BA Test Kitchen: Relatable cooks for netizens

The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen YouTube channel has gained a cult following thanks to its subversion of conventional food TV. Its combination of unpretentious approach, relatable hosts, conversational style, and long-form video has proven to be the perfect recipe for entertainment and escapism.

At this very moment, somebody, somewhere, is watching pastry chef Claire Saffitz poke holes in eggshells. She’s recreating a Cadbury Creme Egg, as part of a series in which she creates popular treats – such as Starburst and Doritos – from scratch, with a healthy dose of ingenuity. But this is no instructional video; this is Everest, and her audience is invested. In the world of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, this is a totally normal way to spend 32 minutes.

Bon Appétit Magazine has been on American newsstands since 1956 and is a mainstay of American food media. In 2012 it launched its YouTube channel, and was very much just a pans and hands affair. But the irreverent style that’s since become its fingerprint (and captured six million YouTube subscribers) wasn’t conceived until 2016 when It’s Alive premiered with host Brad Leone. Since then, the test kitchen crew has become a cast (including Brad, Chris, Claire, and Molly), with some running their own ‘show’, such as Reverse Engineering and Making Perfect.

Frequently in YouTube’s trending section is Claire Saffitz’s Gourmet Makes, where she deconstructs and recreates some of America’s best-loved junk foods, including Krispy Kreme, Pringles, and Pop-Tarts.

While the channel does produce recipe how-tos, it maintains a reality-TV feel to it, of friends hanging out rather than a stiff instructional. It’s replete with mistakes, mishaps, real talk, and cursing. “[The channel] perfectly balances the high-brow authority of the BA brand, with the relatively low-brow humour of the cast,” says cyberpsychologist Matt Klein.

This is an excerpt of a report written for Canvas8. The full report appears behind a paywall