Island couple finds worldwide audience on YouTube eating in front of the camera

Familiar with mukbang? What about ASMR? It’s not surprising if you’re not familiar with such terms, but a couple in PEI is slowly making a name for themselves in both genres of online food videos. Hearing someone slurping, gulping, chewing, and smacking their lips while eating may set some people’s teeth on edge, but for millions of others, it’s a form of entertainment they can’t get enough of.

The Ralphies, Nadine and Darrell, began creating their own mukbang and ASMR videos about two years ago after stumbling across one online, “one night, we were both on our iPads, and Darrell was on his iPad, and I was hearing this guy crunching, like eating chips in a video, and I kinda got miffed, I was like ‘Darrell, what are you watching?’,” Nadine said. “We were not aware of mukbang or ASMR at that point in time…I thought it was off-the-wall. And it’s funny looking back now, because this is what we do.” The number of views that YouTube video had garnered peaked Darrell’s interest, and as the couple wasn’t seeing much traction with their ‘The Ralphies’ cooking and vlog lifestyle videos, they thought they’d give it a try.

Cut to late this summer and the Ralphies celebrated 10,000 subscribers on their ASMR channel and over two million views of their videos. Naturally the celebration was caught on camera, and a large portion of an ice cream cake was consumed. Just a few months later, they are now pushing the three million views mark, attributing that increase to the manner in which YouTube works, “They push out your videos more, the more subscribers, the more views you get, the more people commenting, the more traffic on your channel, they [YouTube] push your content out more,” Darrell said.

Darrell and Nadine have a video format that works Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

ASMR means ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’ and is the tingle that trickles down your scalp and the back of your neck when hearing a certain sound. The relaxing properties of such sounds are much of the appeal and ASMR videos have taken off in popularity in the last two years, with tens of millions of videos on YouTube. Sounds like tapping, whispering, scratching, and the previously mentioned sounds while eating are sought out online by people suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and more. Even large corporations such as IKEA and KFC are recognizing the trend toward people using soundscapes as ways to relax. Not everyone experiences ASMR, but those who do are watching online videos in mass quantities.

More established in the online universe, mukbang is a trend that began nearly a decade ago in South Korea. The word stems from the Korean words for eating and broadcast, and a mukbang video at its core shows people consuming food. Hosts would eat a meal while on camera, often interacting with viewers through online chat forums during the meal.

The communal nature of a meal is a large part of the appeal for many viewers. “They [a viewer], said, ‘I just ran out and got McDonalds and now I’m eating McDonalds with you!’ So they’re thrilled that they’re getting to eat McDonalds with us, maybe it’s a person living alone, and they’re lonely and they find sitting and watching us eat, they almost feel like we’re sitting at the table with them,” Nadine said.

From eating takeout meals in their car, indulging in cakes, pies, and ice cream, to devouring a home-cooked meal, the Ralphies are open to eat just about any food on camera. Nadine doesn’t eat beef or pork, but Darrell does, and he can’t eat seafood or shellfish, so that’s on Nadine’s menus. She prefers to eat sweets, he likes savoury foods, so they make a good team, making videos both on their own and with one another.

As a business model, both are enthusiastic about being able to make money from doing something that everybody does, eat. Between the preparation, filming, and editing each video, Nadine is working full-time with their channel, uploading a video per day. Darrell works a full-time job and films videos in the evenings and weekends. It’s not a get-rich-quick type of business, but the residual nature of YouTube videos means that even if a video was shot two years ago, YouTube still pays them a royalty. Both believe that anyone can make a go of it online with ASMR and mukbang and were quick to add that the overall online community is supportive of one another, rather than being competitive.

“YouTube is about entertainment,” Nadine said, “That’s what we keep saying, do you want to be entertained or what?” As the Ralphies tap into that entertainment field, they would love to see the east coast community of ASMRists and mukbangers expand and grow.

They hope that part of that expansion in the ASMR/mukbang community will mean further financial success and allow them the freedom for travel. They have no plans to stop recording and are looking forward to eating their way across Canada and then the world, recording as they go. Further success will mean that they will have more opportunities to help others, “We want to be able to help people, in many different ways. Just going to the grocery store and paying for someone’s groceries ahead or behind us, if we choose to do so. . .we wanna be able to be a blessing to people,” Nadine said. The Ralphies enforce that positive attitude as they end each mukbang video with their tagline, “Stay beautiful, stay sexy, stay blessed.”


UPDATE (December 12, 2018):
Here’s another link to The Ralphies channel, where they give Salty a lovely shout-out for our article and enjoy some snacks in a mukbang video.

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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