Thousands of people have watched Bonita Hussey cook up grub in the kitchen of her home in Spaniard’s Bay.
Don’t be alarmed by this, as it’s not an invasion of privacy. Hussey, who is originally from Upper Island Cove, has been sharing cooking videos online for almost five years, and over that time she’s developed a dedicated following.
Bonita’s Kitchen posts one video a week to YouTube, typically focusing on a traditional Newfoundland dish. The idea of sharing cooking videos started as a way to help her sons who were living away from home and interest in baking white bread.
“I’ve always had a passion for it,” said Hussey, who worked at a bakery in her early 20s but has otherwise not been involved professionally in the food industry. “The reason for starting my online program, we were just making videos for my sons to watch, because they live in Alberta and they wanted to know how to make bread and other things. When we put the videos up, my oldest son, he said, ‘You’re getting a lot of views on these videos. Why don’t I start a channel?’”
The Bonita’s Kitchen YouTube channel now has over 170 videos on it, covering everything from fish cakes and Jiggs dinner to blueberry duff and cabbage soup —basically, she has videos for just about any Newfoundland dish you can fathom.
Combined, those videos have received over 820,000 views. The most popular of those, which goes over how to make pickled eggs and pickled wieners, has amassed over 76,000 views. Her YouTube channel has over 7,400 subscribers. She posts full recipes for these dishes online at bonitaskitchen.com.
“Now it’s like, wow, there’s a lot of subscribers,” said Hussey, who lived up north for close to 30 years before she and her husband retired and decided to move back to Conception Bay North in 2014.
Her husband Raymond shoots, edits and uploads the videos, which range in length from about three minutes to 30 depending on the recipe. There are no single-cut videos of Hussey cooking a full dish from start to finish, as she herself admits people probably don’t want to see her washing dishes in between tackling certain steps.
Hussey considers her videos to be a teaching tool for people interested in the step-by-step process for making different dishes. If someone trying out a recipe encounters problems along the way, she’s always happy to respond to messages to help people get on the right path.
As to why her cooking videos have gained so much attention, Hussey believes it’s the result of interest shown by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians all over the world, as well as people from other cultures curious about the province’s cuisine.
“They go in looking for a specific recipe like you would, and because we’ve also got a website, we’re very accessible,” she said. “A lot of people are homesick out there.”
While some recipes are her own, Hussey also tries out recipes she discovers elsewhere, and she’s also eager to find forgotten dishes from years past that are now perhaps less common today. Tackling these sorts of dishes can be difficult, as she’s finding older generations did not always write down the ingredients for meals. These days, she regularly encourages people to write down their recipes if they have a special attachment to particular dishes.
“I’ve actually asked quite a number of elders within our district and onward, do they have any old recipes that they did,” she said. “Oddly, not a lot of people wrote down their recipes. They just memorized it — a pinch of this and a pinch of that.”
Hussey admits she often gets asked if she’s worried about running out of dishes to try out, but says it’s not a concern for her.
“I get people requesting things as well, and even though my channel says it’s traditional Newfoundland recipes, I’m getting into traditional and non-traditional.”
As for her personal favourites when it comes to Newfoundland cooking, Hussey enjoys making casserole dishes, seafood chowder and cod au gratin.
“Those one-dish meals, they’re winners,” she said. “If I’m there cooking for me and my husband, it’s like, ‘Well, let’s just put together that seven-layer dinner and instead of adding in sausage, let’s put in something different. Maybe chicken or pork.’ That’s my favourite.”
Beyond her online activity, Hussey would eventually like to share her videos on the local community cable channel to reach people who make less use of online resources for cooking.