YouTube Chef Rosanna Pansino
The secret ingredient in the West Seattle High grad’s weekly YouTube baking show, Nerdy Nummies, is her enthusiasm for geeky pop culture.
She won’t cop to it, but Rosanna Pansino is kind of a big deal. In a little more than three years, the West Seattle High grad has gone from just another amateur baker who uploaded a video tutorial for making a Super Mario–themed cake to YouTube to an honest–to–Ina Garten star. But even though more than two million subscribers log on to watch her whip up Muppet cookies and superhero cupcakes on her geeky weekly baking show, Nerdy Nummies—not to mention the fact that her face graces YouTube ads on buses and buildings—she waves off the Internet celebrity thing. Sorry, Rosanna. There’s no putting that egg back in its shell. —Matthew Halverson
Has it been three years? Oh my gosh, I’ve just made so many videos that I’ve lost track of time.
When you talk about a viral video, it’s a video where right when you upload, it gets millions and millions of views. That’s not what my videos do. Usually I’ll upload a baking video and it will acquire a lot of views over time. So it feels a little bit more gradual than an instant success.
I started making YouTube videos to basically become more comfortable in front of the camera. And then I had a pre-party for E3—that’s the Electronic Entertainment Expo here in California—at my house and decided to make some themed treats. We filmed the process because we thought it would be fun, and people really enjoyed it and started requesting more of it. I hadn’t seen a geeky themed baking show on television or online, so I decided to make one. And it went really well.
I got tired of waiting for people to give me opportunities, so I started to make them for myself. I used to do a lot of oddball jobs in Hollywood. I was a stand-in. I was a hand double. I had a regular background part on Glee. I booked a few legit acting roles on television shows. And I did some principal roles in commercials. But I’m a really creative person, and I was just kind of tired of waiting for someone to say, “Okay, you can create things now.”
I have a new appreciation for cooking shows. Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart, they have a whole staff, a whole chef team who bakes things in stages so that when they’re filming, they don’t have to sit around for three hours for a cake to bake and cool. I do all of that stuff myself.
I don’t have a target audience. My demographics show that there’s a lot of youth watching. But I also have a lot of parents watching. So it’s very family friendly. I never intended for that to happen, but it’s just because I’m naturally goofy and don’t use bad language. So I guess it makes sense, looking at it, that I attracted a family demographic.
I like that I can interact with my viewers. A lot of people I know are overwhelmed by the feedback and the criticism, but it’s actually one of my favorite things about the Internet. People are so brutally honest online.
I moved into a new house earlier this year, and some of my neighbors are viewers of my show. A few people saw me move in and they brought over cupcakes. They were just coming over to be friendly, and we got to talking, and then they checked it out and said, “Oh my gosh, my kids actually watch you.” They hadn’t put together who I was. It just dawned on them.
Before the house, I was in this really small apartment. We barely had enough space for two cameras and lights and all of the prep baking gear, and it was really difficult to have guests. Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef just did a video with me, and I don’t think I could have had them in my old apartment because there physically wouldn’t be enough room. So I was looking for a space with a large kitchen so I could easily invite guests over to come bake on the show. I would walk into a house, go straight to the kitchen, check it out and say, “Can I film here? Would it work?” The place I ended up buying has one of the biggest kitchens I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’m always going to do Nerdy Nummies, because I love it. I’ve loved baking as a hobby since I was really little. It’s where my heart is. But we’re going to add to it because the viewers are starting to request it—or more like demand it. I love music, and my fans have been asking for me to do my own original music forever, so that’s something in the works.
I have so many weird hobbies. I sing, I bake, I shoot guns and arrows. Yeah, my dad has been taking me gun shooting at this target range since I was very young. He had two girls—my sister and me—and he wanted us, for safety reasons, to know how to use a firearm and outdoor recreational weapons.
Baking is science. It kind of reminds me of chemistry. I think good chemists would be good bakers, and vice versa. There are so many sciencey things to learn. Take egg whites. I had no idea that if you put egg whites in a bowl and mix it up and mix it up, the protein strands are just so strong that it creates a meringue. It goes from a liquid form to a big, fluffy, solid piece. And it’s because of the protein strands.
I’ve now mastered the one-handed egg crack, where you hold it in one hand, crack, and twist, and it will pop out. But I still get shells in there. I’m getting better, but still.