YouTube personality Andrew Rea said he named his series "Binging with Babish" "completely arbitrarily ... after an obscure character from 'The West Wing.'" But now, it's his "entire brand and identity."
The series has weekly videos where viewers can see their favorite meals from film and television made into reality.
Rea was watching the comedy series "Parks and Recreation" when he had his lightning moment. "Ron and Chris were having a burger cook-off, and I was like, 'What would that burger actually taste like in real life? Oh I could try it right here,'" he said.
That led to recreations of some of the most iconic meals in cinematic and television history. Rea has shaved garlic with a razor blade to execute Prison Sauce from Scorsese's 1990 film "Goodfellas," poured chili over a piece of carpet to display Kevin's Chili from "The Office" and even made the downright disgusting Rum Ham featured in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
Since his start in 2016, Rea has created two spin-off series and published two cookbooks, one of which is a New York Times Best Seller.
"A very common thread amongst YouTubers is like, 'I had no idea that it would take off like this.' I really didn't," said Rea. "I was deeply depressed. I was not happy in my marriage and I needed a creative outlet. I just wasn't happy in general."
A creative outlet born of family memories. Rea grew up in Rochester, New York, where food played a strong role in his childhood.
"My mother taught me to cook when I was very young," Rea said. "She passed away when I was 11."
The show is personal for him. "It's one way that she gets to live on in what I do, and it's one way that I get to feel a little closer to her," he said.
"Binging with Babish" has a unique production style. His videos are shot from the shoulders down. Rea says not showing his face is intentional.
"There's definitely an element of narcissism in establishing yourself as an online personality. You do need to be self-absorbed in some ways, and that was something that I was trying to combat with not showing my face. I wanted to make sure that it was purely about the food," he said.
The first time Rea showed his face was when he hit 1,000,000 subscribers so he could say, "Thank you," directly to his fans.
"Binging with Babish," now has nearly six million subscribers. Rea credits his success to his fans.
"My constant feeling with the success of the show is: I am going to continue to try and earn what you've given me," he said.