How Epic Meal Time’s Channel Succeeds: Harley Morenstein Gives Insight [Web Series School]

How Epic Meal Time’s Channel Succeeds: Harley Morenstein Gives Insight [Web Series School]

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Earlier this year Epic Meal Time expanded their channel programming with a new competitive cooking show, Epic Chef.  The show has been a massive success with fans and taken the Epic Meal Time brand to new heights.  The new series has garnered nearly 6 million views since it’s debut in December, leveraging a loyal fan base to try something new.  I recently had a chance to interview Epic Meal Time’s Harley Morenstein about developing the web series, their creative process and video production. Enjoy with bacon.

ReelSEO Interview with Harley Morenstein

ReelSEO: What was the genesis of Epic Chef? What was your process for developing it as a web series?

harleyHarley Morenstein: It hit me when I was sitting in my hotel room in Toronto watching new food shows that popped up on YouTube, that were clearly produced by high end studios and were definitely trying to capitalize on what Epic Meal Time has done in the online culinary world. I flipped on the television and started watching “Chopped” and “Iron Chef,” that’s when it hit me. If they’re trying to do what we do, lets try and take what they do to the next-level.

Shortly after I brought it to the Collective to co-produce and within four months we filmed and released the entire 10 episode season. Also, we did it for less than the budget of a single, standard television episode.

Here’s a look at a recent episode of Epic Chef.

RSEO – Were you cautious to add a new series to your channel? Did you do any test shoots, pilots or “proofs of concept” to get the show perfected?

HM: No. This is the Internet. I believe you do it and if it sucks, accept your failure and move on. In our case we have made an extremely popular online competitive cooking show, but most importantly we’ve learned from this experience. I emphasized a quick turn around and so we filmed 10 episodes in 5 days. The next season of “Epic Chef” will be the perfected version of what the original was and this is all thanks to the feedback we get from the audience.

RSEO – What is your favorite part of the production process? What is your least favorite?

HM: My favorite part is selecting judges and contestants and pairing them up. We’ve contemplated letting the audience be a part of that process.

It’s a new show so I haven’t discovered what my least favorite part is just yet.

RSEO – How technical is the Epic Meal Time team regarding video? What was the first production crew hire you made? What was your main pain point?

HM: Epic Meal Time started as a one camera production (Canon 7D) and I would sit and edit every video. About halfway in to the second year I hired Dave Heuff to start editing the videos since it had become too time consuming for me. Dave (he eats in some videos with a knife and fork) was hired as an editor and cameraman after a few trial runs with some people that just couldn’t cut it. Editing pun by the way. Now Epic Meal Time is filmed with two 5Ds, one on a tripod and the other with Dave.

We are essentially a two man production team in terms of video. Although there is a lot of production in regards to the food.

epic meal time crew

RSEO – Do you have “craft services” on your sets? What is typically served?

HM: No. Our Craft Services is essentially everything we are cooking. We always get extra and cook a whole bunch throughout the day. There is always 3-4 plates of bacon or candy bacon for people to pick at as well.

RSEO – For Epic Meal Time, what’s the creative process for deciding what the next episode should be? Is there a method to the Epic-ness? What % of the recipe is carefully thought out vs. improvised?

HM: Everyone and their mothers submit ideas to Epic Meal Time. I sift through a master list of about 400 meal ideas constantly to place them in the calendar. Is there a holiday coming up? Lets do it! Did something huge happen in media? Lets consider it. Super Bowl? No doubt.

Josh and Ameer, who cook most of the food, will usually collaborate on how this will be created at which point I step in to make it ‘stupid’ and ensure it has that ridiculous vibe.

We always improvise and always switch it up last minute. Josh and Ameer are constantly in to last minute additions or modifications.

Here’s a tentpole programming episode from the Super Bowl:

RSEO – What do you believe has had the greatest impact for growing your audience?

HM: Consistent upload. We were fortunate to have our videos go viral right from the first episode. I just made sure we kept uploading week after week on the same day to capitalize on that.

RSEO – Epic Meal Time has been insanely consistent with the weekly show, what has been the most challenging part in delivering this?

HM: The most challenging part is I can’t film and cook and host the meal. We work on a team schedule so everyone can be a part of it and contribute to the final product. So making sure we can all come together to make it happen has been one of the trickier parts of the creation process.

RSEO – Who has been your favorite guest on Epic Meal Time (or Epic Chef)?

HM: We’ve had the likes of Tony Hawk, Deadmau5, Duff Goldman, Jamie Oliver, Kevin Smith and many other incredible people. There is no way I’d be able to choose my favorite guest or collaborators.

That's Epic Meal Time kidnapping guest Jamie Oliver and gagging him with candy.
That’s Epic Meal Time kidnapping guest Jamie Oliver and gagging him with candy.

RSEO – Epic Riddle Time: You’re trapped on a deserted island in the South Pacific with a briefcase of bacon. You get 1 weapon/tool and 1 unlimited supply of another food – what do you choose?  (note: the island may or may not have additional native wildlife and hostiles)

HM: A sword and unlimited pizza. With the sword, I can defend myself without worry of ammo and I can hunt for pizza toppings. The bacon will be used to barter with the hostiles until I am close enough to them to overthrow their regime of the island and become the supreme pizza commander.

A big thank you to Harley “Sauce Boss” Morenstein and Epic Meal Time for answering our questions, and Kavi Halemane at The Collective for making this possible. Come back next week for more Web Series School!


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