Claire Saffitz has been the unofficial third wheel on many of my dates in the past year, but unlike some, she has completely changed the way I feel about food.
For the uninitiated, Claire “half-sour” Saffitz is one of the editors for Bon Appétit, a culinary magazine and popular YouTube channel. She is most well-known for her “Gourmet Makes” series, in which she tries to replicate a highly processed snack product using her professional chef skills.
It’s not an especially high-concept show. None of the Bon Appétit series are. But it’s the warmth and charm of their team that really make the channel shine and that have changed the way my partner and I cook together.
While we both have some wonderful recipe books on our shelves, there’s something so pleasant about hearing Chris Morocco complain about developing Bon Appétit's best chocolate chip cookie recipe as we’re making it, or making one of Alex Delany’s rent-week recipes while bopping to his co-ordinating playlists. These people really make cooking enjoyable in a specific way that I haven’t experienced before.
Along with the rise of the “Hot Ones” celebrity interviews make by First We Feast and BuzzFeed’s Tasty and Worth It empires, it appears that food on YouTube is having something of a moment. Compared to the foodie trends of the past, this new content seems to be focused on food as relational, whether that relationship is with someone else or yourself.
Food programming has always used parasocial relationships in innovative ways, with the cookbooks of famous chefs bringing them into your kitchen by proxy and food television taking you into theirs, but I think Bon Appétit has mastered the parasocial in a way few have. At the very least, they have become a third wheel I enjoy having around.
Published in Volume 74, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 28, 2019)