Last year, I shared my top 5 YouTube channels to watch in 2018. With the birth of our first child there were fewer moments to indulge in full-length episodes of our favorite shows on Netflix but plenty of nap times to sneak in a stream or two from YouTube.
Here are creators I think deserve greater exposure in 2019.
#1 伝統工芸 青山スクエア
伝統工芸 青山スクエア (“dentōkugei aoyama sukuea”) translating to Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square hits every possible button for me for great YouTube: it grants you access to a world beyond reach, it’s instructive and beautifully shot. Don’t let the Japanese titles throw you off: you want to watch this.
Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square highlights the masterful craftsmanship of artisans making Japanese traditional goods. It portends an better world, one where the pursuit of craft is elevated to equal or greater footing to the conveniences and advancements of industry. It makes Japan seem to have it all.
Traditional Crafts is also great digital marketing. It’s 100% content and 0% sales pitch despite being the official channel of a brick and mortar shop in Tokyo’s fancy Aoyama neighborhood.
Part of Polyphonic’s genius is its virtuosity: largely the creation of a single person, Noah Lefevre, it’s production quality feels like it has the backing of a multi million-dollar media company. Even if the production values weren’t as deft, the true brilliance of Polyphonic is Lefevre’s insight: Polyphonic manages to find new perspectives within the music we are so familiar with we may have begun to mistake it for ordinary. Polyphonic has helped me fall in love again with many musical artists.
#3 Villiage Food Factory
When Jaymukh Gopinath’s son, Arumugam, moved back from Chennai to his small town of Tiruppur he started shooting videos of his father cooking at his roadside food stand because, “I didn’t have to pay him” (2018, The New Yorker). Arumugam worked as an assistant director on Tamil movies, but his salary was so low he couldn’t make a living. Now, advertising proceeds from his YouTube channel has been able to buy his family a new house. Intensely visual and visceral, Village Food Factory has become a runaway hit: at the time of this writing their most viewed episode “KFC Chicken…” has earned more than 54M views!
Village Food Factory takes its time in telling a story. The jump cuts make it feel like a well-shot home video more than produced episodic television, and that’s its charm: it’s intimate, authentic, and fun.
- Home made INSTANT COCONUT OIL / Using 100 Coconuts
- VEG!!! BRINJAL Recipe Prepared by my Daddy Arumugam
#4 How to Make Everything
How to Make Everything partners Andy George, Chris Peck and Brian Stemmler and I have a couple things in common: we’re Minnesotans and have a penchant for yak shaving. HTME seeks to show the viewer how to manufacture items from their raw materials. Some episodes are self contained, like Making Chocolate, others focus on a singular problem for making other things like Conquering Clear Glass in order to make a pair of eyeglasses.
#5 Practical Engineering
If there is any theme to what I watch, it’s romanticizing the mundane. Practical Engineering often covers topics in civil and structural engineering: the big, heavy, or altogether invisible elements that make life easier in the developed world. Creator Grady Hillhouse gives simple and inventive descriptions of common engineering problems and the solutions humanity has evolved to tackle them.
Bonus: #6 Bon Appétit
So few print publications have been able to reinvent themselves and thrive in the internet era. When I first saw the Bon Appétit logo in the corner of an episode of their series Gourmet Makes I imagined what was to follow was going to be aimed at retirees. Instead I found something informal, novel, and entertaining. The talent is skilled and non-pretentious. They are a refreshing alternative to the chef-as-god mythos. Bon Appétit’s productions take me back to the earliest days of The Food Network when could watch Emeril Lagasse uncomfortably placed before a camera and skillfully prepare honestly great food (before he’d ham it up with his “Bam!” catchphrase).
Bon Appétit seems to embrace experimentation and invest in what resonates with their audience such as taking the charming Test Kitchen Manager, Brad Leone, and giving him his own series — It’s Alive — or producing Gourmet Makes where the brilliant pastry chef, Claire Saffitz, replicates even more delicious versions of industrially-produced foods like Gushers.
Probably no single channel got as much eyeball time from me last year as Bon Appétit.
Bonus: #7 美食作家王刚
美食作家王刚 or Food Writer Wang Gang is a Chinese-language YouTube channel showing the masterful preparation of a variety of Chinese regional dishes, each centered on a featured ingredient. It’s an awesome way to see how masterfully cooked Chinese food is prepared —and if you’re at all like me it might make you want to install a commercial wok burner at home.
Not all of the episodes are available with English subtitles, but it almost doesn’t matter. Food preparation is a visual art form and lends itself well to voyeuristic viewing.