Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
When Kevin Tatar moved from his home country of Romania to the Netherlands to attend university, he was hit with a realization shared by many college students: It’s really, really dang hard to feed yourself all the time.
Living on your own can make you realize just how much food it takes to keep you going. If you’re not eating food, you’re making it. If you’re not making it, you’re buying things to make it. Or maybe you’ve just had enough and you’re getting your third Chipotle burrito bowl this week. (We’ve been there. No judgment.)
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Tatar took the whole thing as a challenge. He’d cooked a little before he left his parents’, but now he wanted to learn to make food that not only tasted good, but filled all his nutritional needs and didn’t strain his small budget. He started with the basics–things like how to boil an egg, which is now the subject of one of his most popular videos–and worked himself up to making student-friendly cheap-gourmet meals.
As a longtime YouTube viewer, Tatar had always wanted to start his own channel. But it wasn’t until he realized other people might be going through the same culinary learning curve he was. So, he started uploading cooking videos aimed at students on Instagram and TikTok. Then, in June 2022, he began uploading those same videos to YouTube Shorts.
In the past five months, he’s grown his channel to more than 2 million subscribers–and snagged himself a book deal. He recently announced his first cookbook, Tasty, Healthy, Cheap: Budget-Friendly Recipes with Exciting Flavors, will debut in May 2023 from Harvard Common Press.
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: For anybody who may not be familiar with you or your content, can you give me a little bit of background on you, where you’re from and how you got into cooking?
Kevin Tatar: Yes, absolutely. I’m Kevin Tatar, I run the channel called KWOOWK, and it’s essentially a cooking channel for people who are not that into cooking professionally. I’m not a chef at all. I’m not trained in the kitchen at all, and my mission was always to show people what they can achieve in the kitchen with minimal equipment, no big budgets, and not a lot of expertise.
I come from Romania originally, I now live in the Netherlands. I came here for my studies, through which I learned how to cook food in a certain way that fit my budget and my nutritional needs. I’ve always pretty much wanted to be a content creator, and I think this is the first time that I was like, “Okay, I have some value to bring into this space.” I just went ahead last year and I’m like, “I’m going to give myself one year to grow this YouTube channel,” and it happened, so here we are.
Tubefilter: What was the catalyst originally for you to get on YouTube and decide to commit to this one-year thing?
Kevin Tatar: Pretty much since I was a kid…I would say I had my first YouTube channel at 12 years old. It was not that good, as you can imagine. It was with a friend. I was very much immersed into the YouTube space, watching a lot of creators. YouTuber was always my dream job. It was difficult to navigate this in the beginning because no one really viewed it as a real thing, but nowadays, it has more credibility. I just had this moment in university where I was studying for an exam and I’m like, “This is not really what I want to do, and let’s just give myself some time to fully focus all my efforts onto what I want to do, see if it works, see if it’s for me.” That was my thing.
Obviously, I had a lot of support from my parents regarding that. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to explore this.
Tubefilter: What originally sparked your passion for cooking?
Kevin Tatar: My passion for cooking, I would say, when I first moved out of my parents’ place. I was 16, 17. I did cook a lot before by myself, but that’s when I fully understood how it is to cook, not just to live, but to also enjoy it. I think that was the first moment where I also was focused a bit on nutrition and eating to fill also my nutritional needs, and I found fun ways to cook healthy food.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Would you say healthy food is your niche?
Kevin Tatar: Well, “healthy,” I just want to say it can mean a lot of things. It can mean nutritionally very varied, balanced, but it can also mean healthy for the mind. Maybe I’ll have a piece of chocolate. That’s healthy for me because it makes me happy. I see also this word, I was using the word “healthy,” but I don’t love to use it, to be honest. I don’t want to put myself into the niche of healthy food because I feel it can have certain connotations. I’m just more of a exploring food. Exploring the food world is how I would categorize what I do.
Tubefilter: One of the things that I find really interesting is that you make student basics videos, which I feel are really helpful for people just learning to live on their own. What was your inspiration for that particular content?
Kevin Tatar: That’s exactly the way you said. I interact with a lot of students. My friends are students. I should be studying right now, so most of my friends are my age, so they’re students. When I go visit them, a lot of them don’t have a grasp on even the very, very basic stuff. Just the fun fact that blew my mind was that I made a video, it was about boiling eggs. It was literally cooking basics for students, how to boil an egg. I was like, “This is the most basic thing I can do.” The video just on TikTok only has close to one million saves. I’m like, “A million people saved this video?” Just thinking of the magnitude of how many students or not just students, but people were in the position that didn’t know how to do this, and now they know, at least they have a video for reference, and that’s pretty cool.
Tubefilter: That’s actually the first video I watched of yours.
Kevin Tatar: Oh, okay.
Tubefilter: Yes, because I also didn’t know how to properly boil eggs. I didn’t know that you’re supposed to use an ice bath. There are specific known times for specific hardnesses of yolk. It really is just something that you take for granted and you don’t learn.
Kevin Tatar: Exactly. To be honest, there isn’t just one method. I just find that it’s the easiest method.
Tubefilter: Your content right now, you do a lot of Shorts, but you also do some longer-form videos.
Kevin Tatar: Absolutely.
Tubefilter: Why is it important for you to do both short- and long-form?
Kevin Tatar: I really believe in Shorts, but I think my core belief still lies within long-form content being the most powerful, and the format through which I can express most of my personality and most of my creativity. Shorts are still a bit limited, and it’s a very interesting and exciting space to explore. I believe long form is basically where you establish yourself as a impactful creator, if that makes any sense. I believe in using both to reinforce each other.
I think that’s currently what I’m seeing is the most successful method for running a YouTube channel right now. YouTube is really pushing shorts, but I don’t think they’re ever going to forget about the long form videos.
Tubefilter: Do you enjoy long-form more than short-form? Or are they pretty evenly balanced?
Kevin Tatar: I think I enjoy long-form more, to be honest, because in long-form there’s the element of making the thumbnail, which I know is a widely…The idea of clickbait is widely hated in a way. I find thumbnail-making an art and a science, and I enjoy it a lot. Seeing the numbers specifically change when I change things in the thumbnail, and then using that information to then apply to my future videos, is just something that I really love. I’m a very much an analytics guy.
Tubefilter: Clearly you have people working with you on the management side, but do you have any editors working with you? Or is it just you on your channel?
Kevin Tatar: Yes, for the longest time it was just me. I basically got someone to help me on the production side because actually, that takes a long time, like setting up the cameras, the lighting, making the food, buying the food, the research, there’s so much that goes into this. I do have someone who I basically can call a producer, I guess, it’s not very official but it is someone helping me create the actual videos. Then on the editing side, I have found people and they have edited for me, but I’m still struggling to communicate the ideal way to edit like the way I would edit and communicate that to them. I’m still struggling to form that relationship, but for sure I’m pursuing it.
Tubefilter: Got you. How much time goes into, say, the average Short?
Kevin Tatar: The average Short…It’s a good question. I wouldn’t say there’s a set amount of time that is across the board applicable. Maybe the average Short, let’s say, if you give me a day, I can make a Short, with rsearch, cooking, editing. If it’s just me and the task of making a Short, I can do it in a day, in one day.
Tubefilter: Do you ever take suggestions from viewers? Where do your ideas for videos come from?
Kevin Tatar: My channel is constructed in such a way that it engages with my fans a lot, with the audience. Basically, most of my videos are a conversation with my fans. They’re like, “Do this food from the Philippines.” I then try to make the food. I even have a discord server for my biggest fans where I actually ask for specific recipes from locals. I have a lot of content that revolves around making food around the world, for example. Research is valuable, but also the stuff that you can get from a local person is much more valuable and not that accessible. Basically, yes, I engage with my fans in terms of, they literally dictate my content sometimes.
Tubefilter: That’s very cool. Obviously, your year on YouTube has paid off. Is this your full-time gig for the foreseeable future? What are your plans?
Kevin Tatar: I’m very glad to say it works out pretty well for now, and 100% I have big plans to push it even more. I can say with most certainty that this is what I want to do for the next five or 10 years. Not specifically exactly what I do right now, but content creation. I would even go as far as say on YouTube, specifically, is where I want to be in the foreseeable future.
Tubefilter: What is appealing to YouTube versus other platforms?
Kevin Tatar: I don’t know if I’d get in trouble for saying this, but I think YouTube is the only platform that properly cares about the creators enough to pay them. I made hundreds of millions of views on Instagram and TikTok and have gotten zero dollars out of it. YouTube is the only platform that seemed to care enough to establish a relationship where it opened up monetization. It just feels like a creator-forward platform.
Tubefilter: You’re not the first person I’ve spoken to who’s said that. Definitel not a rare sentiment. What is the biggest thing that YouTube and being on YouTube has changed in your life?
Kevin Tatar: Wow. Let me see. The biggest thing. I think it’s, for example, when making videos, you can get into this mental space where you make the video and then you’re very emotionally attached to the creation because you made it, you put your thoughts and efforts into it. Then it flops and then you feel bad.
That happens to me a lot, but I’m slowly getting to understand this career a bit more. It’s literally about doing it, uploading it, and moving on to the next thing. I think this mentality that didn’t come intuitively to me at first now is just like, “Okay, we make something, we make it the best we can, and then we just move on to the next thing.” Of course, there’s a lot to learn from it, but there’s no reason to dwell on it and view it as something more dramatic than it is.
Tubefilter: I feel like that’s really good advice for other creators.
Kevin Tatar: 100%, because as I said, it’s not intuitive. It very much feels like you dedicate a lot of effort into something, and then if it doesn’t do well, you feel like your value as a creator is less, which of course is not true.
Tubefilter: Yes, but hard not to feel that way.
Kevin Tatar: Exactly.
Tubefilter: I did want to ask, you committed to this one year on YouTube. Do you remember if there was a specific video or a specific moment where you were like, “Okay, this may actually pay off, this may actually become a thing?”
Kevin Tatar: Yes, I have a very specific moment. Things were working pretty well on TikTok and Instagram. I would say throughout the year, TikTok was my biggest platform, and throughout the year I felt like, “Okay, this is happening. I can do this for sure.” Because also I’m very much into the world of content creation for a long time, so I know what to do in a way, but it’s very uncertain, especially on YouTube.
YouTube was my biggest question mark, because that’s where I wanted to see the biggest growth. For the longest time I was just uploading long-form videos and saw very little growth. This was until June 2022, when I just decided, I think even maybe I talked to Arjun [Das, of Odd Projects] about this and he was like, “Just upload your Shorts. Why don’t you upload your TikTok to YouTube?”
I thought, “That’s going to kill my average duration. It’s going to mess up my channel.” I took a week off, first of all, but before I took the week off, I was like, “Let me just schedule 14 Shorts or something to be uploaded every day on YouTube.” Then I went home, I just flew back home to my country for a vacation. Literally every day I was seeing double the subscribers. It started at 10,000. First I had 25,000, then it went to 100,000. It was crazy. I could not believe it. It was literally within three to four days, I had 100K subscribers.
Tubefilter: That’s insane, wow.
Kevin Tatar: That was pretty insane. I also got to a million very fast. I can’t remember, I think a month, maybe a month since I posted the first couple of Shorts, and I was at a million and I was like, “Okay, now I have a career.”
Tubefilter: That was good advice then.
Kevin Tatar: It just happened through me uploading those Shorts. The work was already done. It was just me directing my efforts in the correct place. Maybe I don’t want to take all the credit because I could also have been fortunate with the algorithm. You never know.
Tubefilter: I feel like that’s a really common fear is people worry that shorts will dilute their long-form channel somehow.
Kevin Tatar: Yes, I thought about that a lot. Because the conversation even until a month ago was very much even the biggest creators were not very confident about it. A lot of them were switching to upload Shorts on a different channel. There was a lot of confusion. I remember meeting with YouTube Shorts representative and they were like, “Guys, keep uploading Shorts. You’ve got to upload Shorts and a long-form.” They really value the hybrid channels. Then, of course, there is the news about the Shorts getting monetized next year potentially, and I think now the confidence in shorts is a lot bigger.
Tubefilter: Got you. Yes, perfect. Do you have any other cool projects or anything that you’re looking forward to or any goals that you have for the next six months or so?
Kevin Tatar: I have one. It’s a cookbook. It’s a natural progression. I was approached by a publisher very early on, before I had any YouTube success, and they’re like, “Let’s make this, you know, healthy student cookbook.” I really like the idea, and I worked so hard on it until literally today I completed the last couple of pictures. I was writing 65 recipes and also shooting the recipes. It was a lot of work. It took some time away from my content creation, but it’s going to happen. I guess this is the announcement.
Tubefilter: That’s amazing. Congratulations.
Kevin Tatar: Thank you. Thank you for that.