Today I watched the first episode of my favourite online cooking show equipped with the answer to the question that titles this post: “What happened to Josh/Epic Mook on Epic Meal Time?” It was a sombre occasion, and the burden lay heavy on my heart as I was witness to the EMT crew create a pizza enchilada, a “chicken from a drawer” enchilada, and a Baconator enchilada, all without the help of their most handsome member. Yeah, I said it, and before this blog post is done I’ll say it again.
Last I covered one of the Epic Meal Time guys leaving I was almost an entire year late, but I’m much more up to speed this time around. This time around I can actually refer refer back to a tweet that Harley “the Sauce Boss” Morenstein himself made just five short days ago:
I lost a teammate today. We will cherish the memories. Josh has moved on from EpicMealTime but will always be Epic pic.twitter.com/4N2rp3joJr
A lot, and I’m telling you, a lot of people want to know what happened to MusclesGlasses of Epic Meal Time fame. For a while it was all you’d see in the comments sections of their YouTube videos, and a good number have found this blog by googling the character’s real name, “Alex Perrault”.
According to an article on New Media Rockstars Muscles stopped appearing as early as January 2013, which meant that for an entire year EMT has been without one of its strongest presences [besides that of Harley “The Sauce Boss” Morenstein himself, creator of the show]. For 365 days and change the show has been missing its most voracious eater,
EVAN: You said we should talk about food shows. Namely, the greatest food show of all time. Ever. In existence.
GORDON: Well, if we’re going to come up with the greatest food show in existence, we obviously have to take into account everything: from the high-class Iron Chef (and Iron Chef spin-off[s]) competition shows to the most rough and tumble [namely, Epic Meal Time].
EVAN: Ooh, dang, I hadn’t even thought of that last one. To be fair, though, thinking about it this week I came up with what I thought the basic structure of the ultimate food show would be.
EVAN: I’m a man who loves his cooking shows, so my ultimate cooking show would involve, ideally, Top Chef Masters, MasterChef, and something like Surivorman.
EVAN: It’s like a Bear Grylls-esque show.
GORDON: The chefs have to hunt and skin their ingredients?
EVAN: I’m getting there-
It would have the insane challenges of Top Chef Masters, which calls for ridiculousness such as a gourmet dish made of licorice and sardines or something like that, coupled with the ability to appeal to different a wide range of different palates, a la the challenges of MasterChef, with a sprinkle of Survivorman for that added kick which, as you said, would be along the lines of hunting, skinning, etc.
GORDON: As much as I enjoy the concept of Mario Batali going mano-a-mano with a Yukon bull moose, I feel that there’s only so much you can cram into a cooking show- and it should be focused on the food itself.
EVAN: Well, let’s focus on my first two points then- some seriously difficult [and devious] challenges, as well as the added element of having to appeal to different palates.
GORDON: I can agree with that, only I would obviously like to see the show also grounded in some reality. Like dropping the chefs off in a college cafeteria somewhere and forcing them to work with what precious little is offered there, or an episode exclusively about ramen . . .
EVAN: A ramen episode would be awesome. I actually had the most amazing instant noodles this morning. It was Indonesian “mi goreng,” and it comes with sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, seasoning oil, seasoning powder, and fried onions.
GORDON: YOU HAD INDOMIE? THAT IS THE BEST RAMEN IN EXISTENCE! I WOULD KILL AN ORPHANAGE FOR A PACKET OF THAT STUFF!
EVAN: WE ONLY HAD TWO PACKS AND I ATE THE LAST ONE THIS MORNING. I NEED TO FIND MORE.
GORDON: But yeah, I think it’s important that the show not get too fancy.
EVAN: So we’ve gotta keep it pretty grounded, that makes sense. What I think would be really interesting, though, is kind of turning the whole thing over.
Because in gourmet restaurants, it’s never ever “the customer is always right.” It’s “the chef is always right.” So if we had a show where the chefs had to specifically cater to what people wanted, instead of them being all “I went to school for this I know what you want.”
GORDON: That would be cool- I recall us watching a cooking show episode where the contestants were judged by a whole bunch of kids. Vox populi; I like it
EVAN: Yep, that would be MasterChef. I loved how one guy kept saying he was a dad, and he knew what kids liked and didn’t like.
GORDON: I do think we need to cut something out.
GORDON: That’s the judges screwing with the cooks:
EVAN: Really? I kind of love that.
GORDON: It doesn’t build tension- it’s just annoying.
I also feel that there should always be a judge from crazy far away. so there’s always a really different perspective.
EVAN: That’d be cool.
I know something we definitely need to remove.
EVAN: Product placement.
Yes- that crap gets chucked out. Unless. Unless it’s a genuine moment of the chef expressing that a certain thing has really helped him. I think that kind of endorsement is fair.
EVAN: Yeah, I mean, that’s valid.Like, there’s this guy, on MasterChef, who would say things like, “Let’s see what you cooked on your MasterChef TM Frying Pan.” It was painfully blatant.
GORDON: It was.
You good with three chefs?
EVAN: For a show? I don’t see why not.
GORDON: How many contestants? Two, à la Iron Chef, or elimination style, à la MasterChef?
EVAN: Wait, did you mean three judges?
GORDON: I did.
EVAN: I think two chefs, three judges.
GORDON: Are the judges all chefs, or do we include food critics and celebrities? I don’t care for the food critics too much. Too . . . exclusionary?
EVAN: I think food critics have their place. I think that celebrities can be . . . stretched. Like one time on Iron Chef: America one of the celebs was the guy who played Gunther on Friends. The guy who owned Central Perk.
GORDON: Bill Murray was on there, wasn’t he? Called Batali a princess?
EVAN: I think he was in the audience, haha. Which is hilarious.
GORDON: It was. I demand Bill Murray always be in the audience.
EVAN: You would torture the poor man.
GORDON: All in the name of the perfect cooking show, yes. But moving on . . . Secret ingredients?
EVAN: So are we going for more of an Iron Chef approach here?
GORDON: Yeah, but bear with me. I think we should include bonus points for making the food really, really big, à la Epic Meal Time. Decadence combined with technique, which is I believe how we first came up with Turduckens.
So let’s see what we got here: two chefs face off, surprised by secret ingredients as they work in different rounds that require ingenuity on their part bordering on genius.
EVAN: Yep. Challenges that force them to keep on their toes.
GORDON: They are judged by three qualified individuals, always including one from a culture whose cuisine is extremely different from that being served. Judgement is quick and of course, accessible to the audience. The only thing we’re missing is the prize . . . I say a golden cauldron.
EVAN: How very Asterix of you.
GORDON: FULL OF THEIR FAVORITE FOOD!
EVAN: Haha, what?
GORDON: Think about it: You just won, you get food. What could make you happier? [That can be shown on national television.]
EVAN: I feel like chefs are pretty snobby about what they eat. Like whatever it is would have to be exactly to their liking.
GORDON: What would you fill it with then?
EVAN: I dunno, something expensive, but food related. Like truffles, or caviar. It’s so expensive it’s basically gold.
GORDON: Fair enough. But they have to eat it with their hands; that’s what the credits fade to.
EVAN: Sounds good to me.
GORDON: Theme song? Opening music?
EVAN: Oh man, uh. . . Something really epic . . .
EVAN: Something scored by that one guy, Hans Zimmer.
GORDON: Works for me.
EVAN: So with that pretty much taken care of, what shall we turn our attention to next week? I do believe we’ve hit four TV-related E>s in a row.
GORDON: Let’s talk about literature.
EVAN: Alright. In what regard?
GORDON: Books that are coming out, or not coming out. I don’t rightly know. You wanna invent a new genre?
EVAN: Okay, that’s our new topic. That’s all for now, folks! Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you next week for Evan and Gordon Talk!
Even if you haven’t recognized it for what it is, chances are, you’ve seen elements of it. The resurgence of beards, comments on period piece clips like “Why don’t we wear hats anymore?” or “Dang- they knew how to dress back then.” Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across The Art of Manliness or are (like me) a faithful apostle of Ron Swanson.
Now whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a growing culture based around this general perspective of “manliness” that supposedly existed from 5,000 BC to 1974 AD. The resurgence in the popularity of the beard, the wave of internet memes centered around being “classy,” our love affair with period pieces- all of this compounded has created the beginnings of a whole new subculture.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of our favorite TV characters.
Don “F***-You, Liver!” Draper
Jack “Even Ayn Rand Thinks I’m Egotistical” Donaghy
Rick “Bad Decisions” Grimes
Walter “Tied with Draper for Making People Love Fedoras” White
Barney “Legen- wait for it… -DARY!” Stinson
Cullen “I Will Punch You For No Particular Reason” Bohannon
Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror, Westerns- this is a pretty broad range, and we’ve got the same strong, dour antihero type in all of them. Men who remind us of our fathers and grandfathers. Tough as nails bastards who came to this country with only a dollar in their pockets- who took a break from their honest 8 to 8 jobs of hitting metal with other pieces of metal to kill Nazis and look dapper doing it.
So what’s this culture all about? As with any group, we can talk about the superfluous or cosmetic elements- in the case of the “manly” group, handshake etiquette, strait-razor whetting, and driving stick- but to really understand ’em, we’re going to need to look at the underlying values in play here.
What do all the men shown above have in common? A degree of independence. They’re DIY guys. Men who aren’t reliant on the help or charity of others- in short, dudes who can take care of themselves in most any situation, from car repair to providing for the family to killing the undead. And on that note…
These are all men who don’t allow themselves to be victims. They’re proactive moment-seizing leaders who don’t wait idly by for someone to step up. Good or bad, they’re leading the way- and speaking of bad…
These are guys who tend to lend credence to the stereotype of the unspeaking, unfeeling male. At best, the strong, silent type- at worse, the uncommunicative lout. One way or another, they don’t let the situation get the better of them. That’d be undignified, and if there’s one thing that they’re about, it’s…
It’s in the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they expected to be treated. A kind of code that prohibits some things and makes others compulsory. You can’t hold your head high, then what’s the point in having one?
These men are all, to varying degrees, antiheroes. Guys with their own agendas and a certain degree of moral ambiguity that keeps you on your toes. There’s a level of egotism, self-centeredness, and disregard for others that makes them pretty good at what they do, but what they do not all that good- certainly they don’t fit the traditional mold of the selfless, self-sacrificial hero.
And while it’s not true for all of them, money tends to be a major element of their stories. A drive to be successful, prosperous, and (again) independent. It’s the age-old dream of being your own boss.
So what does all of this boil down to?
It’s about power. These guys represent everything we, as a generation, aren’t. Independent, wealthy, self-assured, proud. Does that sound like us? Not at all. We’re the casual dressed, globally conscious masses struggling to make it by, and taking whatever miserable, degrading soulless job we can find. We’re not strong like these glamorized images of our grandparents are (having conveniently erased the racism, bigotry, and misogyny).
But we want to be.
And so begins the perpetual motion machine of life-imitating-art and art-imitating-life. Epic Meal Time, Memes, Period Pieces- the list goes on.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, there are good and bad elements to every culture (some more bad than good, and vice versa), but let’s list out the positives and negatives.
We can stand to toughen up a bit a lot as a generation. We don’t need to be bending horseshoes with our teeth, but some basic survival skills and a thicker skin when it comes to discomfort and hardship would be nice (battery running out on your phone doesn’t count as suffering).
In these tough economic times, be able to do basic repairs to your house and car aren’t just good- they’re necessary. Same goes for any of the thrifty elements of the culture.
Even if we don’t have it quite yet, demanding a certain level of dignity in our work and our day to day lives isn’t just good for you as an individual- it improves society on the whole.
While we probably shouldn’t worship the fedora or declare the suit to be the only appropriate clothing for a man over the age of twelve, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to dress ourselves, or conduct ourselves well in any given situation.
The glorification of the past can, as I jokingly mentioned above, lead to the uglier elements of it being glossed over. We hail our grandfathers as being great men, forgetting how easy it is to make a name for yourself when none of the good or prestigious jobs can be given to equally qualified women or non-white men.
The culture really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for women at all, other than the kitchen. This is not to say that all adherents of the culture see it this way, but when you’re trying to espouse 1950s society, that includes 50s traditional gender roles as well.
It can’t be denied that there’s a strong conservative appeal in this culture, as well as hints of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Glorifying wealth and success, especially when coupled with a “do whatever you need to do” mentality, can lead to the twisted perspective that poor people are poor because they are lazy.
This culture, despite the intentions of its adherents, does give a home for sexism. The uglier elements of the masculinity movement, those who view women as belonging in the home and nowhere else will doubtlessly find it a lot easier to fly under the radar in a culture that’s utterly dominated by males.
So what’s the final verdict?
“Manly” culture doesn’t appear to be either helpful or harmful- at least, not yet. The underlying issue being power, it’s going to be faced with the task of walking the thin line between empowerment and megalomania. So long as self-control is kept in mind, they oughta be fine.
It’s been pretty evident for a while now that a lot of you have gotten here due to a post I wrote almost exactly a year ago, “Epic Meal Time: Leaving Grease Stains on Pop Culture.” In it I extol the internet show and its evolution into something that ultimately rewards long-time viewers, as well as its impact on pop culture.
While two whole years of epic meals is impressive enough, what got me even more excited is what the crew uploaded yesterday.
The new feature, going by the name “Flashback Friday” is a director’s commentary of sorts, presumably all done by creator and star of EMT, Harley Morenstein. Essentially the entirety of their Fast Food Pizza episode, the main difference takes the form of pop-ups that are very reminiscent of Xbox Live Achievements, or [probably more accurately] VH1’s Pop-Up Video.
Additional changes include a bacon strip censor bar for Muscles Glasses’ eyes, as well as vocal distortion. From this point on they moved forward with turning him into a silent, powerful destroyer of fast food and liquor.
What I probably appreciate more than the fact that they made this video is that they haven’t removed the first. There’s a trend on the internet to simply remove or take down earlier work, or whatever you’re not proud of. Both Harley and Epic Meal Time are sticking to their roots in remembering the first video that got them where they are today. And that means not removing this video with Alex Perrault [as you’d call him sans aviators, I suppose], or another where they, believe it or not, actually use vegetables.
EDIT: After their fourth episode on YouTube the EMT guys have decided to move the show over to their own site. You can watch every one of the episodes here, where they continue to be put up every Thursday.
Last week the comics publication that I run put out an Epic Meal Time themed issue. While many here didn’t get it [need to better gauge my audience] it’s undeniable that the YouTube cooking show is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon.
It began back almost exactly a year ago, when Harley Morenstein uploaded a video of him and his friends eating a pizza they covered in fast food [it included an entire Big Mac and a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme]. Ever since then Morenstein and co. have spiraled out of control, taking the internet by storm.
The following video is my personal favourite of theirs, and inarguably their most popular [at almost 11 million hits at the time of this writing]:
How big can a bunch of guys covering food in bacon get, you ask?1 Big enough to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and do a live show at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. Type in “Epic Meal Time” followed by either “tribute” or “parody” on YouTube and prepare to be buried under an avalanche of internet video creators mimicking Morenstein’s in-your-face way of narrating the show.2
I watch these videos for more than the knowledge of how many different combinations of pork and alcohol3 there are, though. I believe this is a legitimately well-made show.
Continuity has allowed for characters like “Muscles Glasses” [Alex Perrault] to become this invincible juxtaposition of steely biceps and iron stomach. His ability to down shots of hard liquor mixed with anything from Big Mac sauce to gravy may not be inspiring, but is definitely impressive.
Tyler Lemco is without a doubt the comic relief of the show. Since the episode Maximum Mac & Cheese he’s begun devolving into a simpleton of sorts, a trend I definitely don’t have a problem with. It’s the little things, like him placing trays of bacon into the dishwasher with the phrase, “You put them in the oven, and then you’re done.” It may also have a lot to do with the fact that he appears to be the only one who has gained a significant amount of weight.
Josh Helkin has one one eyebrow perpetually raised.4 David Heuff’s always wears an exaggerated frown. Ameer Atari is, well, kind of a doofus.5 But I don’t hold that against him.
Harley Morenstein is the creator of Epic Meal Time, but since he edits the videos, conceptualizes most if not all of the episodes, and narrates using his own material he deserves a decent amount of credit.6 It may only be a three to eight minute show, but the content is still funny, the ideas fairly fresh, and the production values high.
With a little help from his friends Morenstein has created a generation of people who now believe bacon is one of the five major food groups. He’s making money off of YouTube by cooking meat with meat. He’s affecting and making culture, inspiring dozens upon dozens of young people to stuff their faces for the sheer posterity of it. Epic Meal Time has left an indelible mark on pop culture. Probably because grease stains are just so difficult to get out.
1. I did realize that this was a pun. But only after I had already written it. 2. The best ones are definitely Vegan Meal Time and the Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time series. 3. And there you go. I just realized what a nightmare this show must be to devout Muslims. 4. He also looks high. A lot of the time. 5. That is a sweet name, though. Seriously. 6. Not to mention the beard. It pretty much has a life of its own at this point.