Bart van Olphen thinks he can conquer your fear of cooking fish if you’ll just give him 15 seconds.
The seafood chef from Amsterdam uses Instagram’s relatively new video feature for Fish Tales, which is probably the world’s fastest cooking show in this golden age of refined eating.
“People really like the simplicity of the recipes,” van Olphen told Cult of Mac. “You really can learn how to cook in only 15 seconds.”
Cooking shows have been simmering since the early days of television, with pioneers like James Beard and Julia Child unraveling the mysteries of the kitchen. With the emergence of the Food Network in 1993, the format boiled over into a ratings bonanza, turning chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray into celebrities. Now YouTube is home to dozens of shows featuring entrepreneurial cooks seeking to cash in on the foodie craze.
Having an interesting angle helps you stand out from the rest of the pack. For some, like Vegan Black Metal Chef, it’s an outrageous personality. For van Olphen, speed has been an unlikely key to success: Instagram allows users to post three- to 15-second video clips, which seems impossibly short to conduct step-by-step cooking instructions.
But since starting @bartsfishtales last November, van Olphen has netted nearly 70,000 followers with weekly postings that distill seafood-cooking techniques to their very essence. He says Instagram’s forced brevity helps convey how easy it is to work with fish.
“The idea was based on the fact that people in The Netherlands and many more countries do really like fish but don’t know how to cook it,” said van Olphen, who learned the tricks of the trade by cooking in Michelin star-ranked restaurants in Paris.
His 30 (and counting) microshows have guided followers through selecting fish at the market, grilling albacore tuna steaks with salsa verde, pan frying sardines and bringing a taste of the ocean to breakfast.
Talking quickly is challenging but he manages to sprinkle in humor — like when he opened a show on red mullet en papillote with, “Here we have the mullet. And I am not talking about the haircut.”
He often tapes the show at local Dutch fisheries and has an occasional sidekick in a salty bearded fisherman named Hein, a hint at van Olphen’s passion for sustainable fishing.
A small production company owned by a friend uses a Canon 5D Mark III to record the shows and the cooking steps are shot from many different angles to make the clips dynamic. The team gathers one day per month to record several episodes of Fish Tales.
Van Olphen is the author of three books and, as the owner of his own seafood brand, is considered a leading expert on the sustainability movement.
His smile and curly blond mop will become more familiar to American foodies as he works with a U.S. production company to develop a television show where he travels the world to sustainable fisheries, promoting responsible fishing and, of course, how to prepare the catch.