Closing the Cooking Gap

Image credit: Qiuying Lai

SORTEDfood is a YouTube cooking channel, one of the first of its kind. Set up by four friends from school (Jamie, Barry, Mike, and Ben), the first three didn’t have much of an interest in food until they went to university and, left to cook for themselves for the first time, realised that they were eating rubbish. Ben, in training to be a chef, started passing them recipes. They joke that they were each ‘accidentally skilled’ in all the right areas to enable them to set up a YouTube cooking channel. Their enthusiasm, strong friendship and banter-y relationship is something that is equally present on and off-screen.

The ‘cooking gap’ is something which Ben is especially keen to bring up. This is the idea that millennials are spending less time cooking their own food than ever before, despite the fact that food is a huge industry. The world’s population as a whole is consuming a huge amount of calories, masses of food is being produced and bought, and a great deal of time is spent watching cooking shows like The Great British Bake Off and Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

While Ben attributes this cooking gap to the disappearance of basic cooking skills from the National Curriculum, or the rise of convenience apps like Deliveroo, Jamie feels it’s rooted in a risk of failure. Spending £5 on ingredients and having to produce food from them is a scary prospect if it’s your first time. “It’s an easy option to get something off a shelf that fulfils the same job for the same price and there’s no risk attached to it.” Mike explains how his own experience in learning to cook progressed: “When we started SORTED, we didn’t have a massive interest in food, but we just knew that there was a problem and that we needed to learn. It took me a long time to realise that there are only so many techniques that you need to learn to be able to cook nearly all recipes.”

When I refer to an anecdote from their website about how they shared recipes on the back of beer coasters when they began to cook, Barry admits that something of that philosophy has stuck with them. “Over the years, our recipes have changed quite a bit, but we’ve always said, whatever it is that we’re doing, we want to make it the most simple, accessible version of that. That’s not to say that everything is super-duper simple, and we also do some pretty impressive stuff, but we’d like to think that our version of that impressive stuff is still broken down the most simple steps for you to follow. If we can do it, you can do it. It’s always simplifying, but it’s not always simple.”

The representation of food on social media is a controversial topic at the moment. SORTEDfood, however, are keen to make the story a positive one, with Jamie saying that they’ve always used social media in a way to help people and educate them about cooking, but they also use it to have conversations with people. Barry points out that this relationship through social media works both ways. “We’re equally inspired. We’ve got a global audience.”

Ultimately, the message you take away from them is a positive one. There can be lots of negativity surrounding the food industry at the moment, but the guys at SORTEDfood don’t buy into all the doom and gloom, and to exercise their influence as responsibly as possible. They see cooking as an empowering tool, and they simply want to pass on the message that cooking isn’t that hard or time consuming, and that the alternatives are convenient neither on your wallet nor your body. Ben says, “If we can use our influence to convince people to spend their money on cooking their own food rather than on convenience apps, we’d consider it well used.”

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