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UCLA

Not Your Average Dish

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By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Oct 1, 2012 8:00 AM


art

Sara O’Donnell shows off her favorite mega-spinach recipe, Green Chili Egg Casserole. Find it at her blog.

Sara O’Donnell ’99 has a degree in art history, but don’t expect to find her painting in a Paris loft. Most likely, she’s whipping up tasty creations in her kitchen in Tarzana, Calif., interviewing celebrity chefs at culinary events, or reporting on the latest food trend on her video show and blog, AverageBetty.com.

Average Betty “is slang for the word ‘gal,’ ” she explains on her website. “I’m Average Betty. I’m not a diva, I’m not a chef, and I’m certainly not a guru. I’m just an average betty that loves food, wine, art and music.”

O’Donnell began the blog in 2006, blending parody and physical shtick with rapid-fire cooking instructions and pushing the food-preparation envelope with segments like “Burrito 911” and the March Madness-themed “Big Dance BB Q Pizza.” It was a recipe for success: In 2007, she won the Yahoo! Video Award for best Internet personality. Four years later, her quirky alter ego helped her earn a coveted spot in the first YouTube Next Chef program.

“That was really awesome,” O’Donnell says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this isn’t like some cutthroat online cooking competition where I have to get a bunch of people to vote for me.’ It’s more of a grant and an application process. Almost like getting a master’s degree in YouTube.”

With a guaranteed $10,000 in ad revenue and $5,000 in camera equipment, the Florida native and 14 other chefs from around the world spent several weeks learning to master video production and on-camera presentation via online tutorials taught by industry experts. Using her newly acquired Web savvy, O’Donnell, a virtual one-woman operation, produces about two videos a week — the props and zaniness are gone, but the levity remains — and gets up to 75,000 to 100,000 monthly views on YouTube. Her Next Chef skills also come in handy for another online gig: demonstrating potato recipes for the Idaho Potato Commission.

While O’Donnell has high hopes for the future — more work with food boards, books, merchandise and an expansion of the “Average Betty” brand beyond food — she points out that she didn’t hop on the blog bandwagon for 15 minutes of fame. “I set out to do this to make [people] aware that cooking at home is something that needs to be done more often,” she says.

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