My name is Peter Lee, I live in southern New Jersey with my husband Phil Gordemer. Phil and I have a YouTube channel called Let’s Celebrate TV (LCTV). On it, we share recipes for food, hor d'oeuvres, and cocktails. We share entertaining tips as well. We currently do two episodes a week. The main episodes airing on Tuesdays are usually cooking episodes. The secondary on Fridays are either a basic skill or a cocktail recipe. We’ve been doing our show for four years now with the last two years being consistent weekly episodes. It’s still just a weekend hobby, but the channel is growing and we’d love to be able to do it full time. Our eventual goal is to use the channel as a vehicle to get recognized by conventional Food and TV channels. Hopefully, they can either pick up the show or us to host one of their shows.
Our current YouTube channel is mostly aimed at amateurs. We have many friends who say they can’t cook or entertain, but we know they can. Many people are under the impression that it is difficult and stressful to entertain and cook. This is why we make everything we do as simple as possible. We want to show them that cooking and entertaining are much easier than they thought.
The name of the show came about while we were filming our very first test episode. It wasn’t the original concept but throughout the day I kept saying “come on in and let’s celebrate”. Suddenly I had that V8 moment and the LCTV channel name was born.
Growing up, my favorite shows were Bewitched, and any cooking show on PBS starring Julia Child. I was fascinated by all the dinner parties on Bewitched and I was equally fascinated by Julia cooking marvelous food on TV. She made it look so easy. Even when she made a mistake, she recovered from it.
As a young man, I worked in a few restaurants and did a brief stint in culinary school, too. But, I quickly realized the life of a chef wasn’t for me. I much preferred the 9 to 5 hours of the corporate world. Still, I loved to cook and have dinner parties. Indeed, that trend continued when Phil and I got together. We became known for our dinner parties and other parties, especially Halloween. The downside of that was our friends rarely invited us to their places because they said they just couldn’t entertain us the way we entertained them.
I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network. In 2010 she had a segment on her show called “Ask Ina”, where she had viewers write some questions, or even film them and she would feature them on her show. I saw one where she had an upcoming cocktail food episode in the works, and on a whim, I wrote in my question. On Valentine's Day 2010, I got an email from the production company, asking if I’d be willing to film my question and send it to them! We did, and I made it on the show - but rather than it being a single question of a show of questions, they built an entire episode out of the question. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that set off a spark that developed into Let’s Celebrate TV!
During that time, I also realized that in my spare time all I watched were cooking shows on any channel I could find, usually PBS and Food Network. I realized all along, my dream was to have my cooking show. But how? YouTube! I pitched the idea to my husband. He was skeptical at first but he took it as a challenge. I get to cook, he gets to learn all new techy stuff (he’s a computer network engineer in real life), and we get to do something different that could be a fun hobby.
We started doing our research - we watched shows on YouTube, looked at some equipment, read forums, started a blog, and a lot more. Phil took online classes on starting a YouTube channel and got a great education from Kevin the BasicFilmMaker.
Inspiration isn’t usually a problem. I usually have too many ideas going on in my head. The problem is sorting them and deciding what to make for the next show. More importantly, can they be done at a level that our target audience - usually kitchen novices - can understand? I usually have several weeks of episodes planned out. Choosing which one we do next is a big decision. I may have planned a chicken dish as the next episode on the schedule, but maybe we’re not in the mood for it at the time of filming. That is when we’ll look at the rest of the schedule and move things around as needed. I also have an ongoing list of recipe ideas to test, several of which have made it onto the show.
On the rare occasion that I run out of ideas or lack cohesive ideas, I fall back on my menus. We’ve saved the menus and guest lists of almost every dinner party and holiday we’ve had over the last twenty years. It’s fun and humbling to look back at those early years and compare them to the present. To see how we’ve grown - not only me with my cooking but our overall entertaining. It also serves as a reminder of what I’ve cooked for people and I often find inspiration in those old menus. I’ll see something I cooked in 2004 and think “Wow, I haven’t made that since then! Maybe it’s time to try it again.” If that fails, I have a library of over 100 cookbooks. I spread them out over the dining room table and can spend hours and hours planning out menus and taking notes.
LCTV is shot with three cameras in 4K allowing for detailed zoomed-in shots of the handwork and food being demonstrated. Our audio is wireless lavaliers to a field recorder that is then synced in post-production. For editing, Phil uses Adobe Premiere Pro with multi-cam switching with audio cleaned up in Adobe Audition. Our son Kevin, is a graphics artist. He does much of the Photoshop work including the design of our logos and templates for YouTube and Facebook artwork.
Our internal schedule and management tools are mostly homegrown. Phil, being a Network Engineer, can program up almost anything we may need. We have an extensive home network with storage servers for the video assets.
Our fears of starting the channel were not of overcoming fears of public speaking or appearing on camera. Both of us have extensive experience with public speaking and managing people. It was more of a case of “we can’t get started until we have this camera, this microphone, this logo, and this …. ”. In reality, you don’t need any of those things.
You just have to start, then do it over and over.
That is how you learn and grow. If we learned anything from our initial investigations, it was “You gotta just press record” (Think Media), and, “Just make another video” (Kevin the Basic FilmMaker).
One advantage we had coming in was that Phil manages several volunteer online forums and moderates them. This is why he has the temperament and ability to handle comments both good and bad, and still, keep the conversation going. We both pride ourselves in responding to every single comment, usually within minutes of them being left.
Building LCTV has been a long-term project. Like most new creators, initial consistency was a problem. It was all so new. If we got one episode out every two weeks, we were lucky. We got to the point of weekly episodes about two years ago. Nine months ago we moved to two episodes a week - one full cooking episode and one new short series based on basic kitchen skills or cocktails.
The channel plodded away slowly until we made our “Traditional Scottish Shortbread” episode. Views and subscribers then started to come in. Every channel’s goal is to get their first 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours to get monetized. Most new channels get to their 1000 subscribers first, but then have to struggle to get the 4000 watch hours. For LCTV, it was the exact opposite, we had 4000 watch hours almost a year before we got our 1000 subscribers mark. All the YouTube gurus keep focusing on the number of subscribers as a measure of how well their channel was going but for us, it is about watch hours. We are very proud that overall, our watch time per video is in the 70% range.
Be real on expectations - it will always take longer and be harder than you think. You can’t compare the beginning journey of your channel to someone that has 100,000 subscribers and 1 million views. It took years of hard work to get them to get there. Overnight successes are rare and usually not sustainable - two years and 100 videos are much more realistic.
There is also a difference if you are working on growing your channel to make it a business or to expand your brand and personal life. For us, the channel and LCTV allow us opportunities to meet people, go places, and attend events that have great personal life value. You will be surprised to know that these have nothing to do with how many views or subscribers there are on the channel. For now, it is still fun to create videos and see how well they will do, or figure out why a particular episode didn’t do very well.
Don’t start out equipment crazy. But there’s one thing you have to put in mind - people will put up with questionable video quality or editing skills, but they will not put up with bad audio. Make your voice clear and consistent and the video will follow. To that end, our audio equipment is far more professional than our video equipment.
We aren’t there yet, and realistically we aren’t working to make this a full-time gig. We have fun doing it on the side but we also like our day jobs. :)
Our biggest obstacle is the time it takes to prepare for filming an episode. First, we have to test a recipe and make sure we have all of the measurements correct - both imperial and metric. This is especially true when Peter is making an old family recipe or one of his original recipes. The next step is to figure out how it will be demonstrated and explained to appeal to our audience. All these while keeping it in a time frame of eleven minutes or less.
The other major challenge is we film in our real kitchen and the food is cooked live. There is no separate B roll with just a voice-over. This means setting up lighting, three cameras, and the audio equipment for every filming. When possible, we try to film at least two episodes at a time.
One of our proudest achievements wasn’t on YouTube directly. A very prominent local culinary training college asked us to produce some videos directly for them. They also asked permission to include some of our basic skills videos from YouTube into their curriculum. The idea that our channel can communicate on that educational level just means that we are on a good path with our target audience.
Make more videos and keep your voice heard!
We know how hard it is for a small channel to grow and stay motivated. We seek out other small cooking channels or home cook channels and then comment on their videos. It motivates them and it gives us video ideas as well. With that, there is a good chance that their viewers reading the comments will check out our channel, too. Hopefully, as their channel and ours continue to grow, some collaborations can be made in the future.
FaceBook and our Recipe Newsletter are our primary marketing. There has been some moderate success with advertising services like Sprizzy and Facebook pushes, too. Additionally, organic growth is also happening on its own.
We are not there yet and we have not been recognized enough yet.
Currently, we earn about $400 a month. It is not a source of income for our day-to-day life, but we are making enough to cover the expenses of the operation. Our monthly costs for software and licensing are all covered and most of the original cost of the audio and video equipment has been recouped. With this, there is still money left over to upgrade equipment as needed.