The year 2020 was a record-setting year for video livestreaming. Twitch, the San Francisco-based streaming service, recorded 17 billion hours in 2020, a massive 83% increase from 2019. The most popular streams on Twitch involve video game content, focused on streamers playing various games or massive esports competitions watched live by millions. But there’s a lot more than just video game content on Twitch. Currently, Twitch is also home to another growing streaming community — cooking and food channels.
One such Twitch food streamer is L.A. Geronimo, a Florida-based former sushi chef and the creator behind the Twitch channel The Hunger Service. Geronimo’s livestreaming centers on sushi and other Asian dishes stemming from his ten years of experience in Japanese and Asian restaurants. But he also leans heavily into pop culture, creating dishes inspired by anime like Food Wars and Studio Ghibli films along with video games like Final Fantasy XV.
Geronimo never planned on being a Twitch streamer. Four years ago, Geronimo left his restaurant position and was transitioning to a photography career. As an aspiring freelancer, he started cooking every night to save money. One day, his significant other at the time suggested that he set up a camera and stream his cooking content on Twitch. Geronimo had initially tried creating food video content on YouTube. However, he disliked the lengthy video editing process of YouTube content. Twitch, with its free-flowing and unedited style, was a natural fit for Geronimo. Currently, he streams around 3-4 hours a day, 3-4 times a week.
There’s a key difference between Twitch food content and other video platforms like YouTube. Twitch streams are live, unedited, and can be several hours long. The raw and unedited quality of Twitch food streams is actually a major part of its appeal according to Erin Wayne, Head of Community and Creator Marketing of Twitch.
“In the same way that people gravitate towards the kitchen to socialize during holidays and family dinners,” said Wayne. “We see viewers gravitate towards Food & Drink streamers who they connect with on a personal level. Not just to watch, but to hang out and build friendships with other like-minded members of the community. If you have a question about a certain ingredient or recipe modification, you can get an immediate response directly from the chef.”
This ability to interact with a live audience is a key element to Geronimo’s stream. Twitch cooking streams inherently have lots of downtime, the result of prepping and cooking in real time. For Geronimo, the chat interactions he enjoys with viewers are a major part of what drives the personality of his content. Besides cooking questions, Geronimo often dives into pop culture and social issues, discussing everything from the concept of authenticity in food to social issues like Stop Asian Hate.
There’s a fun and personal quality to livestreaming that’s very different from traditional food media content. When Geronimo makes a mistake, he acknowledges it. When he spills something, there are no clean video edits to hide the mess. His discussions feature topics that are important to his primarily millennial-to-Gen Z viewership. The result of all this is a product that is the polar opposite of the curated and manicured traditional food television show.
“It’s more organic and more authentic,” said Geronimo. “Sometimes food is messy and when you’re learning new recipes you’re going to mess up. So I think in a way, it makes the barrier of entry easier because people can see what’s happening. Its not like seeing something on YouTube and being like ‘I’m never going to be able to make that.’ Because it looks perfect and mine won’t come out that way.”
Livestreaming platforms like Twitch represent a foundational change in the way people consume food media. While the pillar of Twitch is gaming culture, streams like The Hunger Service and others are pioneering new content in the world of livestreaming. Livestreaming is also an international movement. In Asia, especially China, livestreaming has already become a way of life, with content ranging from food to e-commerce. In many ways, America has been late to the trend.