Screengrab via Facebook
Social media is flooded with dozens of pages that make quick, snappy videos of decadent, Frankensteinian recipes made to look at foolproof as possible. Pages like Tasty, Spoon University, and Cooking Panda make videos that are so fast-paced and satisfying to watch, you wonder if anyone actually uses them to make the food they showcase.That was part of the thought process that Andy Simionas and Josh Vasquez, two filmmakers living in the SF Bay Area, had when creating YumFeed, a page that parodies the Tastys of the world by creating satirical recipes that veer into the unusual and occasionally disgusting. The two filmmakers have put out videos for recipes such as a Dorito sriracha milkshake and garlic cake pops, all with the high-quality presentation and style that mimics the pages by which they were inspired.
“Those videos have an effect where they wash over you; they cook things so quickly and so easily with these basic ingredients that it satisfies you [to watch],” Simionas told me as he ordered Korean barbecue from a food truck in San Francisco. “We wanted to lead people into that, but shock them with something gross. We wanted to pull a bait and switch.”The concept of YumFeed came out of the frustration that these quick, lowest-common-denominator videos typically receive millions of views, while Simionas and Vasquez’s personal projects would get next to nothing when uploaded. “We were sitting in a Starbucks, hungover, brainstorming at lunch,” Simionas said. “We were trying to come up with some kind of project while scrolling through Facebook when we found a dumb little food video that had more views that I’ll ever get in my lifetime.”
“It probably had cream cheese in it, but we don’t remember,” Vasquez added as Simionas sighed. “I put my heart and soul into film projects and no one watches them, but these short videos get millions. That callout is how YumFeed was born. “The duo originally wanted to call their project “Yum Yum,” but that name was already taken, so they decided to mix in some “Feed.” They developed an eggplant as their logo, and used the same top down angle that those other recipe videos to emulate their style.“All the Tasty videos ended with the really nice font and someone screaming, ‘Oh, yes!’,” Simionas said. “We made one video where we put ciabatta and horchata into a bigger ciabatta, making a ‘ciabatta horchata frittata.’ When I pulled it out of the microwave, I lost my mind and I just yelled, ‘It worked!’”
That shout became the signature ending catchphrase of every one of YumFeed’s videos, and represented its off-the-cuff style and attitude—the same style that led to its biggest “hit,” Watermelon Pizza.“We saw something about dessert pizza where you put whipped cream and stuff [on it] and we thought that pizza is one of those easily made foods; you have your bread and cheese, it’s satisfying,” Vasquez said. “We thought: Let’s fuck up some pizza.”Simionas and Vasquez originally bought the watermelon to put on top of their yet-to-be-disgusting pizza concoction, when it hit them while they were still in the store: why not make the pizza out of the watermelon?
The recipe was simple—everything that usually goes on a pizza, except the base would be everyone's favorite summertime fruit. “It’s only got cheese, sauce, meat, and watermelon. There is nothing unusual with those foods,” Simionas said. “When we first uploaded it, we didn’t think it would get a response. It got a small viewing on our page.”“And it wasn’t even that bad when we ate it,” Vasquez added. “There is a video of me eating it, and no one believes my normal reaction is real.”But after a few shares on Twitter by some big accounts, including Chrissy Teigen’s, Watermelon Pizza blew up. It gained nearly 4 million views and quickly accrued more than 30,000 likes for their Facebook page. Admirers took screenshots of the video and made their own memes, recorded reaction videos on YouTube, and the short clip of the dish can even be found on GIF searches on Twitter, Facebook, and even some dating apps.
While most of the reaction was as positive as a video of this nature could possibly receive, not everyone was happy with what they viewed as YumFeed’s bastardization of Italian food. “We would get these weird Facebook translated Italian messages with people telling us we’re vile and we don’t deserve to live.” Simionas and Vasquez took the haters’ comments in stride, using them as motivation for more dastardly deliciousness. Most of the time they responded with a simple promise of “new videos every Tuesday!”Simionas and Vasquez never expected much of a reaction for their videos, especially since the duo would come up with ideas in their weekly coffee meet ups and then often forget them by the time they had to start filming, leaving a lot of room for improvisation.
“Eighty-five percent of the videos we made were a mistake and made up as we went,” Simionas said. “We had a saying that we came up with: ‘Eh, it’s YumFeed.’ But it was those mistakes that usually made the videos better.”Eventually, after more than a year of producing these satirical videos, Simionas and Vasquez found themselves embodying what they set out to make poke fun at. “We started out messing with people's expectations with these twists on this formula,” Simionas said. “But eventually the people watching our stuff started watching us in the same way they would those pages, which is kind of funny.”