SORTEDfood started with scribbled recipes in pubs. Now, eight years and over 1.7 million YouTube subscribers later, friends Ben, Barry, Mike, and Jamie are helping anyone who lacks the knowledge or confidence in the kitchen to become a stellar home chef. They’ve partnered with brands like Co-op, Ford, Android Pay and more to bring fresh content to an audience on YouTube that’s full of food enthusiasts, first-time chefs, and pros looking for new challenges.
Through recipes, challenges, cooking lessons and more, the SORTEDfood team is changing how millions approach food. We caught up with Jamie Spafford — one of the founding members of SORTEDfood — to get the inside scoop on the journey behind one of the largest online cooking shows and to find out what’s coming next from the SORTEDfood team in an exclusive interview.
How did you all become friends? How did you decide to start a YouTube channel based on cooking and food?
Ben, Barry, Mike and I have been friends since we were 11! We went through school together but went off to do very different things. Whenever we’d get together the conversation would always migrate to our eating habits and how none of us — apart from Ben, who was training to be a chef — could cook. I once even tried cooking a frozen kebab!
Ben started writing recipes for us on the back of beer mats and we quickly realized how accessible cooking actually is. So we created SORTEDfood to grow this conversation and share the experience with others. With our combined skills, video seemed a great place to start.
What do you think is stopping people from becoming great at-home chefs?
I think people are lacking the confidence. We recently launched an initiative called Now Cook It with UK brand Co-op as an answer to the cooking skills gap that has grown in the UK (and beyond) since cooking lessons were taken off of school curriculums.
Now Cook It is a platform that offers free cooking lessons to teach you the basics for cooking pretty much anything. Before launch, we committed a lot of time to research and spoke to people from all walks of life. Across the board, it seemed that people lacked adequate knowledge to do well in the kitchen.
I also think that with delivery services, takeout and fast food being so accessible, it often seems easier to pick up the phone and place an order instead of cooking from scratch. That’s a huge shame and we’re trying to fix that. There are so many benefits to cooking.
What went into designing the SORTEDfood kitchen set? What are some of your favorite aspects of the kitchen?
We work out of a studio space in East London with our awesome team of 14 people. Whilst there are areas that we specifically film in, there are also places to get work done, host events, take meetings or just to chill. It’s very flexible and changes all the time.
Barry’s the chief designer and always comes up with crazy additions to the walls for each new season of FridgeCam. The best part has got to be the development kitchen as there’s always something ridiculously delicious being created.
What are some favorite dishes you all like to cook? Which ones are the go-to crowd pleasers?
Personally? I’m a steak man. If I had it my way, we’d be barbecuing every week! But as a group, we all love the social aspect of food and the dishes that bring friends and family together around the table.
We all really look forward to filming a Big Night In, one of our most popular video formats, because you know there’ll be time for amazing food, great conversations and a chance to kick back and relax.
How would you describe the culinary scene in the UK?
I can say we definitely don’t struggle for inspiration! Here in the U.K., we’re very open to exploring new food and it seems like there’s a never-ending list of world cuisines popping up to get involved with.
It’s constantly evolving because everyone’s up for experimenting and trying new things. The growing street food market scene facilitates this. We know we’ve always got the great roast dinner or fish and chips to fall back on in times of need.
Where do you get inspiration for your dishes? Are there any that have unique origin stories?
Everything we do begins with our amazing community and we never lose sight of them when developing our content. A recent example is our Hainanese Chicken Rice recipe.
We have a significant following in Singapore and it was a hugely requested dish but we’d never been out there or had a chance to sample it. Cue asking them for help! We received over 1,000 comments of feedback from which we were able to shape our take on the recipe. Having that power is overwhelming and takes our food to a whole new level.
Why is Fridgecam so different from any other cooking show on YouTube? What does your audience love to see on your show?
Our community plays a part in everything we do. They shape our content and are with us every step of the way. An episode of the show isn’t a case of us saying “Hey look, here’s a recipe and this is how you make it.”
It’s actually about starting a global conversation around food and exploring it together, all based on friendship and occasionally the odd bit of craziness. We want our viewers to feel part of something and I think our high retention rates reflect that we’ve got something really special.
How do you choose which brands to partner with? How do those partnerships help the show and the channel?
We’re actually quite picky with our partnerships. We look for brands that give us opportunities and are up for working with us to create meaningful content instead of solely racking up video views. Last year, we worked with Android Pay who helped us celebrate the special occasions of our community members. We actually went to a wedding, two birthday parties and a food truck festival!
Ford gave us a Mustang and a test track and challenged us to ‘unlearn food on the go.’ We chose three unlikely recipes from the thousands our community suggested and turned them into something that was perfect for eating in the back of the car. Very messy but a lot of fun.
These brands allowed us to do things that we simply couldn’t have achieved on our own. They become the heroes of the videos.
Superlatives: Who is the best Best chef?
Oh Ben, obviously, although we don’t tell him that very often in case his head explodes.
Most likely to make a mess in the kitchen?
Biggest Sweet tooth?
I think we all prefer savory, to be honest.
Most likely to eat a weird food combination?
Ben. He’s always up for broadening his foodie horizons. He’s just been away in Peru tucking into Guinea Pig(?!)
Me, Barry & Mike. Have you seen us in Ultimate Battles?
Lightning Round: Best midnight snack?
A must-have ingredient in the fridge?
Favorite cooking show?
If you were a kitchen appliance, which kitchen appliance would you be?
I’d have to be a barbecue or some kind of meat griddle.
What can your fans look forward to in the next season of Fridgecam?
We’re not planning any huge changes, just more great food and hopefully some returning formats. We’ve also got a few exciting projects coming up so watch this space.