You wake up with a massive hangover and hazy memories of the night before. Grabbing your computer to check your browser history, you realize … oh god, no. The video was uploaded. To YouTube.
For most people, this would be the end. After all, the Internet is forever. So now, whenever potential employers Google your name, they’ll see this embarrassing feat of drunkenness on film in the search results, just above your LinkedIn profile. Face it: Your career is ruined.
But this wasn’t the case for UC Berkeley alumna Hannah Hart, whose drunken attempt to make a grilled cheese sandwich turned into the 40-plus-episode comedy cooking web series “My Drunk Kitchen,” which boasts nearly 1.4 million subscribers and more than 105 million overall views.
Since stumbling onto the YouTube bandwagon in 2011, Hannah “Harto” Hart has transformed “My Drunk Kitchen” from an accidental webshow to a full-blown brand that includes a crowd-funded world tour, Have a “Hart” Days (in which Hannah’s viewers team up with local soup kitchens to sort and package food drive donations) and her authorial debut “My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut.”
The book itself is a tongue-in-cheek approach to instructional cookbooks, focusing chiefly on what you learn from the experience of preparing a meal, rather than the end result.
The “MDK” book is equal parts learning how to cook and learning how to do life. Each quirky recipe is paired with a life lesson, covering topics such as love, loss, family, “adultolescence” and, of course, alcohol. Notable recipes include a PB&J with potato chips (because “sometimes simple additions to a standard something can make it oh-so-new!”), Pastafarian (“I really can’t cook when I’m high”) and the sexually-charged Hot-Crossed Bunz (ingredients include consent and a safe word).
While some of the recipes are unique and actually appetizing, such as the Hartwich (a turkey meatball stuffed with sandwich condiments, wrapped in lettuce), others are long-winded puns that are designed to help you cope with different situations. To deal with a fresh breakup, Harto recommends Sad Thai, an emotional spin on Pad Thai whose ingredients include “your empty den of sadness, access to a phone book or the Internet and a credit card or cash.”
Each recipe is accompanied by full-color photos, usually with Harto cradling her precious culinary creation while sporting her signature snapback or the occasional onesie, by Robin Roemer.
The visual aids, however, were just the cherry on top of Hart’s personalized approach to narration. From the first lines of the introduction, she assures the reader that her goal is to use her personal experiences to make life a little easier for others, an objective that is not far off from that of her YouTube channel. Harto may be the star of the show, but any YouTuber can attest that he or she is nothing without viewers. “You’re a narcissist, right? Good. Because this book is about you,” she writes.
Hart’s signature vocal cadences and inflections transition well into her written work. Any viewer of “My Drunk Kitchen” will be able to hear her voice as they indulge in the colorful pages of storytelling. But familiarity with Hannah’s punny personality is key. While “MDK” the book is a great read for fans of the show, it may not have the same effect on readers who are looking to find the next Julia Child and know nothing about the YouTube series.
But “YouTube lit” will soon be finding its own place on bookshelves — or more fittingly, e-books — everywhere. Hannah is a pioneer in the movement for Internet star integration into mainstream media, specifically in the authorial realm. The release of “My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut” has paved the way for other YouTubers to publish their own bodies of work, including highly anticipated debut releases from Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart (no relation), who, along with Hannah Hart, have been dubbed the “YouTube Holy Trinity.”
Having already accomplished so much, Hart’s breakout book is only the beginning of something much bigger. It’s one small step for a drunk YouTube chef but one giant leap for the YouTube community.
“My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut” can be purchased here.
Contact Rosemarie Alejandrino at [email protected].