How can a video of a young woman with a gray streak in her hair making handmade versions of junk food be so personal? So intimate? These are some of the questions asked by one of many memes on Tumblr and Instagram referencing Claire Saffitz’ “Gourmet Makes” Youtube series. This series of Youtube videos shows Claire Saffitz, a young pastry chef recreating popular snack foods, candies and other heavily processed treats using fine culinary techniques.
Filmed in a casual camera style, each episode starts with some banter between Claire and the other chefs in the Bon Appetit,the company who produces “Gourmet Makes,” Test Kitchen.
“What are you making today Claire?”
Claire then introduces the food du jour by gesturing to a bountiful pile of packages of the stuff in front of her. She then samples the product and hypothesizes about how she thinks she might execute the food in gourmet style. For example, forming layered dough to make Cheez Its or making an icing for the candy coating on M&M’s. She then gets right into the task, explaining all the while the steps she is doing. While Claire carries on mixing and baking and defrosting, batch after batch, she talks to the audience like they are a friend. She is not talking down to the viewer, but filling them in, as if they are making it together. This is one reason that the Gourmet Makes series on Youtube is so calming to watch. There is no screaming Gordon Ramsey or any cheesy drumroll effects. It’s just a nice afternoon in the Bon Appetit kitchen making some homemade, gourmet Peeps.
Another popular Gourmet Makes meme says something to the effect of: “My face when Claire says she’s going to temper the chocolate” while showing a shocked reaction face. This is an example of the lengths to which Claire Saffitz goes to get her finished product, and the show as a novelty at its most pure and reduced state. Saffitz brings out the most top-notch industry standard chef’s equipment to make things like Flaming hot Cheetos and Pop Tarts. She is intensely creative and resourceful too, making a drying rack out of spoons or using an air brushing machine or freeze dryer. Very specific and technical cooking techniques like making an electronically temperature-controlled water bath, freeze drying and blast chilling come up often. The videos satirize a tutorial on how to make junk food by taking completely unrealistic, time consuming steps of trial and error of a process that could be completed by a machine in seconds and it’s delightful. Watching such an expert explain her craft relating to the snack foods we all know and love is so fun.
The most endearing part of these videos is not the process or even the food itself, but Claire Saffitz and the other Bon Appetit Test Kitchen chefs. Claire is short in stature, always wearing an adorable frilly apron, is delightfully determined and so real. As earlier mentioned, the episodes are based on her doing a trial and error process, with her making multiple batches of the food item, each after making the tiniest of tweaks hoping to reach perfection. She sometimes gets discouraged, but this is when the other members step in. Brad Leone and her other colleagues nudge Claire to the finish in an often mild teasing fashion. They are always honest with her on how the food tastes, but their encouragement is unwavering. Watching the banter among the Chefs, especially with the always funny Brad recurring on the show makes it feel like you are in this fun friend group of chefs, and that if you were there you might crack a laminated pastry dough joke as well.
One avid Gourmet Makes viewer, my friend Kirsten, explained her love for the show saying: “Gourmet Makes are my favorite videos because they take a premise that is purely delightful and fun and silly and then show every element of how difficult it is to execute, even for a professional chef.”
Another friend shared their appreciation for the videos as well,
“When I started watching Gourmet makes at the beginning of the series, it was very serious and more focused on the processes of a gourmet pastry chef, then as the series progressed, it became more lighthearted, and now it feels like I’m hanging out with a friend in the kitchen.”
Altogether, the wholesome and always relatable star Claire joined by hilarious Brad and the rest of the Test Kitchen crew combined with some cool cooking techniques and delicious snacks makes Gourmet Makes the best escapist series on Youtube.
Emily Hobrla @emilyhobrla is a Senior studying Professional Writing with a focus in Editing and Publishing. She loves making new friends in the PW major and beyond, and is excited to contribute to The Current with writing and editing work. Outside of school, her interests include fashion, tennis and squirrel watching.