. I will link to their YouTube channels and social media accounts down below. Start the year off right and cook more. These guys should inspire you to do just that.
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