Millionaires: Two men, a pot, and 15 million followers

By 03/08/2024
Millionaires: Two men, a pot, and 15 million followers

Welcome to Millionaires, where we profile creators who have recently crossed the one million follower mark on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch. There are creators crossing this threshold every week, and each of them has a story to tell about their success. Read previous installments here.


One day, Slawek Kalkraut and Krzysztof Szymanski went into the woods.

The two of them had been working at hotels for over a decade, having moved from Poland to Northern Ireland in search of work, and they needed a break from the bustle. So they went into the wilderness to do everything they both loved–camp, fish, hunt, and (most importantly) cook.

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They both agree: there’s something special about a meal cooked over a fire. The very first time they recorded themselves cooking, it was because they wanted to show family and friends what they got up to during their trips. So they took some video, some pictures, and got “lovely feedback,” Szymanski says. “We decided to continue. That’s how the whole process grow.”

The duo started posting their videos on Facebook, because “it’s 21st century,” Szymanski says, “so everything is based on a social media.” Even knowing that, he and Kalkraut weren’t expecting anything when they decided to try posting to TikTok, too.

They had no idea what was about to hit them.

“It wasn’t 20, 40 views, no, it went straight to tens of thousands,” Kalkraut says. “I think it was 500,000 and we were kind of, ‘Okay, this is working.'”

There’s a reason it was working: Kalkraut and Szymanski’s videos–posted under their shared moniker Men with the Pot–have a very distinctive style. It’s all rustic, with close-up shots of vegetable-chopping done in forests and fields, and thick hunks of meat simmered over roaring flames. There’s also a little silliness; sometimes things go spilling into the grass–which commenters are always ready and waiting to point out–and there’s an unselfconscious indulgence to a lot of their content. Why scoop sauce with a spoon when you can dunk an entire loaf of bread into it? Or, better yet, when sauce can be in the bread?

Kalkraut and Szymanski have been full-time on Men with the Pot since 2020, and in that time have grown their following to nearly 17 million people across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. (They just crossed the one million subscriber mark on YouTube, which is why we’re bringing them on here as official Millionaires.) They’ve got big plans to expand their ecommerce offerings, spend some time with audience members, and maybe, in the future, open a restaurant.

For now, though? Most days, you can still find them in the woods.

Check out our chat with them below.

 

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Hello! Very nice to speak to both of you. I have been watching your videos for quite a long time now, so I’m excited to hear your story behind the camera.

Slawek Kalkraut: Thank you very much for having us. Pleasure to meet you.

Krzysztof Szymanski: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Tubefilter: For anyone who isn’t familiar with you, tell me a little bit about your backgrounds and how you ended up deciding to go on this journey together.

Slawek Kalkraut: Basically, as you know–maybe not?–we are both Polish. We were born there. At some stage, we decided looking for a better life quality. We ended up in Northern Ireland. Not sure how that happened. I can’t really explain that, but that’s where we’re right now. We always had this passion for cooking. Also, at some stage, on one beautiful day, we decided to go outside and basically record everything we’ve been doing for a good while. It worked. Now we are here and just giving these interviews.

Krzysztof Szymanski: Like Slawek said, we used to do a lot of camping, lots of different trips, fishing, maybe even hunting–without guns. We never had the courage to record anything. The one day, we come up with a smart idea to take a shot and maybe record something with basic equipment. Here we are answering your questions a few years after.

Tubefilter: The two of you, your videos, you have a very distinctive style with your cooking. I’m curious how you came up with that style.

Slawek Kalkraut: Listen, we’re still learning. Sometimes we’re just basically doing things we want to show people that certain things can be done outdoors, over the fire, baking bread and things like that. It’s always challenging, even in the home kitchen. Imagine doing that outdoors. Everything is possible. It all depends from the approach. Sometimes we do silly stuff, but this is more basically for the attention and the comment section. Try to trigger it, and it usually works with the cheeky comments and things like that.

That’s how you build engagement. Try to spread the message that we are out there. We’re doing what we’re doing and try to share it with the world. If people want to see it, they’ll watch it. If they don’t, they’ll be hating, which is good, too. Keep on doing it. [laughs] The algorithm likes it. We’re hurting nobody. We’re just doing this for pure pleasure. Pleasure plus business. It comes in the pairs. That’s what we’re doing. We are very happy with it and enjoying still.

Tubefilter: Do the two of you start on TikTok first?

Krzysztof Szymanski: No. We didn’t know how to do it, how to approach this social media thing, because none of us is an expert. I think first social media was Facebook, when we posted a few short videos, a few pictures, and then was a TikTok, and everything blew up since.

Tubefilter: You said that you decided you were out there and you were like, “We’re going to try filming a video.” What made you decide to upload it to the internet in the first place?

Krzysztof Szymanski: It’s 21st century, so everything is based on a social media. Everybody pretty much sharing whenever they cut the bread or eat an apple. We said, “Listen, we’ve done so many trips, but we never show people or friends, family, none of the pictures or videos.” The day after, we took a few pictures and recorded some short videos. We showed them to family and friends, and it was the lovely feedback from them. We decided to continue. That’s how the whole process grow.

Tubefilter: Do you remember the first video that gained a bunch of views for you?

Slawek Kalkraut: It was TikTok. First video on TikTok, I don’t even remember. I know it was the first one, which got 300,000 views, and the reactions. It was straight like that. It wasn’t 20, 40 views, no, it went straight to tens of thousands. I think it was 500,000 and we were kind of, “Okay, this is working, so let’s just focus on that.” That’s what we did at the beginning. I think it was the main platform. Obviously, we tried to scale different platforms and things like that, more traffic and all those things. Like I’ve been saying, that we’re still learning everything and how it works. We’re still doing it.

Krzysztof Szymanski: We’re learning on mistakes, so we still have a lot of it to improve on a different thing. We’re learning every day. Each trip is something different.

 

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Tubefilter: That actually fits right into my next question, which was, how have things changed for you since your videos did start taking off? What have the two of you changed to scale your production?

Slawek Kalkraut: Thanks to Men With The Pot and everything else, we were able to leave full-time jobs, which was a main thing because at some point we were working in hotels for 12 years, and just one day, we just decided, “You know what?” Couldn’t say what I said then now, but we just finished it and focused on Men With The Pot.

Plenty things changed. We thought we would be choosing our hours, where to work, how to work it. We basically worked 24/7. It’s content addition and social media and everything else. We have commerce running too. A lot of headaches, a lot of pressure. Basically, things like that. A lot of emails, a lot of interviews.

Tubefilter: Unsurprisingly, yes. Making these kinds of videos is three full-time jobs, at least.

Slawek Kalkraut: It’s worth it. Working on hotels wasn’t worth it, but we did it for 12 years.

Krzysztof Szymanski: It wasn’t easy at the beginning when we still had a full-time job and we have a young family, kids. Sometimes we had a sleepless night, but it was worth it. I’m not sure what was driving us to do it. Even on a stormy, rainy weather, we used to stick in the forest and try to lit the fire and try to record something, cook something. The next day, that was on social media.

Tubefilter: These days, how do you come up with new recipes for things that you’re going to make together?

Slawek Kalkraut: We’re trying to find cool ways of introducing certain things into the videos. Let’s say someone says that, “Oh, you can’t do this over the fire. It’s impossible.” There we are we are stepping in, kicking the doors, and I said, “Yes, of course, we will do it, and we’ll show you exactly how to do it.” Because there’s a lot of different theories around the internet that certain things can be done, or you have this amount of time to marinate things or the dough to be proving for 40 hours. Yes, not necessarily. We are there just to prove them wrong, basically.

We love to prove people wrong. I’m being silly, but basically, we just basically put in the good quality content behind the work and try to put small things so people can comment about it. If you watch videos, you’ve seen recent videos, you always see silly stuff, but it works. It works. It drives the traffic and that’s what it’s all about. It’s about having fun.

It’s not another cooking channel where people tell you the whole life story, where they got the recipe. We just basically cut that part and we just go straight to the cooking. It meant to be delicious, meant to be quick, meant to last four or five minutes. After that, you have a lovely, delicious meal, prepared the unique way outdoors. That’s what we basically focusing on.

Tubefilter: Am I correct that the two of you just recently revealed your faces?

Slawek Kalkraut: Yes.

Krzysztof Szymanski: Yes, it happened last December, which is month ago. We’d been invited to Poland for end of culinary year, we decided, “Why not?” We accept invitation and we just joined the party and here we are speaking with you, showing our faces.

Slawek Kalkraut: Just for the record, yes, we did reveal the faces, but the style of the videos won’t change. We won’t be sticking our face in the video telling, “Hello, how are you doing?” No, we won’t be doing that. You know what I mean? Basically, it works so there is no need to change, but just we want basic people know who’s behind it and things like that. It’s good at some stage to put the face to the channel and I suppose for the– We have many plans and we have been taught that it’s a good idea to have the face behind the channel. That’s what we doing. We’re very natural, as you can see we’re speaking fluently, making no mistakes. Silly gestures. [laughs]

 

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Tubefilter: Your videos do have such a distinct style. It’s very interesting how strong the style is in your videos. I can see how that’s been a very big draw.

Slawek Kalkraut: We’re basically doing what we like. I know some of the certain things we do in the video are inappropriate. Many people accuse us of wasting food and things like that, we can assure you that nothing is wasted. It’s just basically made for the purpose. The purpose of it is that you enjoy the video. Making certain things you wouldn’t do in a kitchen, but we are doing it over there. Like cutting the garlic, half of the garlic is cut off and people think that goes in the bin. It’ll always end up in the recipe or I think different styles of cutting onions and things like that. It’s silly. I know it’s silly, but whenever you’re watching it, you feel, you fall into it.

Tubefilter: It’s memorable. It tells me a lot about the two of you. I think it’s comforting when creators are a little silly. Being too serious can be intimidating.

Krzysztof Szymanski: There’s no point taking things too serious. You need some comedy inside and some sarcasm, so something completely different. You can’t be too serious about it.

Tubefilter: How long does the average video take you now? From start to finish, so you come up with the idea, and then you upload it. How long is that process?

Slawek Kalkraut: The cooking part takes a lot because we only using one camera. You might think there is cameras in each corner around the fire, but there’s just one camera and so it always takes time. The recording, it takes– now, we’re trying to be quick, because the weather is bad and day is short, so four or five hours, but with editing and putting everything together, I suppose around eight hours. If there is good weather and the day is longer, we can create more complex meals. By complex, I mean maybe slow-cooked beef or things like that. That always takes time. That’s what we’re doing.

Tubefilter: Got you. Then you mentioned earlier that you’re looking to expand this business as a whole. I’m curious if you have any projects that you’re up to outside of making videos as part of this whole brand. You said you have ecommerce going on. I’m just curious if you have any other plans or goals or things that you’re working on for this.

Slawek Kalkraut: The goals and plans might sound silly, but we do have a few things we’d love to have. One and current I think is just to move out here from Northern Ireland, a little bit, because we are both fed up with the weather and now the whole families are productive. That would be lovely to start looking somewhere else, but this is we’ll see how it goes.

When it comes to Men With The Pot, the goals I suppose like Krzys was saying earlier, is that we were thinking of having few houses in Poland and like a small…call it “village,” four or five houses where we can spend time together with all the people who are enjoying what we’re doing and have few beverages and things like that. Basically try to enjoy it. Enjoy, forget about phones and things like that and just basically going back to the nature but basically enjoyment. Restaurant, maybe one day. Of course, we won’t be working there. I don’t know.

Slawek Kalkraut: We’ll sign you up to that. It will be like two step back. Yes, restaurants with our kind of signature dishes, it would be very cool thing to have. I suppose, listen, this year, I know this 2024 is going to be crazy, thanks to Viral Nation. I know it’s going to be crazy and there’s a lot of doors might be open, so we’ll see. I’m very excited for it. We both are.

Tubefilter: I meant to ask this earlier, but I’d like to circle back and ask how you both became so passionate about cooking in the wild.

Krzysztof Szymanski: It was the combination of two different passions. Spending time with nature and cooking. During our camping, we used to have always some kind of food with us. It was like a basic food, nothing really special. Something you can pack to your backpack, but there was never courage to record it because maybe we were slightly afraid of criticisms from different people. One day, we said just like, “Listen, take some device so we can record, take a few pictures or record a short video.” This is who we are.

Slawek Kalkraut: I can also say that we, like I mentioned before, we’d been working in hotels for 12 years. We were fed up with this. At the end of our journey there, we really were thinking of doing something just to get out. Somehow this came handy that cooking outdoors is a good idea. We do that for a year. It was hard. It was hard, but then we realized, “Okay, it’s working,” when we introduced knives and everything. Then we start earning first money, so it was, “Okay, it is really working now.”

We understood, based on our example that this is possible, because we’ve never had friends who do the same thing and said, “Listen, it will work at some stage.” Basically, we did realize, “Okay, it’s working, we have to proceed this dream, this passion further,” and that’s how it started. Imagine sitting in a hotel and earning money or being outdoors and cooking delicious meal and earning money. What would you choose? I would definitely go for the second option because then you end up being your own boss.

Sounds silly, but yes, it’s a cool way of approaching life. When you’re basically living it through your passion and you still can pay bills and things like that. I know there’s many people out there who are really battling themselves with their full time jobs, and they have some passions. I would just say go for it. Go for it and if you won’t try it, you will never realize or find out how that may end, that journey.

Krzysztof Szymanski: Don’t discourage yourself at the beginning, because it’s not easy. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot, but it’s worth it at the end. If you have any passion, just follow it, it’ll pay off. It’ll pay off, so follow it. Keep training.

Tubefilter: For the two of you, what has been your favorite part of this whole being online journey?

Krzysztof Szymanski: It’s a very good question. What’s the favorite part? It’s very rewarding, reading comments, positive comments from around the world. Like I mentioned earlier on, we have the fans around the world, which is incredible. We’re here based in Ireland, you can read messages from across the ocean. From Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Poland, Europe, Australia, absolutely everywhere. It’s mind blowing, United States. It’s incredible and it’s very motivated. That’s incredible for me.

Slawek Kalkraut: I suppose other people telling you that you’re doing a good job, or they’re enjoying the videos. That’s really rewarding. Especially when you speak with someone face to face, and they tell you, “Okay, really great job. I really enjoyed your content.” Especially people who are really doing this type of stuff and you hear their compliments, it’s good to hear it because I think we just not maybe got used to it, or we don’t see the way other people are seeing it. Because like we mentioned, we are hiding behind the rock or under the rock here in Northern Ireland.

Things are slightly different for us. Yes, it’s good to see that people enjoying the content and that’s always a good thing.

Tubefilter: For each of you, what’s your favorite recipe that you’ve made for the channel?

Krzysztof Szymanski: Oh, that’s a good question. I think bread is good, but if I could put one dish in the front of anything else that will be, every single dish created outdoors tastes completely different and much, much better than indoor. At this point I would say every single dish is delicious. Cook it outside.

Slawek Kalkraut: No, I say bread. Definitely bread. Bread is a different level. Especially with cumin, it’s mindblowing. That’s all you need. I think everything is different outside cook over open fire. Funny thing we did try to recreate some of the recipes at home, make for our wives and things like that. Doesn’t compare even a bit, to be honest. It’s a unique flavor.

Krzysztof Szymanski: There’s something magical whenever you sit in the front of fire and try to create something from the scratch and after 4, 5, 6 hours of cooking making it, you can actually taste it. It’s incredible and incredible it’s very addictive.

 

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Tubefilter: More people should go outside and cook outside, is what you’re saying?

Krzysztof Szymanski: Oh, without shadow of doubt. It’s 21st century. We are all stressed. We are all fed up, we’re all running after something, bills, family problems. Yes, I think we should spend more time in the nature enjoying ourselves, not necessarily cooking, but take a flask with coffee, go with a friend, member of a family, whoever and spend 10, 15 minutes without any device in the nature. Just relax.

Slawek Kalkraut: Now we’ll be paying for all the fire started in the US because we told people to go out and cook. I didn’t say it!

Tubefilter: [laughs] Plausible deniability. Is there anything else that you would want people to know about you?

Krzysztof Szymanski: If I could say something, maybe not just about me, but just thank you very much to all of you who’s watching our videos. It means a lot for us. Thank you so much.

Slawek Kalkraut: Oh, come on, Krzys. Don’t be like that. [laughs] No, keep on watching the channel basically. We creating that for you guys and thank you for the reward. What your comments are, that’s the reward for us. Similar to that following that trap what Krzys created. We are not interesting people, just normal guys.

Tubefilter: Hey now. I don’t think that’s true.

Slawek Kalkraut: Let’s see the comment section. [laughs]

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