BackEat & Drink » Food Culture » A Feast for Your Eyes, Ears and Soul in Culinary Frank's ASMR Cooking

A Feast for Your Eyes, Ears and Soul in Culinary Frank's ASMR Cooking

Based in Melbourne, a Vietnamese chef-turned-YouTuber has been cooking up a delicious storm of homey dishes and global cuisines imbued with ASMR, inspiring home cooks to go on culinary adventures in their own kitchens during a year of immobility.

To start off, a simple search result would tell us that ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, a sound-induced tingling sensation that can awaken all of a person's senses and send them into a state of “low-grade euphoria.” The comfort and relaxation of AMSR can come from the sounds of everyday movements and objects, but these often ring unnoticed amidst the noises of life. So, in a time where cities around the world cease to hum, ASMR-style productions have risen to popularity for helping people cope with unfamiliar silence.

This emphasis on the audio experience has become a powerful tool for content creators to provide viewers with a more immersive viewing experience. Among these content is Culinary Frank — a YouTube channel where visual and sensory stimuli are combined to teach bite-sized cooking lessons, taught by 29-year-old chef and food vlogger Phạm Thế Phương.

Culinary Frank is where you can learn to up your thịt kho nước mắm game.

Being one of the first Vietnamese ASMR YouTubers, Phương has raked in more than 362,000 subscribers and nearly 22 million views, bringing countless hours of indulgence to audiences by presenting the finest of global gastronomy, and giving viewers an intimate glimpse into Phương and his wife’s life as a young couple through their sunny kitchen in metropolitan Melbourne.

When watching Phương’s culinary persona Frank in action, one may catch their mind drifting to the sound of sharp knives tapping on crispy pork skin, of vegetables being chopped finely on the cutting board, or of small brushes between kitchen gadgets. Every finished dish is not only a mixture of fresh ingredients but also a symphony of vibration and quietude.

Through Culinary Frank, viewers can discover a rich culinary universe, from world street foods such as bột chiên, KFC-style deep-fried wings, and tteokbokki, to Vietnamese essentials such as canh khổ qua (bitter melon soup) and cá chim kho nước mắm (fish sauce-braised butterfish).

In one of his latest videos, Phương gave a shout-out to 2021’s unofficial staple, instant noodle, by preparing four different variations that those bored in social isolation could experiment with. But be it a Michelin- or lockdown-inspired recipe, he believes the most important thing for a dish to turn out right is for the chef to understand “the basics” before seeking any elevations.

Culinary Frank's take on Vietnamese street food classics bánh mì chảo and bột chiên khoai môn.

Phương’s culinary career began with meals he cooked for himself while studying abroad, he told Saigoneer. Growing up in a family of foodies, he learned to cook from a young age. His early dishes were nothing extravagant and made mostly to fill his belly, but they were where Phương’s flair for cooking first shone through.

As a child, when he completed his first gastronomical feat of frying an egg, he ran off to show his neighbors about what he had accomplished, Phương fondly recalled. The joy of cooking followed him when he went to study in Singapore, where a Thai friend praised Phương for his skills and encouraged him to pursue being a chef — a starting and turning point in Phương’s professional career. “Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved to cook, that when I first started, everything went smoothly,” he says.

Culinary Franks viewers can also pick up famous world recipes such as Teriyaki Salmon and Beef Wellington.

After finishing his Culinary Arts training in Singapore, Phương moved to Australia to work as a sous chef at a restaurant. However, things got worse before they got better: “I went through a very stressful time before the launch of Culinary Frank. I even thought about giving up cooking entirely. But ever since I picked up the camera and started recording everything I made, I’ve got a little more push to continue what I love to do.”

When he first got into YouTube, Phương experimented with a cohort of different formats to find a suitable direction for his channel. When compared with some initial productions, one can see that Culinary Frank’s ASMR videos from mid-2018 onwards have become much more stylistically coherent, having added major changes in the filming, the filters, and most importantly, the sound editing. While his earlier videos involved stereotypically happy-go-lucky tracks not uncommon to the cooking section of YouTube, his ASMR-incorporated videos are more lighthanded in the musical department, choosing to focus on the authentic sound coming from the slightest movements.

Culinary Frank's four ways to spice up your plain instant noodle.

Drawing inspirations from his predecessors, ASMR-cooking creators like Peaceful CuisineHaegreendal꿀키honeykki, Phương said that he "pays a lot of attention to the space, lighting, sound, and composition of objects within the frame. Lighting and sound are the two most important factors, as the lighting greatly affects the color of the food, the tone of the video, and the sound will affect the emotions and experiences of the viewers." And thanks to Phương’s meticulous editing, Culinary Frank’s videos always show a unique sense of old-fashion sophistication and amicability, which many viewers find to be healing after a long tiring day at work.

But the healing effect goes both ways, as the creator himself said: "The kitchen is a stressful environment that moves at breakneck speed, with lurking dangers of sharp knives and open flames at every turn. In contrast, Culinary Frank is like a serene sea of silence, where I can leave all the negativity behind. It’s here that I’m able to take it slow, do everything step by step, and truly absorb the joy of making the dishes. It’s a reward I give to myself for having tried my best."

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