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Monday 20 April 2020

Nat's What I Reckon: INTERVIEW

There is a very good chance you have seen this guy Nat in amongst the recent increase in time on your phone, during this uncharted madness we call coronavirus lockdown... if you haven't, introducing: 'Nat's What I Reckon.'

Nat's simple approach to deconstructing the basics in the kitchen, and demystifying sauces you might be buying jar versions of ("fuck jar sauce" is a credo of his) has seen his star rise 'overnight' to the masses.

The thing is: Nat's been doing what he's doing for the past EIGHT years, and was mid way through a sold out tour around Australia with his particular brand of full on, expletive filled stand up comedy and vids on stage, when he started fucking around in the kitchen (he's been feeding people for eons, it's just that now he has started filming it) and BOOM: Nat's videos have gone completely, ballistic-ally VIRAL.

He has released a series of videos, starting with his 'Carbo-rona' sauce, a play on words with the classic Italian carbonara sauce and of course the 'rona (aka, coronavirus, aka Covid-19, the reason we are in this god forsaken pandemic which has fucked with our lives immensely).

One such videos is his Carbo-rona sauce, and he doesn't, well, mince words...

"What the fuck is that", he says as he holds up a jar of commercial, supermarket bought pasta sauce. 

"What's going on jailbirds - you're fucking locked up in your house and you're still buying jar fucking sauce. You know how I know you're still buying jar sauce, because I've been to the shops and I'd seen people fucking buying this shit.

"Carbonara my fucking arse!"

"If that's fucking carbonara pasta sauce, I'm the president of Australia.

"Fuck this shit, let's make some real sauce!"

And off he goes, telling you what every authentic Italian will agree with: DO NOT PUT CREAM IN A CARBONARA SAUCE. So, he's already a champion in my eyes...

Here is that video in full:

I interviewed Nat today about his sudden surge in subscribers and shares, and asked him how he feels about this explosion in people who may not have been fans NOW talking about him and sharing his videos and tagging their mates.

"I feel good about it I suppose," he tells Josie's Juice in his trademark laconic and laid-back style, though I can tell immediately he is immensely grateful.

"It’s not something I expected to go so well so quickly, and it’s something I am grateful for... seeing as I have been working fucking hard at this for so long," he adds matter of factly, and suddenly you want everything to go super well for this down to earth bloke, more than ever.

"I have been making these videos for eight years now, and I have been online making stuff, transitioning from YouTube to Facebook and kind of spreading myself a bit thin, and doing all sorts of things... I made short skit videos, then I started reviewing techno and trance festivals, and sort of started actively going to events I didn't want to go to," he tells me with a laugh (can relate Nat, can relate), adding he'd go to these events "with a microphone and take the piss out of them, which is why I got the channel going."

"Yeah I have always just tried to do my own thing, and not having any semblance of following a trend really, and it has been, as it is with all that kind of stuff, slow going until you get your crowd, but at the moment it’s been… fuck… I have spent so much time and money… it’s nice to see such a positive response."

At time of publication, Nat's Carbo-rona sauce video has reached over 6.2 million views on Facebook alone, going live three weeks ago, while his 'sin bin soup' video has amassed 5.7 million views having been posted only a week ago, his 'end of days bolognese' 4.5 million views since Thursday last week, his 'quarantine spirit risotto' (like, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', get it!) 6.5 million views, and his very first foray into the cooking vid madness 'how to make quarantine sauce' is now at over 6.5 million views just on Facebook. Here are this legend's videos so far:

Nat's latest video came out only four days ago and the video had already amassed four million views. Asked how he feels about this, he tells Josie's Juice:

"Yes, at the moment yes... these cooking videos have hit a real spot out there in the market," he agrees.

Have a look at the comments section of the videos on socials, and you'll see that the response to all Nat's video's are overwhelmingly positive. Many even thank Nat for teaching them how to cook.

I ask Nat what has been the most surprising feedback so far from his new cooking videos.

"I got a message from Dave Grohl yesterday which is pretty wild," he reveals, referring of course to the singer and drummer from Foo Fighters, and Nirvana before that.

Nat recounts: "One of his mates booked in for a cameo on my 'cameo service', and I ended up making him a video, not knowing who the Dave was he was referring to, giving him a bit of a rev up for being stuck in Hawaii, while all his mates are suffering in their jocks [during this pandemic and associated self isolation].

Dave has been sharing my videos, and, well... he is a bit of drumming icon of mine, as a drummer myself, and it’s incredible to get a message from him," says Nat. Talk about meeting a musical hero!

So how and why did Nat come up with this idea of cooking for dummies?

"You just have to go to the fucking shop and see what people are buying, it’s frightening," says Nat, referring to our collective pandemic food and toiletry stock up.

"I mean, I understand this quick fix shit, but it’s not like we don’t have time on our hands, so I thought there was a good gap to go: "Oi, you know that shit over there, you can actually make that shit."

Before this interview with Nat, I was pretty convinced that Nat had some kind of formal training as a chef, considering he has techniques and recipes down pat, but nope!

"I am not a professional cook, no," he says.

"It's just something I have been practicing and working at for years, I've always cooked for my friends, I've always lived in big share house, I have always cooked for big groups of people, I actually love it," he tells Josie's Juice.

"It's also a little bit of a mental health escape, a bit of meditation," he adds.

A few weeks ago, someone on social media took it upon themselves to send Nat a private message with this pearler:

Apart from publicly posting this punter's comment on his own page, captioning it with "Glad everyone is digging the cooking videos hahaha 😂 #quiche #getfucked" (with 'quiche' a cheeky nod to Chris Lilley's character 'Ja'mie Private School Girl' and 'her' use of the word quiche), just what did Nat think of the Jamie Oliver comment?

Nat lets out a raucous laugh: "Oh I love it!"

Yep, people can get precious about food, though I wonder if he's had any other scathing criticism which has made him laugh.

"That's gotta be up there, that one," says Nat.

"Cooking food is anyone's game really, you can put in anything and everything really, and that's the point of my videos... I don't think you should [put everything in]," he laughs, "It’s not a fucking garbage bin, it’s a dish, and that’s part of the shtick."

"To be honest, it has been so overwhelmingly positive, I mean I also get comments like, "You fucking grub, don’t put milk in that, and I just find it funny, I’m not sure you are getting the point of the video," he laughs, referring to milk being added to his recent bolognese sauce menu.

"It’s a performance, it’s a show, it’s a laugh."

Okay, so the milk thing intrigued me, but even as an Italo-Australian who is mostly a purist when it comes to classic Italian recipes, I am willing to give the 'latte' thing a go.

"That’s the thing with stuff like that. I became quite puritanical about things for a while with cooking, I'm like, what’s the true original way this dish is made, and I'd research that, and find the facts behind it, but that can end up being a little risky on the internet to see what exactly is true, but then I figure well this particular version is the way I like it, so...

"[Food] is often not that complicated, right, we just sometimes put all the 'shit' in it. Food doesn't have to be so complicated."

With all events around the country, and world, put on hold, Nat's first huge solo tour was also collateral damage after already selling out his tours around Australia.

"We just sold out Melbourne and Brisbane and Sydney, we just finished the Sydney leg and then we had to postpone the rest of the tour, this was all before all my cooking stuff, and all the videos.

"We kick back off again on September 30 [this year]. It was a bit of a kick in the guts at first... now it has kind of been a blessing," he tells us.

The Tattoo Expo he was to host "didn’t end up happening" ("that’s quite a populated and handsy event, so that was cancelled fairly quickly", he laughs), but, he adds, "You have to keep positive and keep your head up."

"You look around and everyone is going through it but it doesn’t mean it makes you feel heaps better."

Nat's 'book a shout out on Cameo' - find it on his website or follow the link on his Instagram - is a pretty cool addition to Nat's talents, which started before his now popular videos.

"It’s a shout out service. Often people will message me and ask to have me say happy birthday to a friend, or ask me to wind them up about how they cook something or whatever or just a say g'day to a friend, or sometimes people book it for themselves, and ask me to sing them a song or do a dance, and that is there to help monetise things so I can continue making videos," he says matter of factly.

His now famous viral videos are filmed with his partner: "We do this all together. I edit and kinda direct the video and write the script and stuff, although most of it is off the cuff really.

"She films them, and also designs all the logos and everything."

She's clearly a legend...

"Yeah she's a fucking legend."

Nat also reveals he "often tries to talk about elements of health care, and part of my journey with this stuff is managing my mental health as part of my expression in reaching out to people, in ways that are accessible."

"I am an ambassador for the big anxiety event, which was a mental health festival in Sydney last year. It's something that's important to me.

"This whole thing has a bit of an underpinning, of people looking after themselves and opening that conversation in subtle ways."

It may be a cliche, but it's true: blokes don’t really talk about their feelings. Historically, men need to work harder at getting their causes noticed.

"The patriarchy has men in a spot where they self perpetuate some pretty poor behaviours. Fellas might want to talk about their stuff, but feel ashamed. It’s of course true for women as well. But men traditionally don't talk and the whole strong silent type thing can be pretty dangerous." 

For now, Nat is "pretty happy doing my own thing," but stay tuned for some quirky collabs ahead of his return on stage. And many more of those food vids like the "bloody champion" he is.

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