Bringing The World’s Greatest Chefs Into Your Kitchen
Steve Avery is bringing the world’s greatest chefs into thousands of home kitchens.
He’s on a mission to share their secrets with ordinary cooks, who are fed up scouring the internet for recipes that might be great. And might be terrible.
YesChef is an online education platform that currently features the culinary wisdom of seven chefs.
The plan is to add a dozen more chefs, all of them internationally renowned, in the coming year. Subscribers pay an annual fee and have unrestricted access to every lesson by every chef.
It goes far beyond the formulaic approach of a TV cook in the studio. YesChef spends months working with each chef creating a bespoke format to suit their style of cooking.
It then sends a 35-strong crew to wherever in the world they are to film them over eight days, distilling their expertise into more than six hours of video.
The results are beautifully produced, highly informative and worryingly addictive.
“We come at it from a fly in the wall documentary style narrative. And that allows them to just be really natural, and from us to have the best quality production and the best experience for the end user,” says Avery.
“We really ask them a lot of questions behind the camera, to get them to verbalize the secrets behind their technique, skills or method.”
It was a huge challenge to recruit the first chefs, says Steve, who is well acquainted with the startup world, but had no professional experience in either TV or cooking.
“They are amazing chefs, their time is very precious and we’re just a small Israeli startup,” he tells NoCamels. “I don’t have any formal experience in production or in chefdom (the state of being a chef).
“But I managed to convince a handful based on the vision, which was to create the first ever knowledge base, where we gather the most important chefs who have really made the world of food what it is today, and puts them together under one roof.”
The tables have now turned, he says. “Chefs are now coming to us. In the beginning, I was pitching an idea, I was pitching a dream. But now chefs can actually go to our website, they can see our talent, they can see the content, and they want to be a part of it.”
Among those featured so far are Francis Mallmann, Argentine celebrity chef, author, and restaurateur; American chef, baker, and author Nancy Silverton; Israeli chef, baker and educator Erez Komarovsky; Italian butcher Dario Cecchini; and Edward Lee, the Brooklyn-born celebrity chef, author and restaurateur.
YesChef is aimed at anyone who cooks, and wants to cook better.
“This is not a passive experience,” says Avery. “You’re actually watching, you’re going into the kitchen, you’re cooking, you’re coming back, you’re watching some more. You’re rinsing and repeating. It could take a few months to get through a class, because there really is a lot of content.
“Every class that we produce is around six-and-a-half hours of content and that includes a 50-minute documentary film. It’s a film that we create ourselves, and we produce ourselves that really takes you on a journey with the chef.
“That’s followed by about 20 lessons in the kitchen, to learn their recipes, techniques and skills. You come away at the end of every class, learning how to cook like that chef, how to make their food, how to recreate it for your family and friends.
“But you’re also empowered by the stories, the culture, the history behind that food. It’s not just about the recipes.”
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As a keen amateur in the kitchen, Avery was disillusioned by what the internet had to offer.
“Recipes were one of the first things that people shared online, going back to the early 90s. Anybody could upload their grandma’s apple pie recipe and [the internet] soon became flooded with low quality content.
“Ask the average home cook today how they find recipes and they’ll tell you they went to 10 different sites, watched 10 different YouTube videos, and ended up ‘Frankensteining’ their own version,” he says.
“It’s ironic considering we have not just a home, but a dedicated premium subscription site for music, meditation, spinning, all these other things that are really important to us in life, but cooking has somehow been forgotten.”
He was inspired, in part, by Masterclass, the online learning platform where you can learn skateboarding from Tony Hawk, singing from Christina Aguilera, filmmaking from Martin Scorsese, and photography from Annie Leibovitz.
“When Masterclass came along, I got the Gordon Ramsay cookery class and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn from one of the best.
“Now I don’t want to bash Masterclass. I think it’s done something phenomenal, but I don’t think it works for food and cooking, because it’s not an academic approach.
“The YesChef approach is really the merging between online video classes with documentary storytelling. What we’re doing is a Chef’s Table documentary storytelling approach.”
He says every class is unique. “We don’t have a format for producing our content. We have an infrastructure, we have a methodology that allows every class to really be on its own as its own standalone experience.
“Part of the problem with platforms like Masterclass, that have a cookie-cutter format, is that it gets really boring really quickly.
“On YesChef you watch Asma Khan in Calcutta, India, with the music, the feel, the food, the vibes. You feel like you’re in India, and we want to immerse you in that world.
“But then, you know, you’ll go to Jamaica next week with Kwame Onwuachi and you’re going to feel like you’re in the Caribbean. And it’s a very different experience. And we do that across the board for every new class that we produce.
“The world has enough recipe websites. YesChef is about teaching you how to become an amazing cook at home, and doing it on a global scale.”
“Most people in the world will never get to meet these chefs or even get to the restaurants. We’re able to give you access to the chef and their lifetime of knowledge and experiences, and to actually teach you how to recreate their food at home.”
I’ve been watching some lessons, and so far I’ve learned, among much else, that I must make my empanadas using lard (sorry, I’m kosher and vegetarian), and I must use a pestle and mortar (NOT a food processor) to crush chickpeas for hummus.
I’m improving, albeit slowly, and I’m sure older subscribers have come on in leaps and bounds. So what about Avery himself? “Before YesChef I had a handful of dishes, or you know, recipes that I would go to, that kind of thing,” he says.
Now, after immersing himself in the food world, he modestly admits that he is “phenomenal”.