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Student Blog: Creating 'Picky Eaters' - A Show on BuzzFeed's Cocoa Butter

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An Interview with Seth Brundle and Ashley Jones

Student Blog: Creating 'Picky Eaters' - A Show on BuzzFeed's Cocoa Butter

Would you consider yourself a picky eater? I definitely would! Even though I'm always down to try a new food, it is rare for me to find something that I really enjoy and would consider ordering or cooking again.

But luckily for all us picky eaters out there, BuzzFeed has a show made just for us. Cocoa Butter, a channel created in October of 2020 by Ashley Jones, is a "Black culture and entertainment channel created to provide a safe space for people of color on the Internet to consume humorous, informative, and uplifting content." One of their shows, titled "Picky Eaters," features Seth Brundle, a chef who is determined to create meals using ingredients that picky eaters tend to dislike (past episodes have included broccoli, salmon, and lamb).

Recently I had the chance to interview both Seth and Ashley to discuss the "Picky Eaters" series as well as the Cocoa Butter channel as a whole. Let's dive right into it!

Kat: When did the "Picky Eaters" series start?

Ashley: We were working with Seth on a couple of different concepts for Cocoa Butter and we found that it worked better. We all have a food that we dislike - It's a universal thread. So we decided to try that option, and it worked really well for our audience! And from there, it's taken off, and we continue to evolve. We've included Seth's son, who was very adorable. Having a universal thread that there is a food that everybody dislikes is something that every viewer can tune in to.

Seth: Like Ashley said, the concept just worked. We were previously working on using one boxed ingredient to make three different dishes, which was a great challenge for me. But with "Picky Eaters," it was a concept we tried out that resonated with the audience. I really enjoy going in the comments and watching people debate and argue about what types of foods they like and hate and why.

Kat: When making this series, what made you want it to be specifically on Cocoa Butter? How does "Picky Eaters" celebrate the Black experience?

Seth: "Picky Eaters" continues to reinforce the idea that the Black experience, the Black palette, is not a monolith. We don't all enjoy fried chicken and watermelon and grape soda. I for one don't like two of the three! The show just helps to reinforce that our palate is as diverse as everyone else.

Ashley: Putting "Picky Eaters" on Cocoa Butter just made sense for us, working with Seth and just kind of his background. Since Cocoa Butter is my baby, I'm always looking for ways to expand the brand and include new talent because we are a new channel (We launched in October of 2020). And so bringing on Seth as one of our inaugural talents was the perfect fit for us! What I love is that we're able to take something like a vegetable and give our viewers an opportunity to see other foods that they might not have tried. So whether it's tacos or bucatini pasta, we are opening and expanding their palettes. We're speaking to the Black community in terms of what they like, what they don't like, and new things that they can try.

Kat: For Seth, what's it like to cook in front of the camera versus cooking normally? Are there specific challenges that come with it?

Seth: It absolutely presents a challenge. I've been doing this for a while, so I've got my sea legs. One of the things that people don't realize about cooking on camera is that you have to do three to four things at once. You have to make sure that you're cooking the recipe correctly. You have to open up and show what you're doing to the audience, communicating with them and making eye contact with the camera while also having a hot plate in front of you. So you have to juggle a lot at one time. It trains your muscles so get used to it after a while, but it's a difficult thing to do. I remember when I first started doing culinary content, one of the things my director and my producers used to yell at me all the time was, "Look at the camera, stop staring at the food! Look at the camera!" And then in the case of "Picky Eaters" and some of the other things I've done in the past, you have to be really engaging and hit your lines and marks, different things like that. But I really enjoy what I do and I've gotten used to juggling all of those things at once.

Kat: Does having someone around, like your son or a friend, while you're cooking make it easier or more difficult to cook?

Seth: It makes it a lot easier and makes for more dynamic content. When I'm by myself, there's only so much I can say about a specific technique or ingredient. But when we have a guest there, we're engaging - We're talking, they're asking questions, we're joking. One of the things that I love about "Picky Eaters" is that we get to expose our guests and our audience to new ingredients, which is a lot of fun.

Kat: On that note of cooking in front of a camera, how is "Picky Eaters" unique compared to other cooking shows on YouTube?

Seth: I think it's unique in that it presents a challenge. A lot of shows on YouTube are very instructional in nature, but we have a very specific challenge that people are anticipating when they come and click on the "Picky Eaters" video every couple of weeks. And the challenge is unique in that they're usually pretty common ingredients. We've had broccoli, we've had vegetables, we've had salmon - Very common things that people have an aversion to. So I think there's a unique aspect there with that part of it. And then also the jokes create their own conversations. It's just unique in that way.

Ashley: I echo that as well. Our viewers are gonna watch through the end to see if Seth can create a meal for the picky eater. For instructional videos, you can scrub through and cherry pick instead of watching the full episode - If you want the full recipe, just go to the end. "Picky Eaters" is engaging our viewers. And that's what we love about BuzzFeed - Having engaging formats. With our new channel, we're looking for ways to grow our viewers and to engage with them. And that's what this series has done.

Kat: Do you think "Picky Eaters" has been influenced by comments you've read?

Seth: Ashley and I have constant conversations about some of the comments - We've learned things from the comments section. Things like recurring jokes that we inject into each episode and ideas about ingredients that we can feature on forthcoming episodes. The comments section really helps inform what we've done so far and I'm sure it'll continue to inform the decisions that we make moving forward.

Kat: What has been your favorite thing to cook so far on the show?

Seth: The bucatini pasta, hands down. It's a really easy recipe and it's one that I make over and over again in my household because my son loves it so much. But having him and my wife on set was really special. It's fun to cook with my son, just to see how he was gonna react to different things like being behind the camera, because he's very aware of the camera. But that was my favorite thing to cook because it was easy, and it was a family day for me.

Ashely: And I will second that bucatini because we all ate that on set! I remade the recipe myself and now I'm addicted to it.

Kat: Do you have any advice for people looking to get into cooking, especially those who are picky eaters?

Seth: Yeah! For anyone who wants to cook in general or on camera, the first piece of advice I would give them is don't be afraid to fail, because you're going to. I'm a self-taught chef, I've never been to a culinary school - I learned by watching tons of Food Network and digital shows, poring over cookbooks, and lots of trial and error. So my first piece of advice would be, don't be afraid to get in the kitchen. Give it a try! The best piece of advice that I heard was if you learn a recipe, you learn how to cook one dish, but if you learn a technique, you'll learn how to cook 1,000 dishes. So I would definitely advise people to learn the difference between a specific technique and a specific recipe. If you learn a technique, the culinary world is your oyster. You can replicate that same technique for 1,000 different dishes. In terms of camera work, start practicing doing multiple things at once like looking up, talking, and explaining the dish. One of the things that I still do, is look up adjectives for foods and ways to describe something that I may have made similarly in a previous episode or an ingredient that I may have described. I try to keep things fresh and not describe everything as crispy, crunchy, rich or whatever the case is.

Kat: And Ashley, do you have advice for anyone looking to get into production?

Ashley: Do your research and find what area you're interested in, because there are so many areas of production! When I started, I would find people who had the job title that I aspired to have and ask them if they would be interested in a conversation so I could pick their brain and learn about their journey. Take the information they give you and figure out how to build your own roadmap, because not every roadmap to production is going to be the same. Every avenue is completely different - You take one way, and then you end up going left. You can end up where you want to be, but it's going to be different than your counterparts. Don't be afraid to go on a different journey - Your path is going to be unique. And that unique experience is going to be what gets you in those doors. So do your research, have conversations with people, and don't be afraid of the path that you're going on. It might seem like you are going through the wilderness, but it's gonna get you there, so take your time and enjoy the ride.

Kat: Good advice there. And finally, what can viewers expect for future episodes of "Picky Eaters"?

Ashley: We're tackling holiday eating as a picky eater, so we're excited to do that. And we're excited to experiment with different viewers and expand the "Picky Eater" portfolio. We've been playing it safe with vegetables and meats, but I feel like as we go on, we are going to be expanding the palette and we might get some really crazy kooky things.

Seth: They just sent me a list of ingredients for the episodes that we're getting ready to shoot and some of them are doozies. I think I have half of them figured out!

Kat: Exciting!

And there you have it! I can't wait to see what new recipes Seth will be cooking up in the future and how Ashley will continue to grow the Cocoa Butter channel.

The latest episode of "Picky Eaters" will be premiering on Cocoa Butter Friday, October 1 at 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST. A huge thank you to Seth and Ashley for the wonderful interview!

Student Blog: Creating 'Picky Eaters' - A Show on BuzzFeed's Cocoa Butter


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