Photo courtesy of SORTEDfood
This week, four British foodies will make their way around Virginia based on social media suggestions alone. Sound sordid? No, it’s sorted.
Started in 2010, SORTEDfood, the British online food channel, now has over 865,000 followers and is comprised of Mike Huttlestone, Barry Taylor, Jamie Spafford and Ben Ebbrell, the chef of the bunch. The group will be on day 59 of its #LostAndHungry tour by the time the team hits Richmond on Thursday, having already stopped in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago. The tour is strictly governed by social media — so much so that the only food consumed must be suggested by fans through Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
We caught up with Barry and Jamie while they were in London preparing to head back to the states. Read ahead to find what they've loved, what they're looking forward to and why they chose Richmond.
Richmond magazine: Is Chef Ben going it alone right now?
Jamie Spafford: He has for the last week been going it alone. [Barry and I] came back for a wedding and I have an 11-month-old daughter; I don’t want her to forget who I am. I am the only [one] with responsibilities. [laughs]
Barry Taylor: Poor girl, she can’t seem to forget him.
RM: Do all four of you try and make it everywhere suggested? Or do you split places?
Jamie: The deal is we only eat the things that people recommend to us. We knew this trip would be a good idea because when we first started on YouTube, we got 3,000 comments suggesting where we should go and what we should eat; Twitter comments, Facebook, Snapchat.
RM: People Snapchat places to you?
Barry: Yes! The worst thing is that you watch it once and then you can’t see it again … We try to screen-grab those.
RM: How did you get started?
Barry: Blimey. We were mates in high school, all from a county called Hartfordshire. We have known each other since [we were] 12. We went different ways after school and really came back together because we couldn’t cook ... we bonded over the sharing of it. And then we thought there could be a wider audience … we couldn’t be the only ones out there.
Jamie: I was trying to impress a number of girls with my cooking. Well, one girl. It wasn’t working out. And I thought, we are suffering here — there must be a way out of this.
RM: Tell me about the name "SORTED."
Jamie: Stateside, it is never quite translated. In the U.K., it means done and finished with as minimal hassle as possible. In America, it is more about being organized, which we are probably not.
RM: Why YouTube to start? You're on multiple platforms now: Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram.
Jamie: It was free at the time. We were already spending time on YouTube; I love the platform. We were watching it and there weren’t people like us. We were early movers back then. It was a natural place for us to live.
RM: On this trip so far, what have been some highlights?
Jamie: One of my favorites has been the Korean barbecue — the sheer amount of food and that it is cooked in the middle of the table. And can I say New Orleans, as well? [That was] also my favorite; our fans invited us 'round for a crawfish boil — incredible. And the jazz.
Barry: Austin. I’d heard a lot about Texan barbecue. I couldn’t understand how it could possibly be better that the barbecue in the U.K. I was wrong.
RM: Odd things? What has surprised you?
Jamie: We had alligator; that was suggested by a fan. In L.A., Ben was told he needed rattlesnake sausage, so he went and found some.
Barry: All the bacon-flavored sweet foods. Bacon; Americans love their bacon. We are making our way around every bacon dish possible. Bacon ice cream, bacon on everything.
RM: Will this be your first time in Richmond, Virginia? What made SORTED choose Richmond?
Barry: We are all Virginia virgins.
Jamie: It is really interesting, actually. Our fans, they told us to go across the U.S. We noticed we had a lot of tweets about Virginia — about great craft beer, craft ciders, those that we shouldn’t miss out on our tour. Then we realized we were being tweeted by Visit Virginia. They were campaigning for us to come to the state. They created an itinerary for us to make around Virginia and your community.
Barry: We started with just restaurants and then meeting the community. This is a whole new curve ball, the tourism [board] saying "come down."
RM: Do you guys read your tweets or does someone compile them for you and you go to the places with the most mentions? How does that work?
Jamie: James is our media person. He does a lot of the social media. There are just a few of us.
Barry: We are not a big deal. It is just us.
RM: Have you done research on Richmond? Do you know where you'll be heading already?
Jamie: We are headed to a vineyard and the kayak; you have to kayak to get to the vineyard, I think? We are going to make cider. We are going to a bunch of farms. We are going to eat on a river or in the middle of a river. The whole itinerary sounds incredible.
RM: When do you get here and what is next after Virginia?
Barry: We land on Wednesday and we will do some exploring — not just in Richmond. We are filming some recipes that we did on the course of the trip, then we are going to drive to New York and pass through some smaller towns, like D.C., on the way.
RM: You are all going to physically drive?
Jamie: Yes, we drive in the U.K. It is the same; everyone is friendly, they are shouty, they are beeping.
Barry: We are going to Uber.
RM: Get some sleep, guys. We like to have a good time in Richmond.
Barry: I don’t think I’ve had enough bourbon — I need more bourbon.
Jamie: Oh, we’ll be ok.
Follow the adventures of SORTEDfood and make #LostAndHungry suggestions via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube channel, Pinterest and blog, or stay tuned to The Today Show for weekly updates on the tour. Looking to meet the SORTED team in the flesh? You can meet the gents on Thursday, June 18, at Rappahannock at 7 p.m. Cheers.