After three days of offering carryout-only service at Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey at the beginning of the COVID-19 closure mandates, its co-owner and executive chef, Christian Gill, knew it was time to temporarily close the restaurant. But plenty of his industry peers had decided to remain open, often with a limited menu and limited hours, for takeout or delivery—and he wanted to help.
Enter Feast Mode 513, Gill’s new YouTube channel. It started as a collection of takeout reviews of restaurants he thought Cincinnati needed to know about, including Nation Kitchen & Bar, Boomtown’s Pendleton neighbor. “They’ve been killing it,” Gill says. “It’s not a large crew working in there, just two or three people [making] burgers, tacos, barbecue—accessible comfort food.”
Over the last few months, though, Gill has seen his restaurant friends and colleagues around the country posting how-to cooking demos for pandemic recipes, and they’ve encouraged him to post some, too.
Which is how Feast Mode segment “Shit in the Fridge” was born, where he makes a simple recipe using staple ingredients viewers are to likely have on-hand. One recipe, Struggle Ramen, has a base of your favorite pack o’ noodles, the stuff Gill says he lived on during college (and sometimes, College Gill didn’t even bother to cook the ramen. Mmm, crunchy). Struggleburger Helper is a fresher take of the Hamburger Helper from his youth. “You can take pretty much the same amount of time to make Struggle Burger Helper, and it’s easy,” he says.
Gill and his Feast Mode partner, David Carrero, shoot “Shit in the Fridge” on Mondays and visit a trio of restaurants on Tuesdays, where they focus on the food and the safety measures implemented in the kitchen. They spend the remainder of the week shooting voiceovers and editing video.
“When we set up in my apartment, we mask up until I have to talk,” Gill says. “[Carrero is] at a more than 6-foot distance. I sterilize my apartment on a daily basis. When we go into restaurants…there’s no interaction with any of the chefs or any of the staff.”
Boomtown opened again for carryout on May 19 with a limited menu and hours. To assure everything works as a to-go option, Gill says, he doesn’t assemble the finished dish, like the Yukon breakfast sandwich: The restaurant will pack up the biscuit, fried chicken, gravy, cheese, and bacon separately so customers can build it at home. He even switched up the biscuit recipe.
“Instead of the delicate layers of a light and hearty biscuit, we have a crispy exterior hiding a fluffy, buttery interior,” Gill wrote on Boomtown’s Facebook page. “The classic Boomtown Biscuit took a lot more heart, soul, and muscle to keep up with the demand. The Drop Biscuit is the same recipe, just a different execution.”
Though the restaurant is reopening, Gill and Carrero will continue with Feast Mode 513, which got about 10,000 total views between YouTube and Facebook during its first month, Gill says.
“[By supporting local restaurants,] you feel better about being in quarantine, and you’re contributing to the community,” he says.