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Claire Saffitz Teaches the Internet To Bake

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Oct 07, 2019
Claire Saffitz Teaches the Internet To Bake

In one hundred years, the only thing people will probably remember about our current moment in history is the politics – the turmoil, the scandals, the environmental crises. But, if a curious graduate student decides to study the Internet Age, they might stumble onto the thing called Websites. And if they stumble onto Websites, they just might read about a Website called YouTube. And if they read about a Website called YouTube, they might find this gem from the early 21st century – a beloved internet food show – called Gourmet Makes.

Claire Saffitz hosts Gourmet Makes from Bon Appétit, the wildly popular property of the mass media monolith Conde Nast. Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ were all birthed from Mother Nast. But in 2019, Claire’s little food show became one of Conde Nast’s most coveted commodities. Today, Claire, a Harvard-educated, Parisian-culinary-school-trained, and MacGill-refined chef, is one of the internet’s most relatable personalities.

The premise is simple. Claire makes artisanal (or “Gourmet”) versions of classic all-American junk foods. Skittles, Cheetos, Hot Pockets. In 30 to 45-minute episodes – a video length traditionally considered “too long” for consumable viral internet “content” – Claire charms viewers. But don’t let the simple frame deceive you. The star of the show is Claire’s ingenuity. Her skill, her deft problem-solving, and seemingly endless trove of baking knowledge shine as Claire transforms mass produced classics like Pop Tarts into a recipe you might actually want to make at home. Or absolutely not, as in the case of Gourmet Pop Rocks. You never know, until you see the process of trial and error unfold.

Gourmet Makes might seem like another viral video, more internet sugar meant to give you a quick high before you move onto the next thing. But, inspect the segment closely, and you’ll find the story of our times. A kitchen full of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s – the generation soon to reshape the 21st century – reframing what it looks like to make media. Out with the thin veneer of perfection. Out with the picturesque food swaps. Out with the performatively manicured personalities. A sort of tempered rawness reigns. Cooks say what they really feel, look how they really look, and tell it like it really is. Or, as much as is possible in an edited mass media video.

One hundred years from now a curious historian might find in Gourmet Makes an early 21st century rejection of the idea that “everything is okay” – the state of the economy, the state of the environment, gender relations or labor relations. A desire to stop pretending and wade into mess. Problem solve. And maybe, after a lot of tinkering, a lot of frustration, a lot of help from friends, produce a result that isn’t perfect or ideal, but somehow seems a bit better than where we all started before. A Gourmet Pop Tart of sorts.

Interstitial music in this show by Black Label Music:

- "Stacks" by Erick Anderson

- "Parking" by J.T. Bates

- "New Old" by J.T. Bates

- "Incidentally" by Black Label Productions

- "Soul Good" by Lance Conrad

- "Coming for A Change" by Stephen Sullivan

- "Summer of Our Lives" by Stephen Clinton Sullivan

Photo courtesy of Alex Lau, Bon Appétit.

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