Andrew Rea is having the time of his life. The YouTube chef is the torso — and sometimes face — of Binging With Babish, the show that takes food from TV shows and movies and recreates them in real life. Sometimes it’s delicious, sometimes it’s an abomination, but every Tuesday, his fans are treated to real-life twists on fictional dishes.
The show has gained a gigantic following online, and folks online clamor for episodes about foods from their favorite pieces of pop culture. Babish — named after obscure West Wing character named Oliver Babish — now cooks for a living online, has his own cookbook, and is working with brands to turn his love of the kitchen into a career. In talking with him, it’s easy to see how the show has become such a hit.
Rea is funny, extremely relatable, and easygoing. Hired by Frank’s Hot Sauce to come up with some special recipes for sports fans, he used the culinary improvisation Binging With Babish is known for to deliver a few tasty, and surprising, dishes. When we spoke to Rea, he was coming off a photo shoot with some decidedly inedible versions of his own dishes.
“I’m excited to dig into this food,” Rea said of the clanging buffet carts rattling by. “I’ve been around all this photo food that you can’t eat because there’s, like, nail polish on it and stuff.”
As I said, he’s funny. He was also very familiar with Buffalo-style hot sauce, like Frank’s — it’s part of his origin story.
“You’re goddamn right,” Rea said when I mentioned his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., a short drive from the birthplace of the chicken wing. Over the next twenty minutes, Rea talked with Uproxx about hot sauce, a regional delicacy known as garbage plates, and his contractually obligated rooting interests when it comes to football. The Frasier superfan also touched on the challenges of making YouTube a full-time job, the difficulties that come with life in New York City, and which dishes may or may not have tried to kill him.
I know you’re familiar with Frank’s Hot Sauce because you’re from Rochester, but these three recipes you made using the hot sauce with different recipes is something a bit different. What was the goal here?
Well, I was super excited to partner with Frank’s and they asked me to come up with some outside the box Buffalo game day recipes. I love parm stuff, I love bacon stuff, and I love rib stuff. So these are things that I hadn’t really seen buffalo sauce put on before and it turns out it works pretty swimmingly, just like most things.
You seem like the perfect person to bring on when it comes to experimentation with a food product, given how much you improvise on Binging With Babish. What are some things you’ve learned about that from making the show?
The show really requires some flexibility and agility in terms of figuring out those solutions. Usually, there are some big gaps that I need to fill, some things that need to be figured out. That’s one of the complexities of the show and it came in handy trying to figure out some unique recipes today.
So you’re a huge Frasier fan, which anyone can tell just by watching the show’s first few episodes. I know you have a big Frasier episode that’s somewhere in your graveyard, too. It seems the show is having kind of a moment with younger people discovering it on streaming sites like Netflix and getting back into it. How happy does that make you?
It’s extremely exiting for me. I’m very happy Frasier is having a moment, I’d like to go ahead and take credit for my role in that movement. I have a Frasier tattoo, I’m not sure if you’re aware of that. It’s the Seattle skyline from the show’s opening credits.
It’s one of my favorite tattoos because then people come up to me and say, “Oh you’re from Seattle!” and I can say, “I’ve never been to Seattle.”
It seems like the next logical thing for you to do is to go there and … I don’t know how many other TV shows are based there but you have to see what you can work with for some new episodes.
Well, then I wouldn’t be able to tell that joke!
That’s fair. That’s a good point.
But I’m dying to see Seattle because I love coffee and I love rain and I love Frasier. It’s kind of Mecca for me.