Catastrophic Reviews: "Worth It"

Why Hello There, and welcome back to Catastrophic Reviews, where Jon reviews a facet of food culture, and discusses his opinion on it. Irritatingly, it currently shares a name with our Cookbook Reviewing posts, but what’re you gonna do? Today, Jon wants to take a bit of a breather, and write a review that he’s honestly a little worried about, because it FEELS different. See, today’s topic is a Youtube Series. And sure, there are tons of great Youtube series about cooking out there. Jon’s subscribed to several. He bought Binging with Babish’s cookbook, for crying out loud! But writing a review, on a blog, for a Youtube series…It feels weird. Like “we’re in too deep.” But hey, I make the calls here, so I say we’re going to dive right in.


Break Me off A Piece

One of the reasons I wanted to do this particular topic is that, well, I’m fraying a little thin at the moment. I’ll confess, it’s due to my own internal failings: I have an innate need for…’closure’? ‘Accomplishment’? I don’t know the right word here. I need, when I finish a task, to be able to say “And that’s done. “ It’s one of the reasons I do so well with theatrical work. A show starts, it runs, it finishes. And then a new show comes, and you repeat. But those feelings of accomplishment, and those grace periods, are something I mentally required. I worked at a bakery for six weeks when I was younger, and it drained me. Because every day, it didn’t MATTER how well I had done the night before, I just had to do the same list of 16-20 things, and it might be harder today for reasons outside my control. Compare that when to when I managed an apartment building: sure, I had to vacuum the building every week, but that gave me 6 days of NOT vacuuming. And if there was a spill or mess that interrupted that, at least there was a sense of novelty.

Ben Sam.jpg

How did you spill a bowl of chili INTO A BOWL SHAPE? I mean, that's practically witchcraft. 

But right now, I’ve been bouncing along fairly non-stop for the last few weeks, and it’s starting to take that same psychic toll.  I started a show before I had finished the last one, and went straight from closing night to nightly rehearsals. I got a set-work job in the middle of that. I have a show this weekend, my brother just moved back to help with caring for my father, whose cancer sadly returned at the end of February… to quote my last character: “It’s too much. It’s all-a too much!”

So let’s talk about something simple, quick, and fun. Let’s talk about Buzzfeed Video’s “Worth It” series.


Let’s See What All the “Buzz” Is About.

If you’ve never seen it before, the central conceit of “Worth it” is super easy to explain: the hosts pick a food, (hot dogs, sushi, steak, wine, whatever) and go to three restaurants that serve that food, at “three drastically different price points” to see which one is the most “worth it” for the price. And “drastic” is definitely the right word. The very first episode goes from a $2.95 plate of sushi to a $250 dollar omakase menu. (Omakase is a sushi term that literally translates as “I entrust it to you”, and means the chef chooses what dishes to serve. It’s a very fascinating experience, as it typically consists of a lot of single rolls made for you. Rather than get, say, 6 California rolls, you get 18 rolls, each one of a different fish. ) It’s the brain child of Steven Lim, one of the hosts of the show. He asked “Hey, I wonder if it’s actually worth it to take a date to one of the fancy sushi places in town, rather than a popular cheap spot.” And then he made a video to answer that question.


Kidnapped by dragons? 

The video in one week raked in 10,000,000 views, according to Business Insider. It’s now up to 25,000,000. For comparison, that’s like if everyone in New York City watched the video 3 times. Or if everyone in Australia watched it once. (Not so big now, eh, New York?)  That was… a year and a half ago. Since then, he’s put out 41 episodes taking on a ton of foods. He’s gone to both New York City AND Australia, as well as Tokyo, Las Vegas, and many other locales. And along the way, he brings his friends.

His first two videos were shot with Keith Habersberger, of the Try Guys Fame. (If you don’t know what they are…I can’t help you. Look, Internet culture is hugely diverse and constantly changing, I know OF the Try Guys, but I have no idea what they are or what they do. I assume try things. Oh, look, I’m right.) But as of episode 3, his cohort in crime has been Andrew…Ilnyckyj. Damn, that’s a hell of a name.


Adam, their chief camera guy, is a fan-favorite for his role as tie-breaker and ongoing ASMR experience. ? isn't in many episodes, because it's so hard to pronounce his name. 

And for my money, it’s a fun show. You could watch the entirety of the show in a month, in under 30 minutes a day. Steven is a very upbeat and energetic guy, while Andrew is a more low-key sassy influence. (Which is…just an awful thing to write, as a full-grown, bearded, white guy.   I’m sorry. I went through like, 6 descriptions of the guy. “Garfield-esque” “deadpan snarker”, then I just tried citing actors who PLAYED Garfield, and, let’s be honest, none of you were going to remember who Lorenzo Music was without prompting.)

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Which is a pity, because the guy was legit. Voiced Garfield, Venkman in the Ghostbusters cartoon, Gummi Bears (yeah, that had a show. It was the 90's, things were weird.) and more.

In addition to being fun, it has a minor but fascinating aspect of food culture buried within it: at basically every restaurant, the hosts are met by someone with an aspect of authority to the business. The head chef, the owner, the brand manager, whatever. Each one talks about their restaurant’s ethos and mission statement, their goals for bringing food to the diners. In this way, you can get an insight into how different cuisines operate, and what’s shared among them. A sort of peek into the culture of kitchens around the world.


For instance, don't be the youngest when you go out to Korean barbecue. You gotta cook the meat, pour everybody's drinks, it's a hassle. 

But it is not without its flaws: first, the locality of it. Andrew and Steven work for Buzzfeed, so most of the time, they’re in LA. When they’re not, they’re in…well, Australia, New York, and Tokyo. Which are all great places, and I’ve been to two of them, but that locality limits its usability. I can’t go to the same omakase place that they love, because I live in Washington, and it would cost me $300 just to GET to the restaurant. This flaw I think is somewhat ameliorated by a couple points: firstly, that they do visit chain restaurants, or expanding franchises, so sometimes you CAN try the food even if you’re not around them. (My family recently tried The Habit Burger Grill based partly on their episode featuring it, for instance) Second, of course, if you DO live near those locations, then the direct info is still useful And, again, the populations of those regions are by no means small, so the information is useful for millions. And lastly, that we can extrapolate the ideas explored in the videos, presented by the chefs and owners, and try and find similar ideas and executions in our area.

The other flaw is…oh man, it’s a mess. It’s so much of a mess that I spent like, 2-3 hours writing it, and decided that it needed to be its own post. Seriously, it was another 1,600 words. It literally outweighed the entirety of the actual review. Which was way too much in a week where I'm trying to take things easy. Add to that, it’s…super weird. We talk about the movie 300, another Youtube channel I’m subscribed to, as well as the recent Simpsons controversy, slavery, and David Chang . (By the way, he’s in at least 2 episodes of this show, so I guess he's just inescapable at this point.) So tune in next week for that! In the mean time, if you've got the time, check out Worth It, and see if it's Worth It to you. 


For good starting episodes, I'd recommend the Pilot (Sushi), the Season 1 Korean Barbecue episode, and the Fried Chicken Episode. 

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