How two friends cooking in an Irish forest went viral on TikTok

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For people who are tragically online, there were three main lifelines during the pandemic: food, cottagecore, and thirst traps.

Whether it’s baking bread, drooling over Connell’s chain in Normal people or suddenly deciding that it was financially possible to buy fresh flowers once a week, we had all our means to get by.

But for those same tragically online people, there was thankfully an account that combined all three into one quaint online site: Men With the Pot.

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What started out as an Instagram and YouTube account reached huge popularity once it landed on TikTok. Their videos are an ingenious combination of creamy dishes, bucolic landscapes, quick transitions, ASMR cutting board and more than a few visual nods.

It didn’t take long for TikTok users creating relaxing and sultry cooking reaction reaction videos to almost become its own content subgenre. With nearly nine million subscribers on TikTok and Lizzo’s reactions among their glories, it’s safe to say that Men With the Pot is its own lonely, leafy corner of the internet.

So it came as a surprise to all of us when it turned out that the mega viral TikTok account (and de facto the internet’s boyfriend of the woods) turned out to be filmed in Northern Ireland.

Where, you might ask? “I’d rather keep it a secret to you,” Slawek Kalkraut, half of the pair behind the account, tells me, and it’s arguably one of their most accidentally beneficial strategies: if you don’t know where the hunk , the forest, “the man in the woods” is full of resources, it could be all over.

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In fact, the Men With the Pot – Kalkraut and Krzysztof Szymanski – are actually two Polish friends who have lived in Northern Ireland for 15 years. They’re filming their videos, with the kitchen Slawek and Krzysztof behind the camera, in a remote location “near the Fermanagh border”, but if you’re thinking of uprooting yourself, think again.

“It’s not really accessible to get there,” he says. “You must have a four by four.”

Getting to this point was quite a similar task for the friends as well. Both worked for 12 years in the hospitality industry, Slawek as a night manager and Krzysztof as a butler, taking care of others and figurative worlds away from the serenity of lush nature for which they were famous. .

“It wasn’t a bad job, I can’t really say that,” Slawek says. “I spent a third of my life working there, I made friends. But we had to do something because it got to the point where we were fed up with everything.”

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Once the idea for Men With the Pot came to him, it took “three minutes” to work on it. “I was cooking something in the kitchen and all of a sudden I saw a video and I was like, ‘Okay, why can’t we do this?'”

And so began their journey to something simpler, more fulfilling, just before the world was immersed in the same thing, out of necessity, if not choice. “I would finish eight in the morning and go home, change my clothes and go into the forest,” Slawek says. “We did it for a year before anything actually happened.”

That year, the friends came up with the formula that cracks the followers: ASMR of chopping vegetables; shots that make the most of the lush landscape; a bit of sneaky bushcraft, making utensils from branches, building pasta dryers, washing ingredients in a stream; and some really awesome knife skills.

They shared a range of recipes that one would think impossible to cook outdoors: creamy pasta, homemade honeycomb dessert pancakes, “forest donuts”, bread. It doesn’t get any more surreal than watching a perfect loaf of bread roll out of a frying pan sprinkled with charcoal in the forest, when most of us fail to raise the dough in our kitchens.

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So why does it work so well? Slawek may have a guess, “I think it’s because you show that everything is done in 60 seconds, that the ASMR cuts ingredients, nature and everything that comes together. It sort of gives that unique experience, which is hard to explain.

“If you ask me for the recipe for success, I won’t tell you because I don’t know. There is no recipe for it.”

Ask the TikTok comments section of their videos, however, and there’s a very different answer: the videos are sexy.

Slawek knows this and mocks me sadly for mentioning it. “It wasn’t our intention, let’s put it that way, but that’s how people find it.” But he knows where it potentially came from: the fateful rainbow chicken dish.

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Posted on August 12, 2020, the Vegetable Stuffed Chicken video – which now has over 40 million views – features a slow zoom of an oiled chicken breast rubbing and frankly that’s all the internet has got. need. “The dead chicken gets more love than me,” one comment read, “why you have to zoom in on the chicken like that, I already feel lonely” reads another.

Before the end of the month, “the man in the woods” was the song of the month.

“It just came out the way it came out, and we were really fighting to release it or not. And we did,” he says. Now, “when they see chicken they know it’s going to be something sexual or something,” he laughs.

That sultry note extends to the way Slawek handles his knife – deftly and with obvious prowess – which the pair are now selling and which has its own charming story:

“I have a little shed at home. I had the angle grinder. I had blades from the old saw, and I was like, okay, you know what? I’m gonna make my own knife. And I went to the hangar and designed something, made the handle and put it all together, and there was a knife.

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Not much, suddenly, Something.

For Slawek, there is definitely one aspect to getting the most out of now in this job, having come to realize his life and how he was spending it, which many of us can relate to after the pandemic.

“If I knew I wanted to do this after I finished school or before I went to a hotel and stayed there for 12 years, I would be a wiser man. I would be in a different place right now. I think it comes over time, you get mature over the years. “

He remembers the moment he knew he had to make a change: “It was four in the morning, and I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here? Why am I here? I am losing my life. I don’t want to do this. I don’t like this job. I don’t like these people I see every day ”.

“The biggest slap in the face was that everywhere you worked on Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, people walked past reception saying ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.’ And you were like, ‘How am I. -I supposed to enjoy it my family is at home “.

“It was my choice. I don’t blame anyone else. I just blame myself. I was a little depressed at the time, and I imagined my son asking at school. ‘Okay, where? does your father work? ‘ ‘He works at the hotel,’ “he recalls. “No job is embarrassing,” he stresses, “but for me at the time, it was not right.”

With this mentality, the Men With the Pot fully intend to take advantage of this surreal and unexpected fame. The couple plan to buy land in Poland where they will build three luxury homes that guests can rent out to get a taste of Men With the Pot’s life: beautiful scenery, peace and great food. cooked outdoors. They also have a cookbook coming in May 2022, as well as new knives coming to their online store.

“It’s our five minutes, isn’t it?” So we want to create as much as possible. “



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