Gourmet Takes on Gourmet Makes

If you’re anything like me, YouTube’s recommended page is a deep dark pit where productivity goes to die. I can spend hours scrolling and clicking and clicking again on pointless videos, simply to get out of cleaning the bathroom. However, every once in a while, YouTube will recommend a true gem; usually weird, niche content (check out Knife Boy, aka kiwami japan. He makes knives out of things… like shark teeth… and smoke) that reminds me why I put up with 30 second unskippable ads. As I scrolled past Minecraft tutorials and feminist theory analyzation videos (I have a LOT of interests, okay?), I stumbled upon a video called “pastry chef attempts to steal our hearts (and succeeds)” and was too intrigued to move along. The video was a short, five-minute compilation of Claire Saffitz, a chef from an ongoing video series, Gourmet Makes. The compilation featured silly, humorous, snippets from the series, and just like the title predicted, my heart was stolen. 

What followed was a frenzied binge session; I watched intently (for longer than I care to admit) as pastry chef Claire attempted to make gourmet versions of popular snack foods (pringles, starburst, peeps to make a few), which is the premise of the series. Traditionally, people seek out food videos to learn how to make a recipe or find inspiration, however, it’s clear from the beginning that these recipes are not something the average foodie would dare attempt. Gourmet Makes is produced by Bon Appetit, a food magazine and YouTube channel that hosts a variety of food-related content (check out the also entertaining series, It’s Alive, hosted by Brad Leone). With each episode, Claire is given a snack food, and with said snack, a new challenge. She starts by examining the food, carefully dissecting the potential (inevitable) roadblocks. Through the help of internet research and the BA test kitchen staff who are chaotically sifted throughout the video, Claire gathers information and affirmations to get her through the long and usually difficult process. 

The charm of Gourmet Makes comes from the frantic, nervous, yet still charming energy Claire gives off. The process, which is akin to the scientific method, requires a lot of trial and error (and error and error and error). But Claire’s tenacious, albeit slightly chaotic, personality drives the show forward, as you root for her from behind your screen. Some episodes, like her most recent Ruffles endeavor, are relatively straight forward. Others, like Starbursts or Pop Rocks, brew pandemonium, as you see the downfall spiral of hair-down, hopeful Claire, to hair-toppled-on-head, exasperated Claire. You start to feel for her, as she struggles to reverse engineer junk food, which is often made in a factory, with technology the BA test kitchen, simply does not have.

Each episode, however treacherous and ostensibly impossible the task might seem, Claire manages to make it out the other side. Her final versions, while not always perfect, have you feeling like a proud parent, and also serve as a friendly reminder (warning?) that cooking is hard. There were times while watching Claire breeze through certain steps that I thought, hm, I could do this. By the end of each video, however, every ounce of confidence once felt has left. This is not to discourage you; after all, nobody is going to stop you from making homemade Pop Rocks (you’ll need a pressure chamber, FYI). This is more a testament to Claire’s skill and ability. She is knowledgeable, patient, and an excellent problem solver; and it’s refreshing (maybe slightly masochistic?) to watch Claire struggle through a process, try and fail and fail again, while you thank god it's not you in that kitchen. 

Gourmet Makes stands out in the oversaturated content hub that is YouTube. The show offers an interesting look into the chemistry and artistry behind snack foods and, more generally, everyday cooking. It’s a funny, lighthearted, yet still highly informational series with an unforgettable host to match. Be warned, you will fall in love with Claire, and you will have an insatiable urge to embrace her, as you watch her whisk and blend and fry her way to the finish line. 


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