YouTube stars SortedFood tell us about their plans to open cookery schools as they bid to become ‘the biggest online cooking community’

SortedFood cofounders (from left to right) Ben Ebbrell, Mike Huttlestone, Barry Taylor, and Jamie Spafford. YouTube

SortedFood’s star has been rising recently.

The company behind the four British schoolfriends-turned-cheeky-online-chefs has amassed more than 1.3 million YouTube subscribers, the boys are the stars of YouTube’s latest advertising campaign, and they recently returned back home after a three-month food tour of America which picked up so much pace that NBC’s “Today” show asked them to produce a regular TV segment.

But two of the channel’s cofounders, Jamie Spafford and Barry Taylor, told Business Insider they have a bigger ambition. They see SortedFood becoming “the biggest online cooking community in the world.”

The “community” aspect is so important that SortedFood wants to do more to engage with them in the offline world too.

Spafford and Taylor told us that they have plans to launch a cookery school. From humble beginnings — four schoolfriends who five years ago created a food show depicting them “monkeying around” with recipes because they were so worried their diets had become atrocious when they became adult students — the company has just moved into new premises in London’s Tower Hill to house its 12 staff. Now SortedFood wants to extend the space so it can entertain and teach fans too.

Taylor said: “Our mission is to do things that no other channel could do. From a digital aspect we have been leading online in how to educate people about food and cooking. We don’t teach people how to cook and say ‘this is the one way to do things.’ We’re not Gordon Ramsey saying ‘there’s my way or the highway.’ We’re saying you can build on it, and explore food with the community. When we do have a school or a restaurant it will be as much the community’s as our own.”

A little boost from YouTube has been helping SortedFood along the way too

Spafford said SortedFood has been working “quite closely” with YouTube over the past two to three years. Earlier this year, when YouTube decided to repeat an ad campaign promoting its creators but with different YouTube stars, the company approached SortedFood. Copa90, a soccer-focused YouTube channel, also features in the campaign

“It’s difficult to turn that kind of offer down,” Spafford said. “The process was seamless, fantastic. They work with the best people and the best agencies [Essence Digital was the agency behind the campaign] — there were some occasions when we found out YouTube was better able to communicate our brand than us!”

The ad launched earlier this month in the UK on TV, online, and outdoor, and immediately, the channel’s numbers began picking up. And it was clear that the campaign boosted the channel’s brand recognition among people who had yet to discover it via the usual digital channels.

Taylor: “The messages started to come in from the people we haven’t spoken to in a few years. Friends, family, ex-girlfriends …”

YouTube also funded an experiential campaign starring the SortedFood boys. Earlier this month it took a branded food truck to London’s Covent Garden and Spitalfields markets and gave away 2,000 boxes packed with ingredients to make calzone.

“YouTube supported a big investment in our new series about how not enough people in the UK are eating together. So the idea was to create a recipe to make at home, tweet the community to tell them where we were, give them a box, and get everyone to share the results … it’s kind of everything SortedFood stands for,” Taylor said.

Beyond making money via YouTube (creators get a cut of the advertising revenue associated with their videos,) SortedFood has also signed major sponsorships with brands including Kenwood and Tesco.

Taylor and Spafford won’t reveal how much they earn. The majority of SortedFood’s income is from sponsorships, but they say every penny they earn goes back into investing in the business and helping it move in the right direction towards becoming a global cooking brand.

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