As with many things in life, it all began with an omelet. It was 1962, and a women trying to market her new cookbook demonstrated proper omelet cooking technique on a local Boston television station. Viewers were enthralled, and demanded that women be given her own show. The book was entitled The French Chef, and the women was Julia Child. Hers was by no means the very first cooking show, but it was the first to be successful with a national audience. Cooking shows would continue to rise in popularity until the introduction of The Food Network in 1993, which featured such well known chefs as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, and Rachael Ray in addition to signing on Julia Child. These cooking celebrities set the stage for their internet followers by creating the formulaic style evident in so many videos.
But when did the crossover to the internet begin? Pirated clips of televised cooking shows surely have existed since the internet has been fast enough to make video sharing practical, but this material was not created specifically for the internet. The actual first internet cooking show hides somewhere in the vastness of the internet, obscured by over a decade of web-page buildup. However, in April of 2005, a mere two months after the introduction of youtube, a video entitled Flambe Disaster which featured a man pouring liquor onto an open flame appeared on the internet. The video was uploaded onto youtube by a user named Tunafat, but the original no longer exists, and all backstory is lost. As this is clearly a failed attempt at demonstrating proper flambe technique, I feel as though it qualifies as one of the earliest examples of internet cooking. However, it is not a true cooking show, and it is not clear whether or not video was originally intended for the internet. It is not until 2007 that the first mention of a cooking show comes up in youtube’s search feature.
The series is entitled “Great Depression Cooking”, and stars a 91 year old women who cooks food from the Great Depression while rambling about how hard things used to be. The series was created and produced by her great grandson, Christopher Cannucciari. The videos are closer to televised cooking shows in that they have a longer set introduction sequence with a theme song. However, much like current internet cooking shows, the chief interest is in the host, not in actual cooking. Clara, the 91 year old women, is hardly a distinguished chef and actual displays many incorrect cooking techniques. Throughout the video, Clara tells stories about things like how her neighbors let bootleggers use their garage to make whiskey.
Truly, this is the heart of the internet cooking show. People don’t produce an internet cooking show for fame or money, but because they feel they have an interesting story to tell, and because they want to share the culinary part of their lives with other people. In this respect, cooking shows have not changed much at all since Julia Child introduced America to the quiche.