Photo: You Tube
Over the last several years, the term "flash mob" has sprung up to describe a large group of people who come together to perform public pranks -- mostly harmless, quick stunts that are then forwarded around the Internet for all to ogle at the following day.
Enter Irish chef Niall Harbison, who recently launched Food Mob, an online show that takes that concept and applies it to cooking. But instead of being a confusing mess for those engaged with the "mob," Harbison, who is also a social media expert, seeks to enlighten those who might be afraid of getting in the kitchen.
To do this, he uses simplistic terms, recipes with few ingredients and a whole lot of tech interaction -- all in under 20 minutes per episode. "The experience we want to create is doing something that's user generated," Harbison tells Slashfood. "Over the years, we've had people preach at us about how things can be done. There's very little two way communication."
After the jump, an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Food Mob shot just for Slashfood.
With a heavy use of Twitter, Flickr, Youtube and Facebook, where audience members upload their photos, videos, stories or questions about the recipes, Harbison makes sure that the conversation flows both ways. Not only does he take time to answer queries, so do other audience members. "That's the thing about cooking. You can let everybody share from a common pool of knowledge."
Harbison starts off each episode by introducing what's on the menu -- but while he's prepping, he quickly recaps the last week's episode by showing examples from the audience's attempts, mostly through photos of users that excelled in what they learned. From there, he introduces the new recipe and casually goes through the cooking steps: when would be a good time to serve and where to procure ingredients. "The key word around the show is demystify. That's what we want to do," he says.
And because his recipes are so simple to follow, a good memory should be able to retain them for those times where one might be away from one's own kitchen. For example, I was in a pinch to create a quick side dish and remembered his demonstration for "Super Spicy Potato Wedges" from Episode 2. I had the three key ingredients: oil, potatoes and Cajun seasoning and knew that he'd said 40 minutes in the oven was the optimal cooking time. I just couldn't remember the temperature, but it was that "crisp" factor he was raving about. So that oven setting was key. I quickly looked it up, as the recipes are archived online, finding a low-graphic, easy to find spot right under the episode stream. Problem solved. Prep time was under five minutes and I adjusted the taste according to house rules, which prohibits anything that is "super spicy."
Since their launch on April 22, Food Mob has aired 6 episodes, tackling staples such as steak, burger, pizza and pancakes. They've also handled prawns for a pasta salad and poached eggs -- dishes that are different, but doable.
"If you're standing there in your chef whites, that's going to intimidate [people]," Harbison says. "But if you're talking to them as if they're standing on the other side of the cameras, sitting on the couch, they're going to relate to you."