I Don’t Know What These Food Videos Are, But I Can't Stop Watching Them

When I die, turn me into one of Chefclub's horrible recipes. I beg of you.

Earlier this week, a food video went quasi-viral on Twitter because it was completely insane. The Chip Bag Egg recipe (which is not its real name but it’s the name it deserves) is exactly what it sounds like: You smash some chips in their original bag, add whatever combination of chicken, cheddar, parsley, chorizo, caramelized onions, and diced bacon you prefer, throw in a few whisked eggs, dunk the bag in boiling water for 15 minutes, then enjoy your Franken-omelet.

Nothing about this cooking method makes the end result better-tasting, more convenient, cheaper, or higher quality than just making a normal omelet. Look, I don’t have any moral objections to eating chips as a breakfast food — I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Current Moment is pretty Dark, so you should do whatever makes you feel good — but I do have an issue with an omelet-in-a-bag taking 15 minutes to boil (???) when I could make it much faster in a pan like a normal person who doesn’t rely on food cooked inside an aluminum bag.

The Chip Bag Egg video is from Chefclub, a food video site from France that may steadily pop up on your Facebook page and Twitter feed and Instagram Discover tab. Its Facebook page has more than 27 million followers — but I don’t even know who owns the company, why it exists, how it makes money, or who’s coming up with these recipes. (My editors have pointed out that the company was started by three brothers named Jonathan, Axel, and Thomas, and that’s already more information than I wanted.) All I really care about is ensuring these videos never cease production.

Watching a Chefclub video is a journey with no clear destination. Most of the video recipes are in French, which, if you’re not a French speaker, adds a kind of mystique to the viewing experience. And while you might have a basic understanding of where you’re starting — ground beef maybe, or some cherry tomatoes, or some cream, perhaps — you have no idea where you’re going to end up. It really depends on how much French you understand.

Chefclub’s Instagram bio says, “Prenez soin de vous,” which means “Take care of yourself.” That’s a lofty credo for a company whose content includes wrapping vertical rounds of camembert in dough, pushing a bunch of skewers through it, impaling bacon-wrapped potatoes on the skewers, and then, I don’t know, expecting you to eat it? With your mouth???? After all that work, do they really want me to ruin their horrible yet beautiful COVID-19–looking ultrastructure by consuming it?

These videos aren’t exactly a newfound or quarantine-related obsession; my friends and I have been fascinated with Chefclub for years. One friend in particular, Seb, maintains a lengthy Twitter thread of horrifying internet recipes, and many of them are Chefclub staples. How does it make you feel to watch hamburger meat get stuffed inside an entire head of lettuce before being baked and slathered in tomato sauce so it looks like someone’s bad brain? Can I interest you in these cheesy, vaginal chicken cutlets? My personal favorite is the poppable-forehead-pimple cake that should not exist, but certainly does, as evidenced by my ongoing nightmares about it.

Watching a Chefclub video is a journey with no clear destination.

It’s admittedly hard to quantify what makes Chefclub videos so addictive to watch. Maybe it’s because the recipes seem to be in pursuit of finding the least convenient way to make somewhat basic recipes. A roast chicken is covered in about 6 inches of butter and put on a bed of raw rice and peaches, when I am confident there are other, much easier ways to cook chicken and rice. Other recipes display a level of creativity and ingenuity that merits a MacArthur “genius grant”: a butt-shaped cake. Chocolate-covered ladyfingers placed inside a giant Kinder Egg and covered with mascarpone. Little white bread cones filled with pulled lamb and onions, placed delicately in a pie pan and covered in cheese to a jaunty but soothing (and presumably royalty-free) jazz saxophone soundtrack. Whatever the hell this is.

The world of Chefclub is a world where nothing makes sense. The proposed kitchen hacks are actually far more complicated than they need to be, like stabbing into the cap of a water bottle to create a churro-dispensing tool. The recipes seem to all suggest that food should rarely resemble food, and instead should be something completely different: a lollipop, a face, a butt.

There’s a version of the pro-Chefclub argument that could claim these videos are a response to the aggressive foodie-ism of other recipe websites or how-to cooking videos. There are no charming hosts or fermented garlic to coo over, no asparagus ribbons or nutritional yeast or caloric information. There is nothing remotely healthy — or beautiful — about anything the producers want us to make. Maybe equally delightful is that Chefclub videos are made by French people, who — unlike Americans — aren’t exactly known for their aggressive dedication to enormous portion sizes and garish edible gimmicks. Isn’t French eating all about chic simplicity and not, ohhhh, I don’t know, a mutant lasagna topped with a checkerboard cheese pattern and decorated with cheese-filled faux Hot Pockets?

Chefclub recipes are pure id — an expression of the most primal desires of someone who enjoys food, taken to an extreme no one asked for. Bread good, cheese good, meat good. Me like big food tower. Me like when cheese go in bread hole. If you were to claim that none of Chefclub’s videos are enticing to you, you would absolutely be lying. Imagine you went to a party — do you remember what it’s like to be at a party? — and saw the host made finger sandwiches in the shape of flip-flops. You’re telling me you’re not going to eat one? You’re telling me you’re not going to eat eight?? And that for the rest of your life, you wouldn’t tell everyone you know about the insane foot-themed party where you ate shoe sandwiches??? Come on, bro, grow up.

Chefclub’s recipes aren’t just unpretentious, they’re almost confrontationally stupid. The videos demonstrate cooking things your mother would’ve hated you making as a kid, every pot and knife and pan in the house dirtied in the pursuit of — sorry, let me check my notes — an exceedingly complicated omelet? Again?? Why did the eggs need to go through a strainer??? Why are all our knives so hot now???????

I would love to know who’s actually making Chefclub recipes at home. If you are, please send me proof. I have plenty of friends and members of my family who are using this quarantine time as an opportunity to try recipes they’ve seen on Tasty, Bon Appétit, the New York Times, and even that stupid Cooking Light website that wants me to buy an air fryer. But Chefclub recipes don’t even seem like they’re formulated for anyone to re-create — they’re just bizarre conceptual or performance art. This level of ingenuity is so advanced that it’s rarely successfully attempted by anyone other than professional artists.

But look: Sometimes it’s comforting to slip into something that reminds us that chaos is freeing. Let go of the control you never had in the first place. Enjoy this freedom where you can. Do you want to be an adult, or do you want to drink a cocktail that comes from a keg made of two pumpkins and that’s poured into a cup full of shards of sugar glass? Exactly. Shut up and enjoy your vanilla vodka. ●

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