Let’s face it: Zoom classes are just not as engaging as the real thing. Perhaps you text your friends when you get tired of staring at your professor in their tiny Manhattan apartment; maybe you set your background to Miami in an attempt to live out the spring break dreams that COVID-19 crushed. But Steinhardt junior Maurice Bensmihen has found a creative outlet to get through such boring times: cooking. From blueberry muffins to homemade pizza, Bensmihen has been doing it all — during his Zoom class.
“I liked cooking, and I had a Zoom class that I was bored in, but I still wanted to pay attention and listen, so I was hungry and started cooking a meal,” he said. “It was fun.”
His classmates evidently found this fun, too. Once he noticed people were actually responding to the Instagram posts, which he called “Bake n Zoom,” he made a Tik Tok account and uploaded all the videos onto the increasingly popular platform, despite being a self-proclaimed anti-Tik Tok-er. But, the most surprising part for Bensmihen was Bake n Zoom’s reception.
“I am shocked at how many people didn’t skip over my story,” he says. “There were like, every time I post, 700 to 800 people that’ll watch it. I was like, ‘woah, okay. Where did this come from?’”
Bensmihen was taken aback by the positive feedback, citing the hundreds of suggestions he received on what to cook next, and saying he owes his success to the numerous people bored in quarantine.
“I think it’s an interesting phenomenon of just having everyone doing nothing,” he said. “There are people who I’ve actually never spoken to, and I’ve followed them and they would respond to the story. So it’s funny like that. It’s an interesting way to communicate with people.”
Bensmihen lets his own cravings dictate the recipes he goes for — his current favorite dish to make is salmon.
“Most of it is what I actually eat,” he said. “I don’t really go out of my way to buy a bunch of ingredients for the story. If someone said, ‘make banana bread instead of muffins,’ I’m not really going to go out of my way to make them.”
Surprisingly, Bensmihen didn’t always consider himself to be a cook.
“If someone asked me, I’d be like ‘oh yeah I cook,’ but it wouldn’t be part of my aesthetic,” he said. “But I guess now it is.”
All cooks have their influences, and Bensmihen is no exception. His favorite cooking platform, Bon Appétit, remains an outlet he still steadily enjoys.
“I used to be a big fan of Claire [from Bon Appétit] but now I’m more of a fan of Molly,” he claims. “Molly is great. Her recipes are more like mine.”
However, the future of Bake n Zoom remains uncertain. With campus eventually reopening again, Bensmihen doesn’t know if NYU’s own Barefoot Contessa will continue.
“The whole shtick is that it’s during a Zoom class, so I don’t think I’ll keep posting them once Zoom stops,” he said. “But I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. It’s just something to keep me occupied at this moment.”
Bensmihen’s platform only seems to be growing larger with his dishes catching the eyes of many quarantined NYUers. Catch his next dish on his Instagram @mauricebensmihen and Tik Tok maurice.bensmihen.
Email Ruhaan Mutsuddi at [email protected]