These lists are my way to look back on the things I loved and the reasons I loved them in any given year and as a result, the categories shift a little depending on what captured my attention the most. So this year, we have a new category that I suspect will be of interest to few people but few things brought me as much joy this year as the SORTEDfood YouTube channel and corresponding club which makes it more than deserving of a special bonus list this year. I love watching and listening to these guys and the ways they’ve already changed the way I think about cooking and the types of things I try and hope that maybe someone will read this and learn about them for the first time and be similarly inspired. It’s truly a celebration of food, travel, and friendship and there’s something for everyone to enjoy about the channel.
1. Sake Series (SORTED Goes to Japan) Including the two battles, this is a series of seven videos and one of my favorite things this channel has done to date. Before watching the first episode, I didn’t know anything about sake and wasn’t particularly interested in trying it (partly because of my lack of knowledge and I felt overwhelmed). I still don’t entirely know where to start with it but now I’m excited to try it the next time I go out for sushi. That open-minded approach to food is the kind of thing SORTED encourages in its audience and one of the best things about the ethos behind the company. They love food and want us to love food with them. Their trip to Japan looked truly incredible and I’m glad it’s something the five of them got to experience as a team. Their friendship will always be the backbone of the channel and to see them collectively step outside their comfort zone to learn more about the culture and food of Japan in order to create a meal that honored that history was a gigantic source of pride as a viewer, especially one with (admittedly rather distant at this point) roots in Japan.
2. Chefs “Remote Controlling” Normals Mike is a genius for this new format and how perfectly it works as a promo for their new Packs app. The food looks amazing and like ideas I should keep in mind for future holiday leftovers (or just a weeknight dinner tbh). But even more than that, I love the friendship dynamics that shine through here. You can tell Jamie and Ben have known each other for most of their lives and how often James and Barry have to coordinate their respective efforts on projects like the cookbooks. I will forever love Ben trolling his friends while managing to look perfectly innocent so radio-speak with Jamie was everything I could have wanted from them. I would also love to see this with competitive Ben, he’s so good at explaining things and walking people through cooking after 10 years of this channel and would be a force to be reckoned with. Then with James and Barry, their natural styles are incredibly well-suited to working together. James calms Barry’s panic and is good at knowing when to push and when to provide encouragement. It’s the Pizza Nachos video all over again and it’s just soothing to watch. I can’t wait to see more of this format and to see how they change it up in the future but this is a terrific start to these videos.
3. 2 Chefs Review Classic French Cookbook I am pretty sure this is one of my very favorite SORTED videos (and still it ended up 3rd on this list, so you can see what a great year they’ve had). I love the concept of this reference book even if I would never want to cook from it and seeing the different interpretations of what is a very short and vague dish description is fascinating. Anything that brings out the differences of opinion between Ben and James is pretty much automatically going to be great (as is Jamie’s reaction whenever such a disagreement occurs) and the teamwork needed to create a finished dish, especially one that James was so pleased with, was both fun and educational. Both of them are very good at what they do and I loved getting to see them show off a bit.
4. Beat the Chef: Mystery Box vol 5 This video is utter chaos and I love it. First of all, I applaud Ben and Jamie for opting for what was probably the harder route of a dessert instead of the steak + jam combo. They stepped outside their comfort zones and suffered for it in the moment, but it made the video more interesting. I would have genuinely been happy to eat either of their dishes and experience the flavor pairings for myself. Second, James and Barry’s glee at their friend’s panic is the best. Whether they’re being judgy over plating choices or laughing so hard they’re crying, it is hilarious to watch. Finally, the “interesting” counter during Mike’s judging as he attempts to find words for these very unexpected dishes and be upbeat about them was a terrific editing choice. It’s entertaining to watch from start to finish and always leaves me with a smile on my face.
5. Ultimate Po’ Boy Battle – Game Changers I really loved this partnership with Visit the USA and if you enjoy either travel or cooking shows, I imagine many of you would too. I love the emphasis on immersing yourself in a local cuisine via recommendations from people who know and love the food and the whole construction of this series was fantastic. I may not know anything about authentic po’ boys (and it doesn’t necessarily seem like either Mike or Barry’s qualified, judging by the comments) but they were clearly created out of love for the food they’d experienced over the previous two days and they all looked and sounded delicious. I’m always a fan of the teasing that goes on during the battles and the “roast each other’s tattoos” section made me chuckle. Their friendship is an integral part of this channel and makes me happy every time. I especially appreciated the Pass It On section of the video. Getting to do what they do for a living with their friends is an amazing privilege and I love that they want to highlight people in these communities who are doing incredible and important work around food. Cafe Reconcile looks like an amazing organization and I loved the opportunity to learn about them.
6. Ultimate 20 Minute Cooking Battle James is giving off the biggest “proud dad” vibes throughout this whole video and that’s really what this video is about. The battles between the three normals are always some of my favorites but they really pushed themselves in this one and I am also incredibly proud. The recipes look delicious and like things I need to try at some point and I’m super impressed by how well they tackled them, especially Jamie. It’s a little chaotic, as all the best battle videos are, but also feels very comfortable despite the stress. It also features an extremely adorable Ben telling the dad joke of the week and Ben making the greatest face (and smirk) as a result of James’s Freudian slip in the outtake so everyone really does get a chance to shine, even when they aren’t the ones cooking.
7. Can We Improve Our Full English Breakfast From 2014? The idea of revisiting something we’ve done in the past with the advantage of the experience and knowledge we’ve gained since then is really appealing. This whole series was fun to watch but breakfast food is always going to win for me, even if I rarely eat it at breakfast time. The updated version took more time and cost a lot more money but it’s the little things that can make a big difference to the overall dish. It was the better quality meats and the time spent on the homemade beans and using a tea towel to get as much moisture out of the potatoes as possible so they crisped up better that elevated the final product and those concepts can all be incorporated into other things you do, even if you’re not making an exact replica of this dish. I love the recipe lab videos for encouraging exploration in the kitchen and finding new or better ways to make something and this will always be one of my favorites for that.
8. Pass It On Dessert Take Two (Plus Reactions) The chaos of Pass It On videos is terrific to watch. I’m sure it is stressful to take part in but I love it. The new introduction is amazing and Mike deserves so much credit for consistently elevating their editing and framing, especially in the second half of this year. This is just 15 minutes of people not named Ben not knowing what to do and lowkey panicking about it before turning out a very pretty fruit and cream cheese tart. Barry and James’s dawning realization that Barry’s filling isn’t what’s in the tart and their opposing reactions to that revelation are hilarious as is the new and very appreciated reaction video. I love that it just became a roast James session as they realize he really did do nothing but opined as though he did. The whole reaction video is full of affectionate teasing that will bring a smile to your face and I hope we get more.
9. Kitchen Gadgets vol 9 This video is very silly and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. James’s somewhat inexplicable love for the phone and pistachio holder is delightful as is Ben’s enthusiasm over the potato peeler, despite admitting that it doesn’t hold much use to him personally. It’s a video of two people being happy about somewhat strange things and that happiness is infectious, not just for the viewer but clearly for Mike and Baz as well. Am I going to go out and buy any of these, no, but did I end the video with a smile on my face, absolutely yes. And really, how do you not love a video of Barry promising to be James’s for a day and then James wanting to brand him? Their friendship is very good and weird and I love it.
10. 3 Omelette Recipes Compared This is an incredibly effective sponsorship. Every other Wednesday, I get at least one new recipe I want to try and my desire to buy a Kenwood product increases a little more. If the standalone food processor goes back on sale in the US, I will probably end up purchasing one because they look so useful and convenient. I cannot guarantee this is true for anyone but me and it’s highly possible I’m just overly suggestible when it comes to product purchases but that’s been my journey with them over the past year. Product placement aside, this is the video and collection of recipes I see myself going back to the most. Using the methods in this video, I’ve made a couple excellent omelettes that I was very happy with and would make again. The simplicity of the cheese and chive variant is perfect for an easy dinner for me and the loaded variant is a good way to use up tiny bits of leftover meats and veggies. It’s a solid bit of instruction and I enjoy the fairly minimalistic approach to this series.