Epic Meal Time is a fantastically popular online cooking show that premiered in October and now clocks about a million views per episode, with fan-favorites getting as many as two-and-a-half million. The episodes feature massive bacon-laden dishes that are the stuff of cardiologists' nightmares, like meat gingerbread houses and egg rolls the size of your head. We talked to host Harley Morenstein about censor birds, chefs who miss the point, and the next level up from bacon.
How did Epic Meal Time come to be?
We have a video on the internet that's so old? it's me, I'm eating a really huge hamburger at Wendy's with like six patties, 18 strips of bacon, and there's epic music playing. I like to think about it as the birth of Epic Meal Time. It was me and my buddy was filming it, he still films the new ones. And we've been eating like pigs our whole lives. Where I come from, Montreal, Quebec, it's a greasy place with lots of greasy food. We just decided to start filming it this past summer and we uploaded that first video in October, and just from the feedback we've been getting, it's weekly now, every Tuesday there's a new Epic Meal Time.
Who are all the people behind Epic Meal Time?
Well you've got myself, Harley, I'm the guy with the beard that's always yelling about cooking. You've got my partner, Sterling [Toth], he's the man behind the camera. He created Epic Meal Time with me. You've got Muscles Glasses [Alex Perrault], who's the douchebag in the aviators. We've got a whole bunch of goons, we've got Josh Elkin and who else, we've got Dave Heuff who helps with the cooking, like a sous chef/eater. He's the one who ate the egg roll. Tyler [Lemco], everyone on the internet used to hate him, always saying mean things to him whenever he was on the video. And we've got some cute girls as well, just hanging out and eating.
Actually, one of my guy friends wanted me to ask you what happened to the cute girls. We haven't seen them in a few episodes.
Well, we didn't stop, but the thing about perverts is like you can give them a little bit, but you want to keep them excited for when the next is coming. So I'm sure when someone goes to your friend "Hey, you know, that cute girl is back on Epic Meal Time" he'll run and check out the video.
I'm sure he will. Who comes up with the concepts for the episodes?
We'll sit down there and maybe I'll pick up some sort of idea, like maybe hey Thanksgiving's coming up! Let's do a turducken! And people are like yeah, a turducken's great, but let's use lots of bacon. And then it's like yeah, we've got lots of bacon, but let's use more birds. So then we've got lots of birds in there and it's yeah, yeah, yeah, let's put all of that inside a pig. Yeah, yeah, and let's garnish it with baconators because we're not chefs, we're just a bunch of dudes.
Is it difficult then to transform those ideas into things that actually work?
No. I think because we have no boundaries or no traditional training, we're not held back in any way. We just imagine things in our brains that are like a good idea and we try to mutate into something beyond. So I mean we had done something once and some guy was like, oh, you totally mixed veal and pork and chicken and cheese in that one creation of yours, and I'm a chef, and I'll tell you one thing, those do not go well together. And that's where I'm thinking in my head, well you're kind of missing the point of this, you know? We're a bunch of dudes and we just make it happen. And I think that's the beauty of what we're doing here.
So generally do the things you make end up tasting good?
I will be the first one to tell you: we have not made something that has not tasted good yet.
Really? Even the Four Loko Chili?
Okay. Four Loko Chili? First of all, it was awesome. It was excellent. Now, that's up for debate. I didn't have Four Loko in my bowl of that chili. But the guy, Muscles Glasses, eating it with the paddle ate large amounts of it. It did actually make him a little crazy.
Does anyone ever throw up after eating one of your creations?
No. Two things: One, we have not had anyone throw up. We have not had any stomach aches yet. People go into food comas but that's different from you know being sick from the food. We also don't waste any of the food. If the person on screen doesn't finish it, someone else is there to finish it. Yeah, it's always delicious. We've been doing events now in the city we live in where we've been making creations for people and they love it. Everything we've created so far has been a masterpiece.
How much do these dishes cost to make?
Well like our first item was a pizza with lots of burgers on it, and that was about $80. Our Slaughthouse Christmas special was about $500. Five birds in a pig was about $450.
Crazy. Any merchandising plans?
Everything. Everything possible.
Is there anything in the works?
Epic Meal Time toilet paper. Coming in 2012. It's going to be edible toilet paper. It's going to be made of cheese. No, but seriously, basically our website is going to be launched in about a week, two weeks. We have t-shirt designs that we've made, really exciting stuff. I know a lot of our fans love some of our sayings. So t-shirts, we started writing a cookbook, recipes and stuff like that. Thinking about adding an iPhone app as well. We've got lots of ideas, there's so many ways to go about it.
Back to the episodes, why do you cut out the swear words?
Well, one, I love this sound. That bird? And two because when we first started, we didn't know how interested someone would be in blogging something that has swear words. For that extra bunch of people who are more inclined to blog stuff like that if there isn't swear words. Now, we could by all means get rid of those censor birds, but they're a part of Epic Meal Time. But if you go on our Facebook page we hosted a behind the scenes of the Four Loko Chili, and there are no censor birds in there so there's swearing and stuff.
Last question: what's the next level up from bacon?
You know, it's funny. I don't think the public is ready yet. We have ideas for about two years, let alone the fact that we want to do more content per week. We have ideas for so long now, and you know, we haven't even hit seafood yet. Someone's going to die.
Someone's going to die from the seafood?
No, I'm just saying, like, Epic Meal Time, we all came together and were like, you know what? If one of us were going to die from this, that would just be great.
Epic Meal Time: Breakfast of Booze
Epic Meal Time: Meat Salad