Epic Meal Empire: Gross Web-Based Series Moves From Canada to L.A. For Its TV Debut | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Food in Pop Culture

Epic Meal Empire: Gross Web-Based Series Moves From Canada to L.A. For Its TV Debut

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Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 9:07 AM
click to enlarge L to R: Dave Heuff, Harley Morenstein, Josh Elkin and Ameer Atari, © 2014 - PHOTO BY MATTHIAS CLAMER
  • Photo by Matthias Clamer
  • L to R: Dave Heuff, Harley Morenstein, Josh Elkin and Ameer Atari, © 2014
Epic Meal Time is the number-one online cooking show in the world, with six million subscribers and weekly episodes on YouTube attracting more than half a million views each. The show is not about getting your daily intake of vegetables, keeping fit or foraging in the woods for the finest truffles. It's about going to the butcher to find the fattiest slabs of bacon and slapping together the most outrageous, unhealthful meals possible.

Given its success, it was only a matter of time before the online series made the move from the computer to the small screen, with a new 16-episode half-hour program called Epic Meal Empire on the FYI cable TV channel — a recently rebranded version of A&E's Biography.

Like its host and creator Harley Morenstein — who's from Montreal, Quebec — the show is a Canadian export. For the TV version, however, Morenstein and his production company made the move from Canada to Los Angeles. But given its reputation as a place where healthful eating trends abound, it seems like an odd choice to film a show like this, which is all about dramatic displays of artery-clogging foodstuffs meant to simultaneously fascinate and disgust audiences — and maybe that's the goal.

Yet considering its already existing popularity online, we couldn't help wondering: Do television viewers really need this kind extreme cooking show? And why is it set in L.A.? 
click to enlarge FYI's "Epic Meal Empire," © 2014 - PHOTO BY ADAM TAYLOR
  • Photo by Adam Taylor
  • FYI's "Epic Meal Empire," © 2014
During his career as a substitute teacher back in Canada, Morenstein started tinkering with amateur video production —  which eventually led to the debut of Epic Meal Time in the fall of 2010. After less than a month, the show became so in-demand that Morenstein stopped subbing and starting focusing on his show full time. Considering its enduring popularity, not to mention the fact that there are already hundreds of episodes online, it was a natural progression to move the Epic Meal brand to television.

If you're adventurous in your eating habits and don't frown on fast food, Epic Meal Empire will probably be fun to watch. But unlike other TV celebuchefs who are all about the quality and presentation of the food, the five-person cast of Epic Meal Empire is primarily about shock value. The show is about presentation, too, but more in a sculptural sense — if that's even the proper term.

Throughout the TV series there's a hamburger-shaped cake with churros as french fries, a "zombie" with sausage-link entrails —  and what appears to be a hamburger-stuffed charred shark.

click to enlarge FYI's "Epic Meal Empire" © 2014 - PHOTO BY ADAM TAYLOR
  • Photo by Adam Taylor
  • FYI's "Epic Meal Empire" © 2014
The debut episode "Taterbot" premieres tomorrow, Saturday, July 26, but you can already watch it online. It starts with Morenstein and his team making a "cheeseburger lasagna" with bacon instead of noodles and burgers slathered in meat sauce as layers, with more bacon (sorry, noodles) covered in a mystery sauce and cheese —  and, inexplicably, onion rings.

It's the kind of meal only a group of hungry guys would devise, and to temper the show's overwhelming testosterone levels, Natalie Forte of the Cooking Channel’s America’s Best Bites enters as a liaison between the Epic Meal team and the general public, to the initial consternation of the existing men. Her first extreme-food "client" is a 2nd grade teacher who wants to surprise her students with a "fantasy meal," since they eat boring old healthful food year-round.

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