In his YouTube series "Binging with Babish," Andrew Rea tries to make meals from the screen in his kitchen at home
If you've ever found yourself wondering what the food in the movies and on TV actually tastes like, Andrew Rea is here to provide you with some answers. In his YouTube cooking series Binging with Babish, Rea lovingly recreates some of the most over-the-top recipes, like the endlessly rich Eggs Woodhouse from Archer, New York-style pizza inspired by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even the infamously carb-heavy Il Timpano from The Big Night. Not all of his dishes are necessarily delicious, though. Rea made Buddy's breakfast dessert pasta from Elf, which he describes in the video as, "the most disgusting thing, not only that I made for this show, but I've ever made in my entire life."
But it's exactly Rea's commitment to recreating each dish as closely to the original as possible, even when the process seems totally laborious or the ingredients appear too indulgent, that makes this show so endearing. Each episode of Binging with Babish follows the same basic format. It starts with a clip from the TV show or movie in which the character makes the dish in question, so that even viewers unfamiliar with the original source material will be able to catch on, and then cuts to a shot of Rea in the kitchen, ready to cook.
And Rea does not cut any corners. While making Il Timpano from The Big Night, for example, Rea made every single piece of pasta from scratch. In the episode where he makes the pasta sauce from Goodfellas, he goes as far as slicing the cloves of garlic with a razor blade—just like Pauli does in the movie. His most "impossibly indulgent" recipe to date is probably the Eggs Woodhouse from Archer, which features both béchamel and a hollandaise sauces, white sturgeon caviar, Kashmiri saffron, Iberico ham, and shaved black truffles.
The episode always ends with Rea eating his movie- or TV-inspired creation and giving a review. Some dishes are more successful than others, of course. The pasta from Chef got a resounding thumbs up, while the Eggs Woodhouse was so rich that Rea spent the better part of a minute chewing the first bite. (And to offset the indulgence of eating this "absurdly rich" dish, Rea also posted a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the nonprofit Hour Children. He has already reached his $2,000 fundraising goal.)
This project didn't start off as a quest to try all of the food from his favorite movies and TV shows, though that's presumably a perk of making this series. "Really the project started as a food-lighting exercise," explained Rea in an email. "I wanted to see how well I could shoot something in my apartment kitchen." The food inspiration came next. "I had recently seen an episode of Parks and Recreation where a fancy-shmancy burger was described, and found myself wondering, as I often do, 'What would that actually taste like?' So I decided to give it a whirl."
Somewhat shockingly, given the technical complexity of the recipes, Rea has no professional experience as a chef. "I am 100% self-taught and live by Gusteau's mantra, 'Anyone can cook,'" (a quote from the movie Ratatouille, of course). But Rea hopes that someday, with this project, he'll be able to help other become as badass in the kitchen as he is. "The goal of the show has become to gain enough popularity to justify a Kickstarter, to fund a streaming series that aims to help viewers become better cooks."
If there's any lesson to be learned from Rea's experiments in the kitchen, though, it's that the best way to learn how to cook is to just do it. Rea doesn't test the recipes before he films. "I just wing it!" Though that strategy doesn't always work out. "I've paid the price a few times. There are no fewer than four episodes in the graveyard of experiments gone horribly wrong," he explained. "Particularly when it comes to baking, lack of rehearsal has definitely hindered me; for instance, in the 'World's Greatest Sandwich' episode, different shots of the dough [and] loaf are from my first, second, and third attempts."
You'd never know that from watching Rea's video, though—and isn't that just the magic of movies?