Nothing’s more synonymous right now with drunken debauchery, heapings of bacon, and ridiculous calorie counts than Epic Meal Time. Six Canadians have turned a friend’s diet cheat day into over 5 million YouTube subscribers, three channels, and their own branded line of clothes and cooking materials with little more than some improvisation and a whole bunch of fast food.
Feast for the Eyes
Back in October of 2010, Alex Perrault, “Muscles Glasses,” began work as a personal trainer and was combining working out six days a week with a healthy diet. But show host Harley Morenstein walked him through his first break from his diet with a gargantuan order from the local Wendy’s and filmed the fast-food feast. The success of that video led to the first episode of Epic Meal Time, “Fast Food Pizza” where the crew baked tacos, burgers, McNuggets and more into a pizza. Harley remembers, “As soon as the first episode passed 120,000 views, I had enough YouTube know-how at that point — you know, creating six horrible shows that had failed miserably — to realize that this was a good starting point, a good foundation to continue making videos consistently.”
They’ve released a new video on nearly every Tuesday since, while also expanding into a “Chopped”-inspired “Epic Chef” cooking competition (hopefully returning for a second season soon) and a how-to cooking show called “Handle It.”
But before there was Epic Meal Time the business powerhouse produced with Collective Digital Studio, Epic Meal Time had to define itself. “The videos came first, the views came first,” says Morenstein. Even in the second episode, the group finished filming and wondered, “How do we end this?” So Morenstein offered, “I know, next time we eat a tiger. So people subscribe. It was kind of meant to have people subscribe — like, ‘Shit, I gotta tune in next week when he eats a tiger.’” The more Epic Meal Time grows, the more it seems like that quick and clever thinking is essential to the whole process.
It also requires a healthy helping of confidence: “We never consult anyone except just ourselves,” says Morenstein, pointing out that professional chefs have “probably cooked this as many times as we have — never. So we just figure it out.” The crew is always shocked to receive developed liquor-based sauces and recipes from fans since Team Cuisine, chefs Josh “Epic Mook” Elkin and Ameer “Prince Atari” Atari, have “just been dumping liquor into our food.”
That confidence doesn’t always work out, though: “I personally don’t like turtles — which we’ve cooked before. A couple of guys don’t like chicken hearts. So we’re, you know, figuring out tastes and stuff as we go along, finding our limits and whatnot,” says Morenstein. In his mind, Team Cuisine deserves their “Handle It” channel for both that daring and for their expertise: “I really think about it, they’re the number one online chefs in the world, and they didn’t know anything about cooking a couple years ago. Now we’ve been consolidating all of these recipes and putting them in a cookbook, and it’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t know anything about cooking but I sell a cookbook, so anyone in the world can do what they want if they put their heart to it.’”
Dave “Cousin Dave” Heuff also frequently hosts the “Handle It” channel. Morenstein notes, “the first couple eighty episodes of Epic Meal Time were edited by me and I totally showed [Cousin Dave] how to edit; now he has a broader knowledge of editing software than I do — Final Cut, Premiere Pro.” Reflecting on on the group’s efforts, he adds, “We’re trying out new things, trying a lot of fun things. We kind of, at this moment, have a great responsibility with our channel to educate a lot of people and keep the attitude epic.”
Needless to say, viewership has since expanded millionfold and Epic Meal Time has responded in kind. “We built up the business piece by piece, from just starting with t-shirts to going further into apps and getting better ad sales,” summarized Morenstein. The Epic Meal Time cookware is currently sold out, but “We bank a lot on our merchandise. Our cookbook has 24 recipes in it. We have about 170 recipes at this moment, so we’re already writing the next cookbook. We have a lot of drink recipes; we’re writing the next drink-book. We’re writing some songs. Ancient love songs. We’ve contracted some people to create songs themed with Epic Meal Time, one of which we made into music video.”
That many recipes also means they’ve hit a groove. Morenstein shrugs off the difference between him and his onscreen persona as habit: “Once I’m on Epic Meal Time in the kitchen, the bacon’s cooking and the liquor’s flowing, that’s just a little inspiring to me.” Sadly, those same weekly habits have affected his love of Jack Daniel’s, giving it “like a Monday-morning taste now” that’s led to primarily Jameson and some other liquors.
So a long history of making things up as they go along combined with tried-and-true standards gives them a lot of wiggle room. Morenstein points out that “We don’t film every single day. We fill up days which we dedicate to programming.” Though “we never have an Epic Meal Time made two months before,” Morenstein explains that while the group usually plans meals “about two or three months in advance,” it does not follow a strict schedule since “we still like it to be somewhat relevant to what’s going on at that time.”
When you’re dealing with a man who eats items with hundreds of thousands of calories for a living, the easy joke is that he obviously has a lot on his plate. But outside the kitchen, Morenstein really does. For the two projects he was able to talk about, he mentioned the epic attitude again, saying “It’s not like everything we’re filming is Epic Meal Time.”
After releasing a gaming app in July of 2012, they’re currently planning their second one. He says “We’re currently putting together a ton of content that has never been seen before” — behind-the-scenes videos and more — as well as “consolidated Twitter, Instagram feeds, and stuff like that.”
Along with the pending second season of “Epic Chef,” the guys are still working on “Epic Tool Time.” Morenstein says, “we’re taking the whole Epic Meal Time mentality and leaving the kitchen and applying it to other things. Epic Meal Time is food porn and we do lots of things that are so dumb that they’re smart. Epic Tool Time will be closer to furniture porn, where we’ll create awesome things that are so stupid they’re smart.”
Then there’s also the three-year aniversary to plan for in October. Morenstein joked, “We got Rob Schneider to direct that episode, we’re just gonna be hosting it, and we’re gonna release it on YouPorn so we can show full-frontal nudity and penetration.” He held a beat and added, “Everything I just said is a lie.” But whatever they really end up doing, it’ll be bigger, better, ballsier, and bacon-er.