We’ll help you claim 5 minutes of food fame

Sara O'Donnell produces her cooking show, which is broadcast on the YouTube channel "average betty" and her website, www.averagebetty.com (MCT photo)

Cooking videos have become much bigger business for YouTube, which conducted a Next Chef “boot camp” last month to identify promising online personas. They found UCLA art-history student Sara O’Donnell, aka Average Betty, whose “Six Tips for an Awesome Football Party!” racked up 332,555 hits — and counting.

That’s no accident, according to a recent Los Angeles Times story, as YouTube tries to transition from a messy, Wild West hodgepodge of viral videos to offering a more curated collection of content ideal for browsing. Not surprisingly, food is one of the platform’s most popular video streams.

The Mail Tribune’s Internet gurus realized this very fact several years ago. Of all the newspaper staff videos hosted on YouTube, the ones with the most longevity were food. That a 2008 video demonstration of making vegetarian sushi continued to garner hits years later convinced newspaper Web developers to build a video-based cooking school hosted on the Mail Tribune’s site.

Cooking on Camera debuted in October on the premise that newspaper readers and other local residents would send us their short videos and enter the recipes in our free online database. The Kitchen Company in Grants Pass chipped in a $25 gift certificate for the best video entered each quarter.

The first prize went to Medford resident Michael Kozak, who teaches vegan cooking via a YouTube channel. His mission is to spread the health benefits and ease of eating only plant-based foods. Nine years ago, the lifestyle helped him lose about 100 pounds after decades of yo-yo dieting and also shed prediabetes. The 53-year-old has since become an activist for the cause.

“It just made sense to me,” he says. “All of it is a myth around you need meat.”

From his 25 videos, Kozak sent us one appropriate for winter: Root Mash Deluxe. But more important than following the actual recipe is ascribing to “random cooking” with whatever a person has on hand, says Kozak.

“It is just so easy, and I would love to show people how to do it.”

Kozak says he spends 30 minutes to an hour editing each segment shot with a Lennox still camera that also records video. A $25 subscription to Lynda.com provided some higher-end software, he says. Kozak aims for a two- to four-minute finished piece, but some run as long as seven minutes.

“Keep talking … even if you switch subjects to talking about your dog,” he advises.

Viewers will forgive almost anything except poor sound quality, O’Donnell told the LA Times.

So far, Kozak has had little competition for the quarterly prize. But we feel certain that plenty of Rogue Valley residents have a passion for food and cooking and a point of view that they want to share. It’s easy to just complete the form on our site and enter your recipe. (I’ve personally entered about 1,000.)

With YouTube’s new preference for cooking videos, yours could land you in the spotlight.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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