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Friday, September 25th, 2020

The MeatMen: Enigmatic home cooks

by November 19, 2016 General

Fresh treat: A traditional Thai appetizer, Som Tum green papaya salad.

Out of their love for food, four friends started a cooking program for fun, but as it gained popularity, they decided to give it their full attention.

All true foodies likely share this sentiment: The experience of watching how foods are processed can become an indescribable joy that significantly adds to the satisfaction when the time has come to really enjoy them.

Such a sentiment has become the basis for a unique concept used by a group of four mysterious Singaporean home cooks called the MeatMen while presenting their cooking talents on YouTube for the last three years and recently, in a cooking show, Wok With Us, on TLC Asia. Online premiere of the show is every Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m. and each episode will be aired on TLC Asia a week after the online show.  

First of all, the MeatMen — JJ, Jon, Yingda and Chris — do not show their faces at all in any of their cooking videos, whether on their own YouTube channel or on the Wok With Us cooking show, making them somewhat mysterious and fun at the same time.

The only physical attributes of the MeatMen that the audience can see are their hands and fingers, which delicately work with ingredients using various techniques.

Neither does the audience have any idea which of them is doing the cooking. The only thing the viewers can be sure of is that all of them can cook and love meaty foods: hence, the brand they use for their channel.

In Wok With Us, the audience could at least get more of a glimpse of how one of the MeatMen looks like during the show’s intro.

The intro shows a man with a wok tied behind his back like a pack strolling through Southeast Asian capital cities — Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Kuala Lumpur — before he picks a spot in a city center to recreate a local dish.

The camera follows the man entirely from behind so his face is not visible and there is also no clear indication of which of the MeatMen he is.

Another trademark of the MeatMen cooking videos is that they do not have any voice-over to explain the ingredients, the amount of ingredients being used, or the cooking process from start to finish.

Switching between a first person point of view angle and a third person, the MeatMen take their audience through a visual cooking experience and tutorial by making the camera focus on each of the ingredients and the way they are being cooked.

The MeatMen also focus on the audio that mainly conveys the sounds that the ingredients and the utensils make during the cooking process.

Clear and loud sounds of meats being seared on a pan, a knife chopping veggies and other kinds of spices are highlights of the MeatMen cooking videos that, in a way, allow the audience to feel that they are actually seeing the cooking happen in front of their very own eyes.

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Chris, who spoke on behalf of the other MeatMen to The Jakarta Post, said the idea for their unique cooking video presentation came from JJ, who had a post-production video editing background.

“Our motto was to create videos about the food and the cooking itself. To us, the example is simple — the combination of seeing the food being cooked with the sizzling sound just triggers you to drool instantly,” Chris said.

Up to now, the MeatMen’s unique cooking videos have managed to garner about 74,000 YouTube subscribers. This has made the four guys behind the MeatMen among the leading authoritative cooks on YouTube.

Chris said the MeatMen started as a fun project for him and his friends who happened to love cooking.

He said the MeatMen started off with JJ, Jon, Yingda and himself. The three of them did National Service together in their youth and have been in contact ever since.

“It just happened that one fine day we were having a get-together and the idea of simplifying food recipes came up. JJ used to have the nickname “Meatball” among us, so from there the idea of the MeatMen started as all of us love our meat dishes,” Chris said.

The four friends started their YouTube channel and began uploading cooking videos three years ago. They expanded their channel by sharing their videos on Facebook and their popularity really kicked off when they decided to feature a series on recreating 50 local hawker dishes in Singapore.

As the MeatMen channel gained more popularity, Chris said the family members of the four home cooks had no idea at first that they were the guys behind the channel.

“A lot of them get really surprised when they find out we are the people behind the channel as we don’t actually show our faces on the videos.

There’s always an instant connection when they find out and the conversation about food starts immediately,” Chris said.

In the first two years, Chris said he and his friends considered working on the MeatMen YouTube channel as a hobby. Therefore, they only created and uploaded cooking videos once a week.

However, as the channel grew and the MeatMen began to receive collaboration inquiries and projects, they began to have thoughts about having a cooking channel as a full-time career.

Early this year, he said they decided to go full time and expand the channel further.

“Now, it [the channel] has turned into a full-time project, as the amount of content we are producing for both the Facebook page and the YouTube channel has increased by a lot,” Chris says.

“We have plans to expand our cooking video to different countries around Asia, going to every region and finding out and sharing with our viewers how to recreate all the local cuisines and street-food dishes.”

— Photos courtesy of TLC Asia