Newest mukbang star comes from Toronto restaurant family
Toronto has a new breakout mukbang star who's risen to YouTube fame during the pandemic.
His name is Vartan Kavafian, but he's known as VartanFresh on YouTube and TikTok. He started his YouTube channel just over a year ago and has gained more than 140,000 followers during that time, with over 165,000 followers on TikTok.
Kavafian describes mukbang as "the art of eating a lot of food for others to watch," a growing YouTube trend with its origins in South Korea. Some "mukbangers" have subscribers in the millions. He says he's able to eat between 3,000 and 5,000 calories in 10 minutes.
Kavafian had been working at his family's business, a small chain called Fresh Burger that was hurt by COVID-19. He started his YouTube channel as a potential second source of income, just in case.
He also realized that people stuck at home during lockdowns would be on the internet more, and ramped up the number of videos he was uploading.
Kavafian says he is also extremely shy and challenging himself to make videos and a YouTube channel has been a major accomplishment.
He decided on mukbang videos specifically for his content because of his love of eating and food, and also because he loves watching mukbang videos and comes from a restaurant family.
"I never knew how to communicate with people. When I started my YouTube channel, I was nervous. While I love to eat, I was not sure if I would have that camera presence required to attract viewers," Kavafian tells blogTO.
"Shockingly, my personality turned on as soon as the camera was on. Anyone who knows me watching my videos would say that this is not the same Vartan."
He has an infectious grin in his videos, gesturing with his hands and making eye contact with the camera, holding food up to the lens for crystal clear close-ups then taking massive, enthusiastic bites.
One of his most successful so far, though, has been his ASMR video eating Jollibee chicken (and lots more), which has 1.1 million views.
When he started ramping up video production to four uploads a week, views tripled and he started gaining over 1,000 subscribers a day. Video production has become his full-time career and he's no longer working at Fresh Burger, taking his YouTube gig as seriously as any job and earning $6,000 to $8,000 a month plus sponsorships.
Kavafian visits the doctor regularly and works out for a minimum of two hours every day, including an hour and a half of weights and 30 to 60 minutes of cardio. He drinks green shakes of blended kale, spinach and water every day and eats plain chicken breast and rice on days he doesn't film.
He's so committed to uploading content on a consistent basis that if he makes a mistake or his video doesn't turn out the way he wants, he eats everything all over again, adding to an already punishing weekly calorie intake.
The channel's success hasn't just been good for Kavafian personally, it's also helped increase brand awareness for Fresh Burger, who he says many of his Toronto subscribers haven't heard of. Aside from Fresh Burger, his favourite restaurant in Toronto to order from is Descendent Pizza; he loves their Detroit-style pies.
Kavafian is planning on expanding soon with a new videographer and editor as well as streaming on Twitch and possibly starting another channel with eating challenges.
Ultimately he hopes to hire a whole team of videographers and editors and continue to branch out into other forms of vlogging content, and might even use his earnings to open up a Fresh Burger location of his own one day.
"I found success in adversity, as sad as COVID was, I found an opportunity without which this would not have happened," says Kavafian.
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