Nadia Giosia, the saucy Italian comedian behind Cooking Channel's hit show, Bitchin' Kitchen, broke into the elite world of television chefs through the grassroots enthusiasm of her fierce online fans. (How many cooking shows have fans that post pics of branded tattoos on their Facebook page?) Behind the endearing rock 'n' roll decor, scripted comedy, and zany sidekicks are some signature web elements: a celebration of amateurism, fearless editorializing, and the use of webisodes as proof-of-concept for traditional media.
The show can be difficult to conceptualize without seeing seeing some of it, so, below is a sizzle reel of highlights.
Humble Beginnings and Rabid Fan Base
"Unless you have a proof of concept or you're an A-list celebrity, they chances of one getting a TV show from a pitch document are exceptionally slim," Giosia tells Fast Company. "Not to mention, the idea of a comedy cooking show was crazy." So when she was offered a web deal through the Verizon v-cast streaming service, she jumped at the opportunity to bring her vision to life. Bitchin' Kitchen was an instant success, beating Conan O'Brien's "Pale Force" for the now defunct WAVE Award. Quickly, the brand expanded, offering fashion tips and its own cookbook.
So, with the wind at her back, Nadia's team got the chutzpah to pitch a network. Recalling the conversation, Nadia says they thought "This is a really edgy show; the food space has not gone there yet, but you guys have a pretty wicked community." They found one executive willing to stick her neck out and greenlight the show. "It was a ballsy move to pick up Bitchin' Kitchen"
Since then, Nadia has been on a whirlwind media tour, from Entertainment Tonight to CBS. In the process, she became branded the "Julia Child of the net generation."
Democratize Cooking and Community
In classic web style, Nadia is an unabashed amateur--no formal cooking training. When asked how she can be taken seriously as a chef, she has an endearingly folksy rebuttal, "Some of the best meals I've ever eaten have been home-cooked meals--stuff that my mom's made, my grandma, my aunts, and I'm sure it's the same way for a lot of people."
Adding, "That's part of the success of Bitchin' Kitchenn is that we make food accessible...I mean, we're talking fairly gourmet, delicious stuff but without the pretension."
Nadia embraces interactivity with the Bitchin' "Supperclub," which challenges the viewers to remix both Nadia's own and user-submitted dishes.
Additionally, the Facebook page is chock full of user-submitted photos--which paints a nice illustration of the rapid fan base they've developed in three short years--from quaint skull-topped cupcakes to the more hardcore fans with logo tattoos (really).
So, what makes something "Bitchin' "?
"It's an attitude," says Giosia: cooking in stilettos, embracing sexual themes, rock music videos, and brawny sidekicks. And sometimes it's just giving the middle finger to traditional decore: "Screw the granite countertop. I'm going to go for something totally wicked like a branded vintage butcher top."
For the most part, Bitchin' Kitchen distinguishes itself by adding flare to common food events. CNN's Eatocracy blog included one of Giosia's recipes for an extravagant burger prepared especially for breaking up with "that no-longer-special someone."
She jokes, "Cam an, who can cause a scene when they're presented with a designer burger? ...Vegans maybe. Bah, you can't please everyone."
For Jewish holidays, Giosia produced "Shiksa's Passover Special," with the bold mission of spicing up gefilte fish:
"For those those of you who have never eaten gefilte fish, it's essentially a fish dumpling, poached in fish broth, served hot or cold with horseradish. See, gefilte fish is a wallflower; it's shy and completely co-dependent on horseradish for chutzpah."
Then, for good measure, she brings one of her zany sidekicks, a Middle Eastern Jew, for some faux-history "My understanding of gefilte fish is that is was invented by the Ashkenazi to remind us of the suffering of the Jewish people by the Egyptians."
In short: here cooking is a recreational activity and Giosia sees every element, from utensils to culture, as an opportunity to entertain. Equally important, cooking existed long before celebrity chefs, and everyone can enjoy the process. "As the Italian saying goes, cooking ain't rocket surgery."