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Interview: Lifestyle gets Sorted

Interview by Rianne Ison and Harry Slater.

Like all good ideas, Sorted has its origins in a pub. School friends Ben Ebbrell, Barry Taylor and Jamie Spafford have taken it upon themselves to bring decent food to students. Their YouTube recipes have over 7 million views. Read what happened when Lifestyle got Sorted.

Firstly, for the benefit of our readers, would you just like to introduce yourself and tell us a little about Sorted?

I’m Jamie and I help run Sorted Food. I kind of fit in on screen and I also help behind the scenes in terms of community management and talking to our viewers. We try to get lots of food problems sorted; we try to get young people into the kitchen and cooking good food. Most of all, we try to show that cooking doesn’t have to be difficult; anyone can do it, even me!

How did Sorted start?

When we came back from university over the Christmas holidays things got going. We were at the pub and talking about what we’d been up to at uni. Ben, being a chef, got quite scared when he heard what we were eating. It had never occurred to him that we’d be eating rubbish food. He started writing recipes down on beermats. We’d take them back to uni and cook them, then friends from uni would ask where we got them from and it just grew naturally from there. Barry has a background in photography and design, and sparks began to fly. We thought: “We can’t be the only ones that are having problems eating right.” Our skills fitted together perfectly to build a team.

How important it is to retain an informal, sociable nature? 

Very important. There’s no point getting all formal and serious about it. At the end of the day, everyone has to eat and everyone has to cook, so you might as well make it fun. As we’ve grown up we’ve always maintained that informal style. What really helps is that we’re just a big group of mates and we never take things too seriously. We are always taking the piss out of somebody.

Is working with your mates a challenge? 

Not at all. We’re on our home turf in our kitchen. When you’re with your mates it’s very easy to say: “Come on guys! We need to get this done.”

Sorted came about when yourself and the rest of the crew were at uni. Did you ever think you’d end up doing something like this? 

No, basically. We all went to uni with our own plans. Ben, being a chef, was destined to work in restaurants. I studied marketing so was destined for agency land. Barry was a photographer doing lots of freelance work. We never expected to end up here and I can’t believe our luck. We all get to work together as friends and it doesn’t feel like work. It’s not work, it’s mucking around in a kitchen with your mates!

It’s tricky for most graduates to get anywhere fast right now. Do you have any tips?

What we did was use the tools that were available to us and the web makes that so much easier. Platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are completely free to use and you can reach any number of people across the world by using them. Although we have a complicated set up with the YouTube videos, all you need is a camera and you can create a video that will be seen by how ever many people want to watch it. Using your initiative, getting off your backside and doing things yourself is the best way.

Sharing recipes via YouTube is a unique method. Why did you pick it? 

It reaches a lot of people, but we also reach people through the platforms where they spend their time. Students tend to be on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, so it makes sense to get our message out on there as well. We try to fit into their lifestyle.

You’ve just announced big changes for 2012, including even more recipe videos. What else can we expect to see?

There’s a new book coming out in the summer which we’re really excited about, but basically we’re building on what we’ve got. For instance, having two YouTube videos a week instead of one means we can help more people. There are so many situations that people find themselves in, whether that’s having no money or specific dietary requirements. By filming more videos we can build a great catalogue of recipes on our website that anyone and everyone can use.

Definitely, I’ll be sure to cook some of your recipes with my friends, not that I usually eat beans on toast every night …

Glad to hear it!

What’s most important to Sorted? 

The friendship. We are a genuine bunch of friends and that gives us authenticity. We are basically out to help people and have fun at the same time!

What’s your favourite dish? 

My personal speciality, that we haven’t covered just yet, is chilli con carne. But, my favourite recipe from Sorted has to be the lamb tagine. I absolutely love that one, it’s so easy and so tasty!

And lastly, has a recipe ever gone spectacularly wrong? 

There was one occasion when we were filming and Ben left one of our friends, Adam, to look after a pan and it all got a little bit smoky and a little bit fiery! Thankfully, we managed to extinguish everything, but that’s the worst we’ve had.

When there’s fire involved, it’s never good! 

Adam hasn’t cooked again. He’s only been back to eat the food.

Check out Jamie’s favourite, Chilli Con Carne, below. Be sure to visit Sorted’s site too – they upload a new recipe everyday of the year.

31/01/2012

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Harry Slater