Binging With Babish Wants More than YouTube Fame — He Wants Equality
With a new cookbook, a Brooklyn brewpub, a potential TV deal and a plan to get creators a fair deal, Andrew Rea has big ideas
Andrew Rea has had a busy week. The man behind hit YouTube cooking channel Binging with Babish has just closed out shooting seven episodes — enough to tide him over while he undergoes a North American tour this week tied to the release of his new cookbook of the same name as his channel. He’s also wrapping work on a product integration with a company for his channel, and making a commercial for it.
“That alone has been 40 hours shooting and editing alongside the other episodes,” he says. “It’s been a little crazy.”
The work doesn’t end there. Alongside entertaining 3,000 people at live events in the coming 10 days, Rea will then return back to work, and the YouTube grind starts all over again.
“I think my favorite thing in the world is when somebody — a family friend or someone who doesn’t know anything about this or understand YouTubers, and can’t comprehend that we’re getting paid for this, much less that some of us are making very comfortable livings — says: ‘Ah man, I should start making videos’,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, go for it. But see if you can do it.’ They think it’s so easy.”
Some believe that Rea, like many creators, has simply been handed a living. In reality, it’s the opposite. “I’m doing everything I can, every hour of the day, to try and make it bigger and better and stand out on its own.”
Rea, alongside his business partner, is working 60 or 70-hour work weeks all the time. “It’s a lot of work, but it is my dream job,” he says.
“People are working themselves crazy. I am one of them.”
That’s evidenced by the video he wrapped work on last Wednesday. The shoot ended at 11:30pm; he and the friends and colleagues who helped him with the video were watching the raw footage for the next 90 minutes. When everyone else left, Rea stayed up until 4am editing it, revelling in the joy. “It’s really enlivening to be part of something you can feel so proud of and be creatively fulfilled by,” he explains. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of being able to do and something I never imagined I’d be able to.”
Rea came to YouTube as a sophomore in college, and started his YouTube channel — which meticulously recreates recipes from famous movies and TV shows soon after. He’s kept going — despite the long working weeks — because it keeps him going personally. “The show is intrinsically tied to my being chemically depressed and having general anxiety disorder,” he explains. “I have anxiety and panic attacks and I permanently suffer from depression. My decision to start helping myself and seeking help and getting on medication was the first step in creating the show.”
He was bored of his day job and feared his career was over. He took to his bed for two weeks, pretending to have food poisoning and not wanting to face up to the reality of his life. “That eventually led me to be like, ‘Okay, time to start you know, making things again. Time to start cooking again, shooting things again and editing again outside of work, my day job.’ So I picked up a camera and here we are.”
Burnout is an issue YouTubers have long discussed — and Rea isn’t immune from it. “People are working their fingers to the bone,” he says. “People are working themselves crazy. I am one of them.”
But he so far hasn’t truly burned out, he reckons. “I’ve definitely had some breakdowns and some anxiety attacks. The pressure of having so many eyes on you is taxing.” Part of the reason is that the channel gives him focus — and the audience provides him with grounding.
“I put a lot of myself into my book and the videos it’s because people don’t just tune in to my show for food,” he says. “They also tune in because they like the humour that I bring to the screen and the production values that I bring and the show is a reflection of me. It’s my creative outlet and so people are responding to me putting myself out there in that way. So I want to do that in the book as well.”
Rea has a tattoo of one of the dishes intrinsic to his success inked on his body: pasta alla oglio. “People will tell me: ‘I just made pasta alla oglio and it’s my first time cooking and it came out amazing,’” he says. “And that’s so special to me. I can’t believe that I’ve played that role in some people’s lives. So that’s why I got a tattoo of it.”
But the stresses and strains of maintaining a YouTube channel isn’t the only thing that vexes Rea. He’s keen to build out the Binging with Babish brand as broadly as possible. Alongside the cookbook released this week — his second — he’s already working on a third, called Basics With Babish, which will focus more on techniques, tips and tricks, as well as developing a traditional TV show and building out plans for a Brooklyn-based brewpub that will double as a Binging with Babish studio.
The goal is to provide a live experience similar to the early days of the Disney-MGM Studios, where people can visit for food and drink as well as dropping in on a recording of his YouTube series. Rea and his business partner, Sawyer Carter Jacobs, with whom he christened a production company, BG Films, which later became the name of his YouTube channel, back in ninth grade, are looking at sites around 10,000 square feet in Brooklyn.
“My show gets, double, triple, sometimes five or 10 times the viewership of a major cable show. You can bet that I’m not getting paid anywhere near what those networks are.”
It’s all part of the grand plan to grow brand Binging with Babish. The untrammelled growth is due to Rea’s eagerness to spread his success — and share it with the world.
“I want to reach as many ears and eyes as I possibly can in the world,” he says. “I think that there’s real value to content and ideas that entertain and enlighten and encourage and uplift. I want it to get to more and more people and encourage more and more people to cook or find ways to express themselves and be their fullest selves, because that’s what I’ve finally been able to do for myself. This is the person that I’ve always wanted to be and never thought that I would ever be.”
Rea is also keen to get better representation and a fairer shake for YouTube creators in a new venture he could only hint at the early stages of. “It’s an effort to empower YouTubers to better monetize their content and earn a better living for the work that they’re doing,” he says.
While he says he’s not at all unhappy with YouTube, he does believe that he and other digital creators are treated dismissively by advertisers who haven’t yet realized the size of their platform. “The fact is that my show gets, double, triple, sometimes five or 10 times the viewership of a major cable show,” he says. “I won’t say what shows, but like we’re talking TV dramas that cost a million or $2 million to produce. You can bet that I’m not getting paid anywhere near what those networks are getting paid for having advertising on their content.”
Rea’s new venture, working with his agency, will “empower YouTubers to better monetize their content,” he says. “The tide is changing. There are plenty of advertisers out there that are doing big things with YouTube. It’s a very exciting time, and it is an underexplored territory. And we’re trying to charge forth into it as the authorities on how modern advertising should work.”