By Eliana Chow
Since his teens, the kitchen has been a creative outlet for Ethan Chlebowski ’16, a way to unwind after a long day of school or work. But when he entered the consulting world at Deloitte, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the State of North Carolina under his belt, his culinary passion fell asleep for a season. His work weeks were busy with traveling and in the evenings he found himself opting for take out or frozen dinners out of sheer exhaustion.
A leap into the unknown
In 2018, Chlebowski returned to cooking and began posting educational videos on his YouTube channel in an effort to rediscover his passion for cooking. He made it his personal goal to shoot and edit a video every weekend, encouraging himself to cook more meals from scratch. “Sharing my love for cooking has become something I looked forward to every week,” he recalls. “This is what kept me going in high pressure daytime work.”
Sharing my love for cooking became something I looked forward to every week. This is what allowed me to continue in a day job at high pressure.
A year after starting the project, Chlebowski’s channel had attracted 900 subscribers and kept growing, but he was making no income. At this point, he has identified three options for the next step in his career: continue to move up through the consulting ranks, go to graduate school, or give it all up to devote himself to content creation full-time. “I opted for the third option because I thought it would bring me the greatest personal satisfaction,” he shares. By the summer of 2020, a year after quitting his job at Deloitte and starting posting two to three videos a week, Chlebowski’s audience had multiplied to 20,000 subscribers, an audience that generated a salary equivalent to a job at part-time.
Chlebowski credits his teachers in the state of North Carolina for instilling in him the willingness to take risks. In June 2020, that state of mind was put to the test when a close friend asked Chlebowski to move to California with him. Having lived with his parents since leaving Deloitte, Chlebowski was ready to go back on his own. The Pennsylvania native wasted no time embarking on a new adventure full of unknowns. It turned out that he was going to have the surprise of his life.
This July, a month after traveling across the country and looking for part-time work, Chlebowski’s YouTube follow-up swelled to 170,000 subscribers. “Almost overnight I went from paying part time and living in my parents’ house to paying full time doing something I absolutely loved,” he recalls.
Apply familiar skills in new contexts
Chlebowski’s goal for the channel is simple: to inspire more people to cook. Among other educational videos, he explains how to give healthier and more creative ideas to restaurant favorites like fried waffles and chicken sandwiches.
But, as he soon discovered, there is nothing easy about directing a one-man show. In addition to his time spent filming and editing, Chlebowski takes care of everything from web analytics and social media engagement to sponsorships and finances. Thanks to his background in accounting, he is well versed in financial decisions, with Excel spreadsheets tracing every expense, source of income and year-end total.
When it comes to good communication, it doesn’t matter whether you are a chef with an original recipe or an analyst with groundbreaking data.
On the creative side, he spends a lot of time polishing the storytelling elements of his videos, both in the screenwriting and editing processes. “When it comes to good communication, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a chef with an original recipe or an analyst with groundbreaking data,” he says. “You might have all the best information and intentions, but if you fail to engage effectively with your audience, the information generates minimal impact. “
While Chlebowski’s journey may have been unconventional, his accounting degree and consulting experience is far from wasted. “My favorite videos to make are the ones that go beyond a simple recipe,” he shares. “I posted one on the chemistry behind a perfect barbecue and another comparing the prices of pantry essentials. These projects have allowed me to tap into my love for quantifying content and developing creative ways. to share this information.
Going forward, Chlebowski plans to hire a qualified editor to handle the video portion of the job by the end of the year. This will give him free hours to start tackling three long-term goals that he hopes will grow the business: writing a cookbook, planning an online cooking class, and developing his own kitchen knife. chief. The future looks bright for this great accountant who has become a creator of culinary content.
“I have had the privilege of watching this project grow over the years, even when progress seemed slow at first,” he concludes. “I like to describe my success as the ‘compound interest’ of countless hours of hard work. Taken individually, an hour can give very little feedback. But when taken together, they add up to something beautiful.