Local chef Rob Davidson first created the Socially Distant Cooking Class Facebook group back in March. A month later the Bulletin interviewed him when it surpassed 20,000 members, but now the group has exceeded its founders wildest dreams by hitting 50,000 members.
The group was formed as a way to foster community in socially distant times, with this mantra in mind:
“We know it’s not easy to find ingredients for your favourite meals at the moment…I’m a huge proponent of making Chicken Soup out of Chicken S**t, so let’s all get together, share with each other, learn from each other, and most importantly – be kind to each other!”
“Yeah it’s been crazy,” Davidson simply puts it. “I thought, ‘oh it will peter out, people will get bored,’ but it’s actually not, it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy right now. Still adding a couple hundred people a day. I haven’t been on it a tonne, I just kind of do the maintenance for it, like if there’s reported posts I’ll deal with them, and my admins are still plugging away on it too, but yeah it’s weird that it’s still going.”
Davidson suspects part of the reason for the group’s continued growth is because they have such high membership from the southern United States — as the country’s COVID cases continue to spike, some people have returned to lockdown mode.
“So they’re back at it,” he said. “Those southern people are telling their friends again and it’s still rolling.”
Davidson is back to work at Buckhorn and Main up at the Kimberley Alpine Resort, and in fact when he spoke with the Bulletin on Thursday, July 16, it was his Monday, as the restaurant is open Thursday to Sunday.
As a result, his time is even more limited now than ever and he hasn’t been doing as much posting or shooting new cooking shows.
A little while back, Davidson also launched a second page dubbed The Socially Distant Cooking School.
“The logic behind that was, I kind of reserved that page when I started the group as well, my thoughts on that were, it was getting so saturated in the announcements section in the group with all my videos, so I dumped all my videos on to the page and then it’s a linked page to the group so everybody can still see them but it’s just a bit of a housekeeping method as much as anything else.”
The other motivation was that Davidson is unable to monetize off a group, he can only monetize off a page. So while the group just surpassed 50,000 members and the cooking shows are cross-posted between the page and the group, the new page is sitting at about 1200 members.
Davidson would like to see the page likes increase to the 2000-member mark, which he says is the bare-bones minimum for starting to be able to generate some revenue.
As a result of the original group’s exponential growth, Davidson said he’s been starting to get invited by the Facebook corporation to group sessions over Zoom for admins of large groups.
“That’s pretty interesting stuff, there’s a lot of good info in those sessions too,” he said. “I never expected any of that so it’s kind of neat.”
Beyond getting back to work in a real restaurant setting and the continued success of his quarantine project, Davidson also hinted at another exciting move he’s made in the Facebook group this week: he submitted an application to appear on the television show Top Chef Canada.
He said applications closed Thursday, July 16 at midnight, and that he won’t know for a bit. He applied to the show Chopped previously and said that similarly to that experience everything is very “hush hush.” He said that while he can’t find out much information on the shoot and the process, it looks like it will be held in Toronto again.
“I think it will be a fairly different setup this year with the show, just because you won’t be able to do those mass gatherings of having the restaurant section of it, you can’t invite 200 people,” he explained. “It will be interesting, I think it would be cool to be a part of for sure.”
From what he’s read, Davidson said the show is expecting to get anywhere from 200 to 500 applications from all across the country, from which they whittle down to about 60 and then pick a final 12 out of that.
If accepted, Davidson would be on a sequestered six-week shoot that plans to begin at the end of August.
“So I think if I do get a callback for it it’s going to happen fairly quick,” he said.
Davidson’s huge Facebook presence played a factor in his application process.
“That’s kind of another monetization aspect of it and getting my name out there,” he said. “I made mention of it for sure, just so they can see my videos already. They ask if you’ve been on TV or published anything on the internet and all that stuff, so I linked that stuff to it just so they can see what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been up to.”
Davidson said he will have a “crap” load of work ahead of him and a lot of brushing up to do if he gets accepted but he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.
“I gotta do it,” he said. “You only go around once, right. And I’ve never had the opportunity to be able to do a six-week shoot and now I kind of do and I’ve always been interested in being on TV and stuff but this is probably the closest I’ll ever come.”
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