Whenever you’re in need of culinary inspiration, or when you’re looking for an impressive new recipe to cook for that weekend dinner party, where do you turn? For more and more people around the world, the answer is food videos. While in the past people may have turned to the family cookbook or recipe card collection, or purchased a book from their favorite celebrity chef, today people go straight to the web, and even recipe sites are losing ground to videos for recipes and food-related content in general.
Looking for a new no-knead bread recipe or just some inspiration from a superstar chef? Wondering what the multi-Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay has to say about the perfect way to cook a steak? Want to know what the food in Rome or the food in Pakistan looks like but don’t have the time or the budget to fly there and see it in person? Or maybe some tips and tricks on food decoration or plating design? Chances are you’ll turn to YouTube, where an increasing percentage of the internet’s food-related content resides. Food videos are a way you can access the finest recipes and techniques, follow your favorite chefs, and experience cuisine around the world without ever leaving your home. Rather than merely responding to trends in the food world, video sites like YouTube have become a major driver of culinary culture, a home for the world’s amateur cooks, world-class chefs, and foodie aficionados to find, demonstrate, and share the latest tastes and trends.
And it’s not just food recipe videos, though of course there are lots of those. The medium naturally lends itself to more entertaining foodie formats, like food battle videos that pit chefs against each other to make the best burger or the best ramen, and food travel videos that give viewers a glimpse into kitchens and street food stalls in far-flung corners of the globe. There are endless cooking how-to’s and do’s and don’ts videos, and even complete cooking courses where home chefs can get a taste of what it’s like to study at a prestigious culinary school. As food videos become more and more popular, content creators are becoming even more experimental and inventive with their food video formats to attract viewers, like challenging celebrities to eat the hottest hot wings, introducing North-Koreans to American food for the first time, or dedicating an entire web series to exploring all the variations of a single food, like pizza.
Food videos are among YouTube’s most watched and most frequently published content (other than cute animal videos of course), with individual videos garnering millions of views, rivaling the reach of conventional food television shows. Especially among younger generations, food videos are the new hub for global foodie culture. And it’s not difficult to see why. Watching a chef make a dish is quite different from reading a recipe. Food videos provide a more emotional connection then text or image-based information: you can see and hear the sizzling sounds of food in the pan, and you can feel the real nostalgia of watching one of your favorite childhood dishes be prepared. Watching a high-quality video of food is also more likely to trigger a physiological response in our bellies and our brains, making our mouths water for that richer-than-rich chocolate brownie or that perfectly-crisped potato pancake. Food also captures viewer’s attention better than other types of content, meaning people are more likely to watch the entire video if it’s about food than something else.
Food videos are also a way for the world’s top chefs to reach new audiences. As conventional television subscriptions are losing ground to web-based media, especially among the younger generations, many people have less opportunity to become familiar with celebrity chefs than in previous decades, when most chefs’ audiences came from their prime-time TV shows. For younger audiences, food videos on YouTube may be the only way they learn of famous TV chefs like Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, so the medium represents a huge opportunity for the world’s top chefs to gain a loyal following among younger foodies.
As digital media moves more and more towards video as the most shareable, engaging, appealing form of content, food videos will continue to be a major player in the culinary scene. Increasingly, videos will not only reflect but dictate future culinary trends. The world’s top kitchens will be influence what happens on YouTube, but YouTube will also influence what happens in top kitchens, and more and more top chefs will likely develop a strong YouTube presence. The real winners of this trend are the foodies of the world, who are gaining more intimate and direct access to the fine dining world than ever before.