Like most of the country, Will Hughes’ life was turned upside down when he was forced to stay at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What started out as a miserable few weeks turned into a unique opportunity that would change Will’s life for the better.
Will, 25, has always seen himself as more of an entertainer than a chef. Starting out as a runner in a post-production company, Will was definitely born to entertain. Ultimately, though, it was cooking that Will got a buzz from.
Combining the two was always a possibility but he could never quite land on the right idea. Taking a leap in the dark, Will decided to set up an Instagram named What Willy Cooks . In his own words, the account would be dedicated towards “documenting things that I cook on this Insta so welcome and hello if you give as*** thanks.”
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Shortly after setting up his account, his posts started to gain more traction. He switched photos of food for funny videos, his first on how to make a ‘Bourbon Bourbon biscuit Bonanza’. In his post by him, he said: “As you can see isolation is taking its toll so thought I’d try something different and shoot and edit this s ****. Do n’t make it because it’s clapped. Might start doing videos of food cooking business.”
And just like that, What Willy Cooks was born. His recipes from him, narrated by a goofy Siri-like voice-over, range from “seriously sexy sirloin steak sarnie” to “magical cheesy mushrooms on toast.” He records everything from him at his home from him in Shepherds Bush using a tripod and a green screen, regularly culminating in tens of thousands of views.
He told MyLondon: “It was just before the lockdown that I started cooking more…and then [the account] just kind of blew up. I never thought it would get to this, it was never meant to.”
Will started cooking more regularly a few years ago because his sister wasn’t very well. He said: “I always liked food – I mean, everyone likes food – but at home, with my sister being ill, I would cook more and more. Sometimes it tasted like s*** and sometimes it didn’t.”
He started getting a buzz from seeing people eat meals that he had recommended and said that cooking gets him into a zone. “It’s an expression of creativity really,” he said. Will’s success, crucially, is linked to lockdown. He told MyLondon: “I thought I’d keep people entertained in what is probably going to be as *** time.
“I would just take pictures of food…the first picture that I ever put up just said ‘look, I’m putting this page up to take pics of stuff I’m making…if you give s*** , follow it, if you don’t, don’t.”
Then Mob Kitchen, a food recipe and cookbook company with almost one million subscribers, got in touch and helped him get off the ground. Ever since then, Will’s feet have not touched the ground. With over 200,000 followers on Instagram, he regularly gets shout-outs from celebrities who follow his persona. Just last week, Davina McCall shouted Will out on her podcast.
“Davina being a fan is pretty cool. So is Claudia Winkleman, actually. Middle-aged white women seem to like my stuff and that’s fine with me,” he said. “Tess Daly would complete the perfect trifecta.”
Will has gone on to host several events across London, most recently in East London. He also co-created Saucy Buns Global, smashed burgers self-described as “ruddy bloody tasty and exceptionally fancy.” None of it seems to have gone to his head, though, as he tries to take it all in his stride. “Until I’ve made a TV show and written a load of books and seen the world, I’m not finished. I feel like I’m just getting started,” he said.
‘Cooking needs more silly’
Cool, calm and collected – not your usual chef, then. This is all central to Will’s brand, as are the jokes, which he is full of. When asked about the team around him, he looked a bit befuddled. “Simon, you know Simon…your head of social media,” I asked. He replied: “Oh mate, is that the joke? It’s a fake person…the website’s complete bulls***, it’s total nonsense.”
Also in Will’s Instagram bio is ‘Children’s Masterchef runner up 1997’. Will is 25, so he would’ve been just one. Pretty impressive, right? Davina McCall thought so when she shouted this out on her podcast, which Will obviously had to correct.
The jokes are there for a reason, with Will viewing a lot of cooking content out there as pretty dry. For him, the solution is simple. He said: “Why not just sort of say things in a silly way? Being serious is fine if you want to be a chef but now with social media.
“People don’t have to rely on traditional chefs to teach them how to cook. I say things in a silly way, that’s my niche.”
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