The untold truth of Binging With Babish

Binging With Babish is two parts cooking show, one part stand-up comedy, and a whole lot of fun in a short yet educational video. Started in August of 2006 and hosted by "Babish," this YouTube series is one of the most popular cooking channels on the platform with over 6.7 million subscribers and a staggering 1.2 billion views. 

His audience is also only continuing to grow. He's guested (and got a tattoo) on Hot Ones and is friends with many of the members of the Bon Appétit team. Least to say, a lot of people are watching Binging With Babish, and with good reason. With at least one new episode every week, the dishes are taken from your favorite television shows and movies and amusingly recreated with easy to follow instructions. Babish claims on his YouTube page that "if you're not careful, you just might learn a thing or two."

But what's the story behind Binging With Babish? Who exactly is the headless host? Is he truly Babish? Where does he get his ideas? And where is the YouTube channel going as it continues to grow? All these answers and more are below, so get reading, get watching, and get cooking.

Babish isn't the host's real name

Most performers have a stage name, a persona they adopt when they're entertaining. Sometimes it's a childhood nickname and sometimes it's a name that comes from something they enjoy, a la Lady Gaga and Queen's "Radio Ga Ga." Binging With Babish is no exception, as the host's name isn't actually Babish at all. His real name is Andrew Rea. 

His alter ego, Oliver Babish, is a character from The West Wing portrayed by Oliver Platt. Rea admitted on a Reddit Ask Me Anything that he chose the name Babish on a whim, first using it as his Reddit username. The cooking show was initially made for Reddit users, so it seemed the obvious choice to just keep with his username. It just so happened that the show reached an audience outside of the Reddit community, and with it, so did his name. Rea admits he never expected the show to become the YouTube hallmark that it is today, and has definitely fielded the question as to his real name more than once, as it's a part of his website's frequently asked questions.

Binging With Babish's host is entirely self-taught

When watching cooking shows, it's typical that people are tuning into restaurateurs and professional chefs de cuisine showcasing their culinary artistry. People tend to want to learn from the best, right? However, sometimes there's a disconnect when techniques are too fancy or the dishes are too ambitious. As such, home cooks have become increasingly more popular both on network television and on online streaming sites. Andrew Rea is one of the latter and is completely self-taught.

Per the FAQ section of his website, the only professional restaurant experience Rea has is as a crepe maker when he was a teenager. Since then, he's started to take food seriously, devoting considerable time to understanding how food works and experimenting without worrying too much about the outcome. His mantra is mastering the basics, and that's taken quite a while. 

The result, over many years of practice, failures, and experimentation, is what makes Rea and Binging With Babish both entertaining and educational. Rea says he doesn't feel he's qualified to teach at any culinary institute anytime soon, but there's no denying he has some major skill in the kitchen.

Binging With Babish recreates food from film and television

Andrew Rea makes a lot of different food on Binging With Babish, but there is one main theme and that is film and television. So many interesting dishes and recipes find their way onto our screens, and Rea has taken those and figured out how to make them in your home kitchen. Why? He's a huge media fan. The man loves movies and TV almost as much (or perhaps equal to) cooking and experimenting. It's the perfect marriage.

Rea typically starts his videos with a clip featuring the dish he's about to recreate. It's everything from the Imaginary Pie from Hook to the turturkeykey from How I Met Your Mother and Chilean sea bass of Jurassic Park. Some of these dishes provide more context than others, but Rea's ingenuity is always at the forefront. 

He combines practical cooking with a bit of imagination needed to make a meal that may only be on screen for a few seconds. Sometimes it's beyond just television and movies, as he's made food from video games like Kingdom Hearts and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Basically, if there's food on the screen, it's probably been on Binging With Babish.

Celebrities have been known to drop by Binging With Babish

If there was anything better than getting to make food from television and film for a living, it's the fact Rea gets to sometimes make that food with stars from the show. Part interview, part cooking lesson, these episodes are great fun for fans and foodies alike. Food features prominently, in often hilarious ways, in Arrested Development, so it made sense to have an episode paying homage to the series. Likewise, the Chocolate Lave Cakes from Chef practically demanded a guest spot from Jon Favreau and Roy Choi.

Most notable was the episode with Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. She joined Rea in making Direwolf Bread to mixed success. Part of the charm of it, though, was that it wasn't perfect and allowed the audience to see a version of Williams they may not have otherwise seen. She may be gifted at swords and daggers, but bread proved to be more of a challenge than The Night King. What do we say to the god of bread? Maybe next time.

There's a reason you never see Babish's face

One main feature of Binging With Babish is the fact that you rarely see Rea's face. There's a very specific reason for this and it has everything to do with the current style of cooking shows that seems to be 80 percent personality and only 20 percent actual cooking. The age of influencers has fostered a type of YouTube cooking show that is so focused on the personality, that the actual content seems to go by the wayside. This is something that Rea wanted to avoid from the beginning and he places more focus on the actual food, rather than himself. 

When asked why he does this, in his Reddit Ask Me Anything, Babish said "I watched some cooking video about a burger that was 30 minutes long, and they didn't start cooking for 10 minutes. I decided to make a show that was focused solely on the food." This isn't to say there's not loads of personality in Binging With Babish. Rea is hilarious and his comedic timing is exactly on point. It just takes a backseat to the food without disappearing entirely. A perfect balance that more cooking shows should really strive for.

Some Binging With Babish episodes teach cooking and baking basics

When Rea was teaching himself how to cook, he concentrated on the basics. Once you know the basics and learn to watch out for noob cooking mistakes, you can move to more advanced techniques and cooking styles. Since he's been there and done the work, Rea knows that when people are trying to teach themselves to cook, they may need that same guidance. 

As such, Rea started an off-shoot series on his YouTube channel called Basics With Babish. In these videos, he teaches cooking basics, techniques, and dishes that aren't daunting. He also takes the time to look at kitchen equipment and care, something not often covered when cooks are teaching "the basics." That said, have you ever wanted to learn how to make sourdough bread? There's a guide for that. Wondered about knives? There's a video for that, too.

Basics With Babish even has its own site, which gives written instructions to certain food projects. Also, it allows people to focus just on that as well as learn more about the series. It's an accessible and entertaining way to learn some great skills with the same Babish charm as Binging With Babish.

Sometimes Binging With Babish makes really gross dishes

"Don't try this at home, unless you're masochistically trying to punish all five of your senses for enjoying themselves too much lately." That's what Rea says as he prepared milk steak from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because yes, he makes all food from film and television, even the terrible dishes. 

One of the great sitcom tropes is a truly horrific meal. Remember Rachel's meat trifle from Friends? Yeah, it was on Binging With Babish. The Chef's chocolate salty balls from South Park? You bet he made those too. If you're feeling a touch apocalyptic at the moment, you could follow along as Rea makes Carol's beet and acorn cookies from The Walking Dead. It's a solid reminder to be thankful you're not actually living in a zombie apocalypse.

In fact, Rea has a list of his worst and most monstrous creations on his website, tongue fully in cheek as he knows what he has unleashed upon this world. The worst (or best) part is that he actually eats it afterward. No matter what it is. Yes, that even includes the breakfast dessert pasta from Elf that Rea called "gag-worthy." That's what we call commitment.

The majority of Binging With Babish viewers are male

According to Rea, his YouTube stats say his audience is 80 percent male and between the ages of 18 and 35. There's no doubt that women also like his show, but that is a very large demographic slant. When you look at what Binging With Babish is, however, it makes sense. Rea has a certain brand of humor, what he describes as Dad-jokes, and that naturally resonates with a male audience. They may see themselves in him, especially as Rea puts on no pretense or airs. He's just a regular guy who taught himself. That, in itself, makes him more accessible to the everyday man who is looking to learn about food and how to cook, be it for themselves, a partner, a family, or just for fun.

One thing that he says all his fans have in common, regardless of their gender or age, is that they all love food and they all seem to be really nice. According to Inverse, fans may get drawn into the videos because of wanting to see food form their favorite media come to life, but it's not why they stay. It's the skills they learn along the way. Rea's soothing voice dubbed over said techniques is just a plus.

Binging With Babish has resulted in two cookbooks

Even as Rea says himself, it was inevitable that he would come out with a cookbook. Perhaps he didn't expect to come out with two. Or to be a New York Times bestseller. It's a long way from doing videos for Reddit to that list, but if Rea has proved anything, it's that he is meant for this. That's even further cemented in his cookbooks, which combine the recipes he's developed with his humor and some great pictures.

The first cookbook, Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook For Movie Lovers, was published in October of 2017. The book is all about those iconic food moments that stick with you, like the crack of the crème brûlée in Amélie, or that "I'll have what she's having" sandwich from When Harry Met Sally.

The second one is aptly named Binging With Babish and while it does contain recipes, 100 of them in fact, it also takes a behind the scenes look at the series, at Rea himself, and lots of food porn photography. It also shows how far Rea has come, as there's a foreword from Jon Favreau. Rea also takes the time to tell his own story. It's poignant, touching, and revealing in a way that many YouTube personalities only attempt. It's as much about Babish as it is about binging with him.

The Binging With Babish spin-off show frequently surprises fans

Fun recipes and how to do them isn't the only thing that Rea has on his channel, there's also Being with Babish, a lifestyle spin-off series. Being with Babish isn't extensive as of yet, but it does show that Rea himself is a versatile host and entertainer. In these videos he acts as more of a travel vlogger or lifestyle guru, letting the audience into his world, surprising fans, and showcasing his book tour. As well as making a lot of people cry.

Rea gave his fans a heart attack when he uploaded the "Facing Cancer" episode in February 2020. He didn't have cancer, but a viewer did and wrote in wanting to do something for her husband who was a huge fan. The result was Rea going out to meet them, cook with them, and share their heartwarming and heartbreaking story that just happened to involve cheesesteaks. This is just one example of the feel-good content that Being With Babish has. Other videos include Rea surprising his brother with a Tesla, giving $10,000 to a 6-year-old fan who watched his show during her lengthy hospital stays, and visiting a Brooklyn middle school cooking club. It's all about Rea giving back and it's a wonderful thing.

Whiskey features prominently on Binging With Babish

While he's cooking in many of his videos, Rea takes a drink (or two). It's almost always whiskey. He's a fan, a big fan. He even did a bourbon trail and distillery tour in Kentucky for a Being With Babish video. He also goes into the basics of whiskey, providing some education along with that entertainment he's so known for. 

The basics are actually quite extensive, as Rea even goes into the proper glassware for drinking whiskey. And yes, it matters. If you want the best possible taste, that is. He also goes into swirling and tipping in glasses to get the notes and aromas, especially complex whiskeys. It may be more than you ever plan to do when drinking whiskey yourself, but it's a fascinating and accessible look into whiskey tasting. Maybe next time you may try it yourself.

As for his favorite whiskey, well, that's a tall order to narrow it down. Though he is a major fan of Angels' Envy bourbon. His other recommendations are Bulleit Rye for everyday sipping, Lagavulin 16 for something smokey, Glenfiddich 15 for something sweet, Angel's Envy Rum Cask when he's willing to splurge and Monkey Shoulder for when purse strings are tight. But really, as he says in his video, just drink whatever whiskey you want however you want to. 

As does Babish's health and fitness journey

As with many food personalities, Rea's health and fitness have become a part of his brand. After all, when you're cooking and eating dishes like fried Krabby Patties and macaroni and cheese all the time, it's not too unheard of to gain a few pounds. 

That was exactly the case for Rea and wanted to do something about it. His penchant for having a few glasses of bourbon every night was also adding to his overall less-than-satisfactory health. Something had to change and Rea decided to go about his journey publicly. He did this to help keep himself accountable, or as he explained, "to hold myself hostage into making progress."

What he decided on was a macronutrient-based 30 day reset diet developed by his friend. No sugar, no fat, and no alcohol. With 1,800 max calories a day, it was going to be a challenge for someone who worked in food for a living. That's why he also implemented a workout routine that was specifically tailored for what physique he wanted. Rea kept his audience engaged in his journey through videos, including healthy meal recipes and his workout regime. His video on the latter is starkly human and shows that it's all a process. He could barely do a pull up at the beginning. At no point does he alienate his viewers and they're along for the ride with him.