While much of the world has turned calorie conscious, Harley Morenstein and his band of burger-loving buddies have gone the other way and have become cult YouTube favourites in the process.
Inspired by the website thisiswhyyourefat.com, the Montreal-based troupe created "Epic Meal Time," a weekly homage to ridiculously over-the-top gluttony that's drummed up 34 million views in a few short months and has 300,000 fans who subscribe to their YouTube channel.
Their piece de resistance so far is a Thanksgiving feast weighing in at 79,046 calories and 6,892 grams of fat, which they nicknamed TurBaconEpic: a bird, in a bird, in a bird, in a bird, in a bird, in a pig. With lots of bacon in between.
To recap, that was an eight-pound turkey, a six-pound duck, a four-pound chicken, a Cornish hen and a quail, all stuffed into the cavity of a 20-pound pig. They also threw in some bacon-croissant stuffing, a "meat glue" of mashed bacon and pork sausage to help hold it all together, and wrapped it all in bacon strips, before adding a butter and Dr. Pepper glaze.
It's their most popular video to date, with four million views, and was part of their pitch to TV networks last week in Los Angeles, in a bid to share their gargantuan, heart-stopping concoctions with even more viewers.
"I think it went famously, I don't imagine we could've done it better on our part and I hope they just get it and pick it up," said Mr. Morenstein, who hosts the videos.
"Epic Meal Time" has become a bona fide hit on YouTube, with virtually all of their videos hitting well over a million views, which is no easy feat. In Canada, "Epic Meal Time" has three of the Top 5 most-viewed videos this month, and has also rated highly around the world.
Mr. Morenstein, 25, and his partner Sterling Toth, 27, credit John Tesh in a roundabout way with getting their career kickstarted.
In 2009, the radio host and musician held a contest tasking listeners with creating the best video set to Tesh's "NBA Roundball Rock" theme song, which had long been the soundtrack to basketball broadcasts on NBC. Mr. Morenstein and Mr. Toth won the contest and US$5,000, which bought an equipment upgrade and a little incentive to consider going full-time with making online videos. Before long, the concept of "Epic Meal Time" was born.
"Essentially, you could say 'Epic Meal Time' couldn't exist without the help of John Tesh," Mr. Morenstein joked.
"We'd been entering a bunch of contests, having a good time, all hobby stuff, but once the 'Epic Meal Time' concept came I stopped high school teaching, Sterling stopped graphic designing, and we went all in."
They spend as much as $500 to $600 on food per episode - other recipes have included extremely oversized and overstuffed crepes, tacos and egg rolls - and yes, they do eat it all, although not always in one sitting.
One of Mr. Morenstein's favourite recipes so far has been the Double Kill, a takedown of Kentucky Fried Chicken's infamous Double Down. It's a foot-and-a-half tall stack of burgers, bacon, chicken breasts, onion rings and mac and cheese. The group has also designated the Angry French Canadian sandwich a keeper. It's a baguette, turned into French toast and slathered in maple syrup, housing a slew of hot dogs, bacon and poutine.
While those pairings may sound revolting to some, it's their Valentine's Day special that really turned some viewers' stomachs. On the menu were a variety of chocolate hearts - animal hearts covered in chocolate, that is. They served up a chocolate cake with a candied lamb heart in the centre, and heart-shaped chocolates and bacon-topped cupcakes, both with candied chicken hearts inside.
Mr. Morenstein enjoyed them.
"I thought the hearts tasted like dark meat chicken. I'll tell you one thing, candied bacon is awesome. Really, really, really awesome."
Mr. Morenstein is enthusiastic about the early success of "Epic Meal Time" and the potential for growing the online production - which is pretty much breaking even with ad revenue and just recently, T-shirt sales - into a television show.
"We'd like to monetize this to the point that Sterling and I can both get by and I don't have to go back to substitute teaching, where students are just going to yell 'Bacon strips!' at me when I'm trying to teach them a lesson," he joked.
"For guys on the show they're like, 'Man, what am I doing? I was just working at the bank and now I'm wrapping things in bacon for two million people.' When we go out I'll get recognized on the streets here in Montreal, the guys are getting girls at the bar on weekends."
If the TV show does come to be, the team has dozens of ideas backlogged and ready to cook up. A few have been too big for online, but maybe with TV backing, they'll be able to pull them off.
"I tried to get a full shark, I was calling around like crazy. I don't know if it's illegal or not but it's not something you can get, they won't just give it to a person," Morenstein said.
"We also tried for a full octopus as well, couldn't get that either."
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