Student blog: Create “Picky Esser”

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Would you consider yourself a picky eater? I definitely would! Even though I always want to try something new, I rarely find something that I really enjoy and would consider ordering or cooking again.

But luckily for all of the picky eaters out there, BuzzFeed made a show just for us. Cocoa butter, a channel created in October 2020 by Ashley Jones, is a “black culture and entertainment channel created to provide people of color with a safe space on the Internet to consume humorous, informative and uplifting content.” One of her shows, titled “Picky Eaters,” features Seth Brundle, a chef determined to prepare meals with ingredients that picky eaters dislike (previous episodes included broccoli, salmon, and lamb).

I recently had the chance to interview both Seth and Ashley to talk about the Picky Eaters series as well as the entire Cocoa Butter Channel. Let’s dive in!

Kat: When did the “Picky Eaters” series start?

Ashley: We worked with Seth on different concepts for Cocoa butter and we found it worked better. We all have a food that we don’t like – it’s a universal thread. So we decided to give this option a try, and it worked really well for our audience! And from then on it will be removed and we will continue to develop. We recorded Seth’s sonwhich was very delightful. Having a universal thread that there is a food that everyone doesn’t like is something that every viewer can adjust to.

Seth: As Ashley said, the concept just worked. We worked on using it beforehand one packed Ingredient to make three different dishes, which was a big challenge for me. But with “Picky Eaters” we tried a concept that was well received by the audience. I really enjoy going into the comments and seeing people argue and argue about what types of foods they like and hate and why.

Kat: What made you choose cocoa butter when creating this series? How does Picky Eaters celebrate the Black experience?

Seth: “Picky Eaters” continues to affirm the idea that the Black experience, the Black palette, is not a monolith. We don’t all like fried chicken and watermelon and grape soda. Anyway, I don’t like two of the three! The show only helps ensure that our taste buds are as diverse as everyone else.

Ashley: Putting “Picky Eaters” on Cocoa Butter just made sense to us since we worked with Seth and his background. With Cocoa Butter being my baby, I am always looking for ways to expand the brand and bring in new talent as we are a new channel (we launched in October 2020). And so it was a perfect fit for us to have Seth as one of our first talents! What I love is that we can take something like vegetables and give our viewers a chance to see other foods that they may not have tried. Whether tacos or bucatini pasta, we open and expand your pallets. We talk to the Black community about what they like, what they don’t like, and what new things they can try.

Kat: How is it for Seth to cook in front of the camera and not cook normally? Are there any special challenges associated with this?

Seth: It’s absolutely challenging. I’ve been doing this for a while, so I have my sea legs. One of the things people don’t know about cooking on camera is that you have to do three to four things at the same time. You need to make sure that you are cooking the recipe correctly. You have to open up and show the audience what you are doing, communicate with them and make eye contact with the camera while having a hotplate in front of you. So you have to juggle a lot at once. It works your muscles, so get used to it after a while, but it’s a difficult thing. I remember when I started doing culinary content my director and producers kept yelling at me, “Look at the camera, stop staring at the food! Look at the camera!” And then in the case of Picky Eaters and some other things I’ve done in the past, you have to be really involved and hit your lines and points, different things like this. But I really enjoy what I do, and I’ve gotten used to juggling all of these things at once.

Kat: Does cooking make it easier or more difficult to have someone around, like your son or friend, while you cook?

Seth: It makes it a lot easier and makes for more dynamic content. When I am alone, there is only so much I can say about a particular technique or ingredient. But when we have a guest there, we get involved – we talk, they ask questions, we make jokes. What I love about “Picky Eaters” is that we can introduce our guests and our audience to new ingredients, which is a lot of fun.

Kat: Regarding cooking in front of the camera, how is Picky Eaters unique compared to other cooking shows on YouTube?

Seth: I think it’s unique because it’s challenging. Lots of shows on YouTube are very educational, but we have a very special challenge that people expect when they click on the Picky Eaters video every few weeks. And the challenge is unique in that these are usually pretty common ingredients. We had broccoli, we had vegetables, we had salmon – Very common things that people dislike. I think there is a unique aspect to this part. And then the jokes create their own conversations too. In that sense, it’s just unique.

Ashley: I agree with that too. Our viewers will watch until the end to see if Seth can create a meal for the picky eater. For instructional videos, you can browse and select raisins instead of watching the full episode. If you want the full recipe just go to the end. “Picky Eaters” captivates our audience. And that’s what we love about BuzzFeed – engaging formats. With our new channel, we’re looking for ways to grow and interact with our audience. And that’s exactly what this series did.

Kat: Do you think “Picky Eaters” was influenced by comments you read?

Seth: Ashley and I are constantly chatting over some comments – we learned things from the comments section. Things like recurring jokes that we put into each episode and ideas about ingredients that we can show off in upcoming episodes. The comments section really helps in sharing what we’ve done so far and I’m sure it will continue to influence the decisions we make in the future.

Kat: What was your favorite cooking on the show so far?

Seth: The bucatini pasta, no doubt. It’s a really simple recipe and it’s one that I keep making in my household because my son loves it so much. But having him and my wife on set was really special. My son is fun to cook with just to see how he reacts to different things like behind the camera because he is very camera aware. But it was my favorite thing to do because it was easy and it was a family day for me.

Ashely: And I will support these bucatini because we ate them all on the set! I made the recipe myself and am now addicted to it.

Cat: Do you have any advice for people looking to start cooking, especially picky eaters?

Seth: Yes! For anyone looking to cook in general or on camera, the first piece of advice I want to give them is don’t be afraid of failure because that’s what you will do. I’m a self-taught person, I’ve never attended cooking school – I learned it by watching tons of food network and digital shows, brooding over cookbooks, and making lots of trial and error. So my first advice would be: don’t be afraid to go into the kitchen. Try it! The best advice I’ve heard was that if you learn a recipe, learn how to make a dish, but if you learn a technique, learn how to cook 1,000 dishes. So I would definitely advise people to learn the difference between a certain technique and a certain recipe. When you learn a technique, the culinary world is at your feet. You can repeat the same technique for 1,000 different dishes. Regarding camera work, start by practicing several things at once, such as looking up, speaking, and explaining the dish. One of the things I still do is look up adjectives for food and ways to describe something that I may have prepared similarly in a previous episode, or an ingredient that I described. I try to stay fresh and not describe everything as crispy, crunchy, rich or whatever.

Kat: And Ashley, do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into production?

Ashley: Do your research and find out which area you are interested in because there are so many areas of production! When I started out, I looked up people by the job title I was aiming for and asked them if they would be interested in a conversation so I could pick their brains and learn about their journey. Take the information they give you and figure out how to make your own roadmap because not every production roadmap is created equal. Every street is completely different – you take one direction and then turn left at the end. You can end up where you want to be, but it will be different from your peers. Don’t be afraid to take a different path – your path will be unique. And this unique experience will get you into those doors. So do your research, have conversations with people, and don’t be afraid of the path you are taking. It may look like you are driving through the wilderness, but it will get you there so take your time and enjoy the ride.

Kat: Good advice there. And finally, what can viewers expect for future episodes of “Picky Eaters”?

Ashley: We approach vacation dining as picky eaters, so we look forward to doing so. And we look forward to experimenting with different viewers and expanding the “Picky Eater” portfolio. We played it safe with veggies and meat, but I feel like over time we will expand the range and maybe get some really crazy things.

Seth: They just sent me an ingredient list for the episodes we’re filming, and some of them are doozies. I think I figured out half of it!

Kat: Exciting!

And there you have it! I can’t wait to see what new recipes Seth will cook up in the future and how Ashley will continue to expand the cocoa butter channel.

The latest episode of “Picky Eaters” premieres on Friday, October 1st at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST on Cocoa Butter. A big thank you to Seth and Ashley for the wonderful interview!

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