The untold truth of Bon Appetit's Claire Saffitz

Claire Saffitz, star of Bon Appetit's Gourmet Makes videos, grew up in St Louis, Missouri, and she was, by her own admission, very serious, academically driven, and fond of order. She says (via Grub Street), "I really like following roadmaps. I remember, as an 11-year-old, being like, 'We definitely need a recipe, what are you talking about?' Of course, the cookies were terrible." 

Saffitz went to Harvard and graduated with a degree in American History and Literature. She tells her high school alma mater that she had decided to go to culinary school a few years after graduating from college (via Clayton Education Foundation). She then opted to pursue a master's degree in culinary history, but halfway through decided a career in education was not for her, so she applied for a job at Bon Appetit as a freelance recipe tester.

From freelance recipe tester, Saffitz went on to become Assistant Food Editor, and from there, she became Assistant Editor, then Associate Editor, Senior Associate Editor, then Senior Food Editor. "I didn't even think about video," Saffitz tells Into the Gloss. "But as the company's video strategy developed, there were a lot of ideas to utilize the test kitchen space. Gourmet Makes was originally supposed to be with a pastry chef, and that chef was going to make a Twinkie from scratch. But for reasons I won't venture to guess, the people putting the show together were like, 'Well, let's just have Claire do it.'"

It took four days for Claire Saffitz to film the Twikie episode

Gourmet Makes' first episode, the 11-minute Pastry Chef Attempts to Make a Gourmet Twinkie, took four days to film and saw Saffitz unravel gradually as she launched her first attempt to deconstruct junk food. "I wanted to pull my hair out," she says. "I absolutely hated it and felt it was totally pointless. I thought it was this nonsensical, sprawling, rudderless show." Today, that episode, which attempts to create a gourmet Twinkie (but without the chemicals that make it last forever), is a YouTube hit that has garnered over 6.75 million views (via The Cut).

Saffitz also tells The Cut that it took her six to seven episodes of making Gourmet Makes before realizing what made it so special. "I've learned over time that Gourmet Makes is all a lot about formulating a hypothesis, pursuing it and seeing if it works," she notes. "[It's about] perseverance, problem-solving, asking for help and input from your colleagues."

Viewers find Claire Saffitz relatable

Viewers who love Saffitz consider her the queen of relatable content. They appreciate that Saffitz actually spends days working out different variables including flavors, textures, and ingredients for the junk food she is meant to deconstruct and replicate in her show. "I truly did not understand why it resonated, because I was so used to the idea of a food video providing service, and there was something actionable from watching it," she tells Mashable. "There's no recipe, no sane person is gonna recreate this."

But there is a realization that she does so much more than show people how to prepare a meal or a dish. "There's some sort of transference from people, they get stress relief from watching my stress," she explains. "It's a positive feedback loop because then that makes me feel better. There is service here, it's just not service about cooking or baking ... The service is stress relief."

Saffitz is now at the helm of a new cooking show, Baking School, and is expected to publish her first cookbook, Dessert Person, in October 2020 (via Penguin Random House).