The Untold Truth Of Chef John

Chef John has been teaching viewers how to cook on his YouTube channel Food Wishes since 2007 (per PR Newswire) — only a few years after YouTube made its debut. His style and cadence are unmistakable in any video as his voice guides the watcher, only showing his hands as he chops and dices on screen. Since he has so many videos, almost everyone can find a recipe they like from this creator.

He's become a chef of many recognizable traits: His favorite spice is cayenne, his voice is melodic, and he has an endless ability to adapt any recipe for a wide audience. Although he's become YouTube famous, he keeps his videos as simple as they had been on old-school YouTube. While other channels deal with drama in and out of the kitchen (looking at you, Bon Appétit), Chef John remains reliable and resourceful.

With food always being the main focus in every video, his viewers might want to know more about the chef behind the scenes. We've found some of the most interesting facts about Chef John from Food Wishes during his long career on YouTube. Let's take a closer look.

Chef John has produced, filmed, and voiced over 1,700 videos on YouTube

Since its humble beginnings, the Food Wishes YouTube channel has amassed 1,700 videos since its beginning. Chef John never runs out of ideas with fans making never-ending requests for recipes. With 4.11 million subscribers at the time of writing and counting (per Social Blade), that makes for a lot of ideas.

The Food Wishes website features all the recipes written out with ingredient amounts and instructions, which isn't available in the video descriptions on YouTube. He told his viewers it's not just because he wants to "double dip" and financially benefit from hits on both, but also because he wants viewers to watch the video, take notes, try it themselves, and come up with their own version of the recipe — possibly with different ingredients and measurements than what Chef John came up with. This is a model of what he learned in culinary school, and he tries to avoid the method of handing the written recipe to someone learning to cook and calling it a day.

He's a trained chef and has worked many positions in the restaurant industry

While most of us know Chef John as a YouTuber, he started out as a prep cook when he was 15 years old, according to one of his videos, going on to attend Paul Smith's College Culinary School in upstate New York in 1983. Between then and 2008, he'd worked in nearly every restaurant position imaginable, according to The Spruce Eats. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he had been helping cooks and chefs with their resumes and learning how to do graphic design.

Gradually, this transformed into YouTube video creation as he worked as an instructor at the Culinary Academy in San Francisco. "I had been producing these, I'll say, practice videos," he told Mashed. "I was doing like one, two, three recipe videos a week on YouTube. I only found YouTube because it was the only way back then you could publish a video for free."

Around 2006, he left the academy with the sole purpose of teaching how to cook for free online, per an AllRecipes video. It's a culinary education for the masses with 4.11 million attentive, virtual students.

He doesn't show his face in his cooking videos — but not because he's hiding

Seemingly, Chef John's goal was never to be a YouTube star. If a newcomer watches his videos, they'll soon realize there's no instructional videos with Chef John's face. That leaves some fans curious about who the man behind the camera is and why he seems so set on hiding his face while he cooks.

He claims his best secret for making successful YouTube cooking videos is to stay out of the video. "When the video is just about the food and the recipe, viewers are cooking WITH you. As soon as you enter the frame, they are watching you cook, not cooking with you," he told food writer Diane Jacob. Chef John wants to get everyone cooking and feeling confident in the kitchen, no matter the recipe or challenge. This means avoiding being the center of attention on video — Chef John told his audience that he wants the food to be the star.

AllRecipes acquired Food Wishes in 2011

Although Chef John began his videos in 2007, he made it big when AllRecipes acquired Food Wishes in 2011, according to PR Newswire. AllRecipes was founded in 1997 and claims to be the world's largest digital food brand, with 1.3 billion visitors a year in 2015 (per Geekwire). In 2012, Meredith Corp., a magazine publisher, acquired AllRecipes, which really ensured Food Wishes was on the up and up. Combined with Chef John's instruction and recipes, it was a match that was meant to be.

Since the acquisition, his videos and personality haven't changed much, which is great considering the popularity Chef John was able to acquire all on his own. The work he's doing now is similar to what he was doing before 2011, so old and new fans alike still come flocking to the same personality, style, and expertise of the Chef John they know and love.

Almost every dish of his has cayenne in it

If you watch Chef John's videos, you'll find that almost every dish has a sprinkle of cayenne in it. Viewers, including some on Reddit, have wondered where his obsession with the spice comes from. Although he found it was an accidentally repeated habit over a long period of time, he told viewers that he thinks there is a definite taste-bud booster in cayenne.

"I like to put a little dash of cayenne in almost everything. Not enough where you're like, oh, it's got a little spice. I call it like micro seasoning," he told Mashed. "It's almost like micro-dosing with cayenne. Just a little touch, almost an imperceivable amount. Sort of opens up the pores on your tongue a little bit and I think it just helps some of the other flavors come through."

He has put a shake of cayenne on many kinds of dishes, whether they are sweet or savory. It has become a running gag that if he goes a few videos without cayenne, his viewers will comment that something seems off about Chef John.

He didn't always have his signature voice inflection

Although Chef John doesn't appear on screen (and claims to have a face for radio), his radio voice is certainly iconic. He's known for having a lilting voice that almost sounds like he's adding a question mark at the end of every sentence. While some people find his specific way of speech soothing, others have wondered why he always instructs the way he does.

"The unusual cadence is due to the fact that I can only record a few words at a time without messing up, which means I record each statement multiple times, and then pick out the best sounding one," he told Tubefilter. "Once all these non-sequential clips are edited together, you get what you hear in the finished video."

He didn't always sound like this. In fact, back in 2009, his voice sounded much lower and more serious. Chef John insists that his inflection has no purpose and that he doesn't try to talk in any particular way — his voice only grew to maintain a certain pattern over the years. He told viewers during an FAQ that he tries to avoid being monotone, which may also explain the rhythmic tone.

His least favorite food used to be yellow curry

With all of his recipes, it's hard to imagine Chef John has a least favorite food. However, he told his audience in a livestream in 2019 that his least favorite food was yellow curry, specifically with turmeric. The smell would make him run the other way. He did get over his fear, stating that everyone had a least favorite food when they were younger — and even has gone on to post turmeric curry dishes like his creamy cashew chicken.

He even noted that when he was younger, he ate rice balls with chicken giblets (the innards of a chicken) and didn't find it that bad. "If you get older, you'll eat everything. So if you're afraid that you're not an adventurous eater yet, wait," he told his audience. This rings true, as the Cleveland Clinic noted that taste buds do change as we get older, and we begin to acquire a different taste for food. 

There are some recipes that fail

Every recipe Chef John posts is of his own making, so there's sure to be many that don't turn out as planned. Even if it doesn't work out, he told Mashed he'll still post it on his channel. His failures are some of his funnier videos, and he uses his dry, sarcastic humor to explain why they didn't work out ... usually revealing he took hours to attempt a recipe that failed in the end.

Two failures that have garnered many views are his whole plum tart and his cauliflower fries. Both were failures for completely different reasons: The whole plum tart ended up tasting awful, and the cauliflower fries took way too long for a mediocre dish.

"People really like seeing professionals that are supposed to be competent at something fail. That's why sports blooper reels are always so popular," he told Mashed. "It's like, 'wow, that highly trained athlete just tripped over his cleats and fell on his face. That's hilarious.' So when I have had the fails, the audience certainly is not upset."

His favorite dish to cook is pasta fazool

There are many dishes he's done in different styles, but pasta fazool is one of his repeated videos that he even claims to be his favorite. He's posted four videos of pasta fazool recipes, one even dating back to 2007.

"That's one of our go-to dishes. In fact, we have a, not to brag, a fairly nice vegetable garden so there's always some fresh tomatoes and beans, zucchini," he told Mashed. "And there's nothing easier than just some simmering broth in a pot, throwing in every vegetable you can find, as soon as they're tender, toss in fresh or canned beans, wherever you're into, handful of pasta. Ten minutes later, the pasta is cooked, a little grated cheese on top, some fresh herbs, piece of crusty bread. I mean, I could eat that every day."

It may not be his most popular recipe, but there's obviously something to it if he keeps recreating it.

He met his wife Michele when they briefly worked together at a restaurant — and moved in together the next day!

Not surprisingly, food brought him and his wife, Michele Manfredi, together. He told his audience in an FAQ livestream that while he was covering a shift in a restaurant for a missing chef, Michele worked alongside him for the day — and on Valentine's Day weekend, no less. Chef John told her that his grandfather always told him his last name meant "warm mittens" in Italian after he found out Michele's meant "cold hands." She thought it was a sign that they were meant to be, and he asked her on a date.

"Part of her didn't want to believe it was a pickup line," Chef John said on his podcast (The Chef John Mitzewich Podcast). "Later, I told her it was a 100% cooked-up pickup line [after she told her mom], but she didn't care."

A few days later, John moved into Michele's apartment since she was looking for a new roommate — and they haven't left each other's side since.