As the host of one of the largest baking and decorating communities on the internet, Elise Strachan has been empowering novice bakers with clever tips and relatable techniques since 2011. Strachan is hosting a two-part special of The Sweet Life with Elise Strachan which goes on a flavour-filled exploration of the international desserts trending online, made right here in Australia by a diverse array of multicultural experts on SBS Food.
Strachan spoke to Mediaweek about the influence social media has on food, her background with guest bakers and chefs on the show, and how COVID-19 may affect future production and the industry.
Strachan explained how this show is quite interesting because it meshes what she’s been successful with in an online capacity to what SBS has been successful with in a traditional food TV capacity. “It’s slightly different to your normal cooking show because I really am engaging with the audience through their television screens and then also using social media to use a multifaceted approach so that as they’re watching the episodes and also connecting with me about it on my Instagram and Facebook. It’s a really nice blend of traditional and digital coming together.”
In the colourful two-part special, Strachan reveals the most drooled over desserts on social media from #JellyArt to #GiantBrioche and shows the audience how to recreate them at home with the help of talented local innovators who are reinventing the classics from their home countries.
“Food is one of the biggest genres on social media,” said Strachan. “It’s universal. It connects us globally and individually and it also teaches skill sets that have kind of been lost in the last 20 years. Our mums used to teach us how to bake, and they’re all so busy and we’re all so busy that now in our downtime the internet teaches us how to bake.”
Strachan met a lot of the people on the show on social media through different hashtags. “When I discovered them on social media, I thought ‘oh my god, this is crazy talent! How does this person not have more followers?’. For this particular production, I think social media played a massive part by using some of those hashtags. Social media can seem so large and so vast but when you really drill down you can use those hashtags to find people in your area that like what you like and do what you do, and you can connect with them in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago.”
Episode one features My Kitchen Rules 2016 winners Tasia and Gracia Seger putting a unique Indonesian spin on brûlée, culinary artist Siew Heng Boon’s epic Malaysian three-dimensional jelly cakes, chef Phi Nguyen serving up Japanese frosty favourite, Kakigōri, and Yasoda Welsh’s Indian-inspired hand-painted Mandala Cheesecakes.
Strachan told Mediaweek that the Seger sisters from MKR are passionate about their Indonesian cooking and their restaurant. “They’re fun personalities so it was a joy to be able to work with them in this capacity,” she said. “Yasoda from Yasodalicious makes the most fantastic mandala patterns on top of cheesecake. They’re super intricate and amazingly colourful designs on the top of vegan cheesecake.”
In episode two, Melbourne’s Nick Makrides (founder of YouTube sensation The Scran Line) whips up loukoumades cupcakes; bearded baker Ameer El-Issa’s presents his famous Middle-Eastern treat knafeh, acclaimed French pastry chef Vincent Gadan showcases chocolate spheres three ways, and Sydney-based Italian chef Paolo Gatto makes a giant Sicilian brioche bursting with home-made gelato and granita.
Makrides approached Strachan at an event eight years ago with cupcakes that he had made. Since that first meeting, the two have formed a strong friendship. “Now we are like cake wives,” laughed Strachan. “I think it’s a really lovely story because what started as a fan/influencer relationship has actually expanded into a genuine friendship and a great collaboration where we can combine our love of sweets with a unique viewpoint from being food social media influencers in Australia, and there’s not that many of us. Working with him on TV was just so much fun.”
SBS and SBS Food are known for their diversity and multiculturalism. “Here I’ve met a tonne of talented chefs from different cultural backgrounds who opened my eyes to techniques and flavour combinations and tips that I never would’ve encountered in my little western bubble. This show is perfect for the SBS brand because that’s what the network is all about: showing us what else is out there aside from what we know and really sharing the cultural diversity and the magic that can add to everyday lives.”
In regards to the COVID-19 crisis, Strachan said: “I think production is going to change in that potentially the amount of people required for an individual production may become less and we may streamline the way that we connect a lot of the productions.”
As a digital influencer, Strachan is in a very unique and fortunate space to be able to work from home and continue producing high-quality content and connect with her audience as well as support them at a time when there’s so much uncertainty. “As someone with an online platform and voice, it’s a responsibility to continue to provide a sense of normalcy and continue to entertain people in a way that’s relatable to right now.
“One of the great things about digital is I can change my concept very quickly from ‘everything is amazing, let’s make a cheesecake’ to ‘oh my god, the world is ending, here’s how we plant a veggie patch”, she laughed. “It’s about making that content relatable and enjoyable.”
The Sweet Life with Elise Strachan premieres on SBS Food Thursday April 2 at 8.30pm. The series will also be available to catch up anywhere, anytime after broadcast on SBS On Demand.