On this week’s episode, I have from the Youtube channel “Tasting History”, Max Miller. Tune in as we about the origins of what made him start this channel as well as his New York Times best-selling cookbook “Tasting History: Explore the Past through 4,000 Years of Recipes (A Cookbook).” We also dive into the complications of trying to be successful on all forms of social media.

Show Notes

Max Miller on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tastinghistorywithmaxmiller/

Max Miller on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@tastinghistory

Max Miller on YouTube:  @TastingHistory 

Michael’s Online Screenwriting Course – https://michaeljamin.com/course

Free Screenwriting Lesson – https://michaeljamin.com/free

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Autogenerated Transcript

Max Miller:
A lot of people are like, this feels like an old PBS show. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It’s classier. Yeah,

Max Miller:
It is classier. And so I’m like, I don’t think the thumbnail where I’m on there going, would, you’re not going to, because the video is not going to deliver on that. That’s not what the video is. And so then it is clickbait, and I hate that

Michael Jamin:
You’re listening to, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. I’m talking about creativity, I’m talking about writing, and I’m talking about reinventing yourself through the arts.
Hey everyone, it’s Michael Jamin. Welcome back to another episode of, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Well, today I’m talking about as always, people who are doing creative things who have invented themselves creatively. And so my next guest has done just that. He’s tasting history with Max Miller. He is the host, and tasting history is a really interesting channel. Well, actually I’ll get to it, but he’s got 2 million subscribers, which is gigantic on YouTube. So Max, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me.

Max Miller:
Thank you for having me. Excited.

Michael Jamin:
I am so inspired by what you’re doing. So basically your show, for those who don’t know, it’s a cooking show, but it’s also, he talks about it’s historical cooking, so what they made in ancient Greece or whatever, or what prisoners ate, whatever. And so it’s also, it’s cooking, but it’s also educational, which I find it’s such an interesting little niche you have, and yet it’s blown up.

Max Miller:
Yeah, it’s crazy. I actually always say I have a history show where I cook because it’s really to focus more on the history than anything else. Well, tell me, how

Michael Jamin:
Did this all start?

Max Miller:
It started, well, it kind of started with a great British bakeoff. When that show first came out, actually before it even came out here in the us, I got obsessed with it and started baking everything that they had on it, and that’s really how I learned how to bake. But they would always talk about the history of the dishes that they were baking. They don’t do that anymore. And so I would bring my baked goods into work. I was working at Disney, the movie studio at the time, and I would bring in the baked goods and tell all of my coworkers a little bit about the history. And then one of my coworkers was like, you know what? Go tell someone else. These little anecdotes, put it up on YouTube, find an audience. And so that’s what I did. Wait, were you

Michael Jamin:
Trying to pitch it to Disney? Is that why?

Max Miller:
No, no. It was more that I just needed something creative to do my job at Disney. I loved it, but it wasn’t super creative, at least not my creative thing. I was creating stuff for other people.

Michael Jamin:
What were you doing then at Disney?

Max Miller:
I had been working in marketing, so I had worked on the trailers and stuff like that. And then in the months before the pandemic, really, I was working in sales, selling our movies to the theaters, which was actually a lot of fun and challenging, but not super creative in the way that I like to be.

Michael Jamin:
But tell me, so you’re not familiar, you moved to LA for what reason then

Max Miller:
To do voiceover

Michael Jamin:
To be a voiceover actor?

Max Miller:
Yeah, I had been in New York doing musical theater for eight years, and New York is exhausting. And I decided, you know what? I need a slower pace of life. So I moved out here and I had a few friends out here and I wanted to do voiceover. I was always much more comfortable behind a mic than I was on stage or in front of a camera. And so I was like, okay, animation, that’s the way to go. And so I did that for a little while. Did you

Michael Jamin:
Have much success at it?

Max Miller:
It’s funny you ask. So in animation, no. I did a few little things and in commercial, couple little things, but where I ended up getting a lot of work was in audio books because I have the voice of, especially then of a 16-year-old boy. And so I was doing a lot of YA audio books. Interesting.

Michael Jamin:
See, this is so interesting. Okay, so you were an actor trying to get even more acting gigs and you must have become alright. It’s good that you made some money doing voiceover for books, but it doesn’t sound like you were as accomplished as you wanted to be. Is that right?

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, I mean, I always had to be working at a restaurant or I started temping at Disney, and then that just turned into a full-time job. But yeah, I never made a full living for more than six months at a time. I always had to call back.

Michael Jamin:
So you were, as I talk about this a lot, actors and writers the same thing. Help me get in the door, help me do the, everyone’s always begging for an opportunity. Get me in, please let me, and then I guess at some point you just decided, I’m tired of asking. I’m just going to do something that I want to do. And this is what happens when you put energy into something, you created your own little thing and you blew up.

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, I mean that’s the amazing thing about YouTube and TikTok and Instagram. You couldn’t do this 15, 20 years ago, or at least you could do it. It was just nobody would have a place to watch you do it. Now, it’s not easy, but it’s available. It’s an option.

Michael Jamin:
From what I see your show, everyone should again check it out. Tasting history with Max Miller, it seems like it’s really well produced and it seems like this is a TV show, but it’s free on the internet. That’s what I see when I look at it.

Max Miller:
Well, thank you. All I notice is, oh, my lighting this week was terrible or, oh God, there’s a typo on the screen. I only notice all the mistakes that I make. But

Michael Jamin:
Do you shoot this? It’s in chat in the kitchen. Is the kitchen in your house?

Max Miller:
Yep.

Michael Jamin:
It’s your kitchen and it’s lit. Do you have a team helping you or you doing this all your own on your own?

Max Miller:
It’s all me. You

Michael Jamin:
Have no one helping you.

Max Miller:
I don’t want to say no one helps me because my husband does the subtitles and he reads all the scripts beforehand to make sure that it’s coherent, because once in a while I’ll say something and he’s like, what is this? And I’m like, everyone knows what that is. And he’s like, no, everyone doesn’t. So then I fix up. What about

Michael Jamin:
Editing and stuff?

Max Miller:
So I just in the last couple months brought on someone to help me with some of the editing. I still end up doing all the images and a lot of that, but she’s fantastic and has cut down the major part of the editing for me because that was, I mean, I would spend 15 hours, 12 to 15 hours each episode just editing. And now it’s maybe four. A

Michael Jamin:
Lot of that. Now you use a lot of time, I imagine, to research and to prep and to practice these recipes you’re doing. Is that right?

Max Miller:
Yeah, research is definitely the most intensive part. It’s also my favorite part though. It’s probably depending on the episode, anywhere from 12 to 20 hours of research and then kind of crafting the script.

Michael Jamin:
So this is your full-time job now? This is how you make your living?

Max Miller:
Yes.

Michael Jamin:
Fantastic. It’s

Max Miller:
More hours than I’ve ever worked in my life,

Michael Jamin:
But I mean, you’re great at it. You’re great on camera. The content is very interesting, very engaging. Sometimes you take it in the field, which is a great write off. It’s an excuse to get out of the house and shoot something on the field, which is great. Exactly. Have other opportunities come from this unexpected opportunities maybe?

Max Miller:
Yes, absolutely. One I’m not actually allowed to talk about, but it’ll be something on the standard actual television, so that’s exciting. And then the other is I wrote a cookbook, and that has done immensely well. It was on the New York Times bestseller list, which was something I never really expected that I would be on.

Michael Jamin:
Did they reach out to you? Did a publisher reach out to you or did you

Max Miller:
Yeah, they reached out to me shortly after I started the channel. Actually, I think it was about six months in. It was somebody who had watched my Garam episode and said, we would love to do this as a book. And it ended up being kind of rough because she was super excited about the project and she knew the channel, and then she got laid off. So I got transferred to another editor who has been absolutely great, but he didn’t really know what to do with me. He did cookbooks. And I was like, well, this is a history book with recipes in it. And he’s like, okay. So it took a little time to kind of figure out exactly what we were doing, but it ended up working out. But

Michael Jamin:
This is interesting because most people will approach a publisher, please, I got a book by my, but when you build it yourself, it’s the other way around, and it’s just so much make them come to you, and it’s because you put the work in first. And how big was your channel when they first reached out to you?

Max Miller:
Not huge. Maybe in the 200 to 250,000 subscriber, which is actually really big, but not where I am now.

Michael Jamin:
What was the first video that you blew up on? What was that?

Max Miller:
Rum? So I started the channel the last week of February, and this was, I think the third week of June. That’s fast. It wasn’t that long after starting. It was because it was covid and nobody had anything to do, but watch YouTube videos. I had been getting a few thousand views on my videos, which I thought was stellar. This really wasn’t supposed to be a thing. And then within a week it was at almost a million views, and I had jumped from 10,000 subscribers to 150,000 in a week.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. Wow. Now, I guess you can’t talk about, obviously you can’t this project, this network project, but what about acting opportunities and I mean, you’re a face now, you’re this guy, people know.

Max Miller:
Yeah, I mean, when it comes to acting opportunities, everything right now is acting myself. And I’m sure that if I went out and auditioned, maybe I could get something, but I don’t have time.

Michael Jamin:
Time.

Max Miller:
This is what it is. And really at this point, if I did something acting wise, I’d probably want to go back to musical theater, which was my first love and do some shows. But wow,

Michael Jamin:
I wouldn’t roll that out. I mean, you keep on building your audience and I certainly would not roll that out. I mean, what is fame? Are you getting recognized now or what’s it like for you?

Max Miller:
I am. I actually just got recognized at Costco today. Really? Yeah. It’s funny. I get recognized very seldom here in Los Angeles because I think everyone sees people out all the time. But whenever I go anywhere else, I always get, which is pretty awesome. Even in Greece, really? In Greece, I recognized every day in Greece by people who watched this one video when I did this Spartan blood broth video. Everyone in Greece, I swear, has seen that video. So that’s how they all knew me. I wonder if it’s awesome.

Michael Jamin:
I wonder if fame for people like you is different than movie actors or TV actors in the sense that you’re this friend that they watch on the Or what do you think

Max Miller:
It is more of that? I mean, I don’t know what it’s like for Beyonce, but I know for me, I do get a lot of people who it is, we already have a relationship and that we’re good friends because we hang out for 20 minutes every Tuesday.

Michael Jamin:
But not only that, they’re probably looking you on their phone, which is this, it’s not even the TV mean to me that famous is such an interesting thing. I worked with obviously a lot of actors, but they create, when you’re an actor, it’s the character that they know. And sometimes they have a hard time differentiating between you and the villain that you play. It’s like, that’s not me. But with you, it’s different. I think it must be very different. You’re a friend, I think, right?

Max Miller:
And I mean, in the show, that’s me. I’m not playing character at all. It’s just this is how I am. And so it does create a bond. I guess you do get to know. It is so much more about the creator. There are other people who have maybe started to kind of do what I do or that were already kind of doing what I do slightly differently. I’m not the first person to cook historical food by any means, but I’m me doing it and they are them doing it. And so it will always be different. People are like, oh, they’re coming for you. No, there’s so much room for everyone because everyone is an individual. And b, Dylan Hollis approaches historic food in a very different way. I don’t know if you know him, but he’s on TikTok. He’s huge. He’s fantastic. He has a great cookbook out, but his personality is his personality, and mine is mine. And even if we covered the exact same topic, it would be done in such a different way.

Michael Jamin:
Was there ever any imposter syndrome on your end? I didn’t go to culinary school. I’m not a this or that

Max Miller:
Every day. I mean, the fact that I have a cookbook out is insane. Yeah, no, there is both on the cooking end of things and the history end of things, because I’m not a trained historian either, really. The show is just me reading things that I thought were interesting and me fumbling my way through the kitchen until I come up with something that I think was what the recipe was trying to get at.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, a lot of times these recipes as I look at ’em, they just say what the ingredients are. They don’t say the proportions. They certainly don’t say the temperature was cooked at if it was cooked in middle Ages. And so you’re just going by what you think it should be.

Max Miller:
Yeah. They’re all vague sometimes to the degree of, you can’t even tell if this is a bread or a soup, kind of vague. But with context clues, you can’t just read the recipe. You have to read other things usually in the cookbooks or other cookbooks from the time. And then leaning on other historians and scholars who have done work for years and years, you’re kind of able to make an educated guess on a lot of things. But that’s all it’s ever going to be.

Michael Jamin:
But can you tell me how food dishes have changed over the centuries? Are we using way more sugar now or something?

Max Miller:
Oh yeah. Yeah. And I mean, partly because our pallets have just changed in a way, at least here in the United States, but also because it’s so much cheaper. In the Middle Ages, they loved sugar, but it was being grown in Indonesia or India, and so it had to come a long way. And then it had to be refined to become white sugar, which was an incredibly lengthy process and incredibly expensive and really only done in one or two places in the world. So a little bit of sugar was like it was buying a Lamborghini and showing off your wealth. So most people didn’t get it. Whereas then you get to the 18th century and all the poor people are putting sugar in their tea. Oh, really? And so the rich people were like, we don’t want that in our food anymore. We’re going to go with fresh ingredients instead.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, really? Really? Yeah. How interesting. And then that’s another thing, processed food is so relatively new and obviously, was there any kind of version of processed food historically before modern age?

Max Miller:
I guess it depends on what you mean by processed.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. Something that was, I don’t know. What does it mean to be processed?

Max Miller:
If you take corn and make it into cornmeal and mix Alize it, which is a laborious process that needs lie, and you’re boiling it and then grinding it in a certain way, the Aztecs did that. So it’s been done and far before them thousands of years. So that’s a process. Making sugar into white sugar is a lengthy process, but that’s been done for hundreds of years. Well, no, thousands of years. So is it a Stouffer’s microwave meal? No, but we have had processed food for forever. It’s just a different process.

Michael Jamin:
What do you think when you cook it? I imagine the biggest problem, this is why a cooking show will never work. This is why I’m an executive. No, this is why it’ll never work, is because people can’t taste it. And yet obviously it does work. And so how do you get over that hurdle when you’re done with a dish?

Max Miller:
I mean, I think honestly, visually, people aren’t able to kind of feel like they know what something tastes like just by knowing all the ingredients that are in it and then seeing it visually, whether that is correct or not to say, but that doesn’t mean that the enjoyment isn’t still there. And then I taste it at the end of the episode, and I try my best to describe it, but my descriptions skills are not the best, especially on the fly, because usually when I’m tasting something on camera, it is the first time that I’ve ever tasted it. I only make the recipes once. So unless something goes horribly wrong, it’s the first time that I’ve tasted it. And so right then coming up with words of how to describe it, I’m not the best. It’s something I’m working on, but it doesn’t seem to harm things.

Michael Jamin:
But I’m a little surprised when you say it’s you alone in the kitchen. You have a couple of cameras, you turn ’em on, you hope they’re in focus, and you run in front of the camera. I’m surprised you don’t have a director, I don’t know, giving you, helping you more joy on your face or something.

Max Miller:
So it’s funny you say that. Every Jose, my husband focuses the camera right before I shoot to make sure I’m in focus, because so many times I’ve filmed an entire thing and I’m not, so he focuses the camera hits record and then says high energy, and then leaves the room. And so that’s the direction that I get at the beginning, high energy. And often in my script, I will write in more energy, more energy, just because you do need a lot of energy on camera to come through. You

Michael Jamin:
Do. People don’t realize that

Max Miller:
When you’re really just being yourself on camera, it comes across as super flat.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s a heightened version of

Max Miller:
Yourself, have to remind myself.

Michael Jamin:
Right. And so actually, I had a lot of thoughts about that, but I wonder if this is an opportunity for you to do even, I don’t know, like a live show, I don’t know, cooking. I don’t know. Is there something like that that you’re thinking about exploring or

Max Miller:
So yeah, I actually have thought about doing live shows simply because one of my favorite things to do is meet people who watch the show. It’s a very insular kind of life. I work alone. I do everything pretty much all at home alone. So meeting people who watch the show has been really exciting. And on book tour, I got to do that really for the first time. And so I think doing a live thing where I cook and talk about the history would be great. The only thing is I am a really messy and slow cook. I’m not Julia Child who used to do it all live every week. I couldn’t do that. So

Michael Jamin:
You have two versions. You got the messy version. And oh, by the way, I did this earlier. Here’s the real version. I mean, I think people would know that would be kind. You know what I’m saying? They don’t understand.

Max Miller:
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know.

Michael Jamin:
You don’t know. Is it hard for you when you watch your video, I guess when you’re editing, you watch everything, but now that you’re not editing it, what’s it like for you even watching yourself

Max Miller:
Really once it’s out,
I never watch ’em again. And it’s not necessarily that I find it hard to watch myself. What I find hard is when I do go back and watch older videos, it pains me to see, I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but it pains me that I was ever not where I am now. And that comes with the technical aspects, the lighting, the sound, all of that. But really more than anything, it’s my script. Writing has just become so much tighter. How I go in depth on the history has really changed. So eventually I want to go back to some of the earlier topics that I talked about and redo them because I’m like, I talked about the history for three minutes. I’ve got 20 minutes of content to do. So people

Michael Jamin:
Don’t realize that sometimes they think they’re afraid of putting themselves out there because they’re going to suck and you are going to suck. That’s why you keep doing going to, yeah. Oh, it came in my head and just lost it. Oh, I know what I was going to say. Do you feel this pressure, I mean, you do one a week, right?

Max Miller:
Usually once in a while I’ll do two, but usually once a week.

Michael Jamin:
Do you feel this incredible? It never ends. It never ends. Is that a burden? Is that something you struggle with or no?

Max Miller:
Yeah. Yeah, it is. Because it is. Every weekend people are like, well, you could take a week off, but one YouTube does not. They say they don’t mind that, but they do. The algorithm does. And two, for me, I feel like it’s going to be like the gym. If I take one day off of the gym, I’m probably going to take two days off, and that’ll be a week. And I think if I miss one episode, I’ll be like, oh, well, I’ll do that again next month. So every Tuesday, I can’t think too, too far ahead because it does get kind of daunting. It’s like, oh my gosh, when will I run out of ideas? And when I go on vacation or take a trip somewhere, getting those videos ready ahead of time, my friends, and they don’t see me for weeks at a time because I’m working from 7:00 AM until 9:00 PM seven days a week for the two weeks before I go on vacation.

Michael Jamin:
It’s that much work. Really. Yeah,

Max Miller:
It is. I work probably 10 hours a day with breaks of petting the cats and going to get lunch. But it’s all day and it’s pretty much seven days a week in some respect. Even if I’m not working on an episode per se, I’m coming up with ideas for other things. I’m going through my emails. It takes me months to respond to an email or going on Instagram and cleaning up that and Facebook. There’s just so many different aspects to it that there is no time that I’m not somewhat in tasting history mode.

Michael Jamin:
When you say cleaning up Instagram, what does that mean?

Max Miller:
Going through comments, going through messages.

Michael Jamin:
Now I’m going to get to the real stuff. So when you say going through comments, is any of it haters? Are you dealing with any haters?

Max Miller:
Very rarely. I have a really positive audience, but they come along and there’s a fair share of well actually going on. And I think anytime that you share facts of any kind, you’re going to get that because especially with history, there’s so much up for debate. There’s so much vagueness in history that you can’t ever please everyone. Do you

Michael Jamin:
Respond to them? How do you treat it?

Max Miller:
Once in a while, I will. If they’re polite, then I will. If they’re not, then I don’t, because usually it’s like, well, they’re having a bad day. You know what? I’ve watched your channel

Michael Jamin:
That’s asking, that’s why I want to know how you do it. Because it’s hard.

Max Miller:
It is really hard. And when I first started, a mean comment would ruin my week. I would dwell on it. I get a thousand good comments and get one bad one, and it just all week. And I’m like, should I change how I do my entire show based on this one person’s opinion? Maybe now it ruins my hour, and then I usually forget about it.

Michael Jamin:
Do you leave it there? Or, oh, go ahead, please.

Max Miller:
So sometimes I do, but a lot of times I don’t, especially it, it’s really just mean. Or if there’s any kind of racism, homophobia or anything like that, which does happen, I get rid of it. But if it’s more of just a critique of any kind, I’ll usually leave it.

Michael Jamin:
Do you block these people or No,

Max Miller:
I only block people if they are being truly vile. I don’t need them in my audience. I also have a secret weapon, and that is my husband who actually does go through all of the comments and gets rid of most of the mean ones before I can ever see them.

Michael Jamin:
But he doesn’t respond. He doesn’t engage, or does he

Max Miller:
Not with the mean one. No. He just gets rid of ’em. He engages with the positive.

Michael Jamin:
Right. People don’t realize it. I mean, it really is. It’s one of these weird things where you have a voice, you now have a platform, you have a voice, but in many ways, you can’t use it. You can’t respond it. It’s just that you just can’t, can’t.

Max Miller:
It’s never going to do any benefit. Really though there have been times where I have responded, and especially if somebody tries to correct me, and I’m not always right. I’ve made mistakes. That’s just the nature of putting stuff out there. But if I know I’m correct and they try to correct me, I’ll respond and say, Hey, actually they did have sugar in the middle ages. And very often, even if it’s a nasty worded comment, they will follow up being uber apologetic and like, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I came across that way because most people, and myself included, when you’re on your phone or whatever, whatever crap comes to your brain goes onto the phone and it’s gone. And then you don’t think about it anymore. But when I get it, it’s all I think about.

Michael Jamin:
But I disagree with you. I’m guessing the fact that you’ve been doing this so long with your channel, I bet you don’t leave any kind of comments that are even remotely negative now.

Max Miller:
No. No. I do not. What comes, but sometimes when I’m responding to comments, I don’t necessarily even think about the response. And it’s not that I’m responding in a negative way or mean, it’s just I will respond to 10 comments and realize I was on autopilot. I wasn’t even really reading necessarily what, and so I got to take a second and be like, they took time to comment. I’m going to take time to read it and respond. Granted, I only respond to maybe 1% of the comments, but those comments,

Michael Jamin:
Isn’t

Max Miller:
That interesting? I try to actually respond.

Michael Jamin:
I’m curious to how you think this whole thing, and it hasn’t been that long. It’s only been, what, two or three years your channel has been up?

Max Miller:
It’ll be four in February.

Michael Jamin:
Four. Okay. Wow. Okay. So how do you think it’s changed you as a person?

Max Miller:
I’ve always had a good work ethic, but now it is a little just, I have a very good work ethic. I don’t want to call myself a workaholic. I do take breaks to play with Lego and stuff, but I really hold my, because nobody else is going to hold me accountable. So I just have to really hold myself accountable. This is not the first creative endeavor I’ve tried. I worked on a book for a while. I worked in animation, making my own cartoons for a while. I was doing all this other stuff, and once it didn’t work out or whatever, I’d get frustrated and I’d stop doing it. This is the only one that I’ve stuck with no matter what. It’s just like you got to put out the work. Even if I get to sit down in my computer one day, and this happens every week and I have no ideas, and I’m looking at a blank page, and I’m like, I don’t know what next week’s episode is going to be. I just sit there until it comes to me. And that is not how I was when I worked on some of my other projects. It was like, if it doesn’t come easily, I quit.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Are the animations the yours then, in your show? Do you do all that then?

Max Miller:
Yeah. I mean by animations. Well, I don’t know the words coming up on screen. Well,

Michael Jamin:
I thought I saw other stuff, but no. Why are you not adding animation then?

Max Miller:
So there are two things that I didn’t animate. So when the show first started, I animated the opening segment and the time for history, little interstitial. But a couple of years ago, I hired someone to do a better job, and so they did those. I don’t do the animations because animation takes, it takes forever. And really, my most valuable commodity now is my time. And so if there’s any way to make stuff go faster and keep it quality, I’ll do it.

Michael Jamin:
Now, that’s an interesting question because there are ways that you could do this with less quality, but you’re not tempted to do it.

Max Miller:
I don’t want to say I’m not tempted, but I haven’t, and I don’t think I will. I’m often tempted, I think that I could find editors to find images for me, I have tried. It’s been far less quality. I’ve hired people to help with scripts, and it just hasn’t worked out. And I don’t want to say I’m the best. I’m the only one that can do this. I know that’s not the case. I’m sure that other people could do it. It’s I’m not great at, I’m not great at giving up control because it’s my thing and I know exactly how I want it to be. And could I get out more episodes if I gave up that control? Yeah, probably. But it’s doing so well, I guess I don’t need it to, I’m fine having one channel and having it do as it’s doing. People are like, well, you should be doing this project and this, and you would have time to do this. And I’m like, yeah, I would. But I like what I’m doing. I’m really enjoying my life right now. So

Michael Jamin:
Was it hard for you to quit your job and to do this full time?

Max Miller:
So I didn’t have much of a choice, so I can’t say that it was hard because I started the channel in the last week of February, 2020, and I was selling movies to movie theaters.

Michael Jamin:
Okay.

Max Miller:
So by the second week of March, I no longer had a job. I was technically still employed by Disney, and they continued to pay for my insurance and everything. By the time they said, Hey, do you want to come back? It was April of 2021, and the channel had taken off. And so I was like, Nope, I’m going to do this. It’s not a sure thing, but my husband was still working for Disney, and so it’s not like we would starve if I failed. So I mean, it was a hard decision in as much as I loved my job at Disney and I really missed the people that I worked with. I still miss people. I miss having coworkers. But when it came to, I knew that this was going to work. You did? I just did. Well, it

Michael Jamin:
Kind of already was though. I mean, that’s the thing.

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, it kind of already was. And I think I knew that I had a list of hundreds of ideas ready to go, and I knew that I was getting better. And so I thought, well, if I’ve gotten this much better in a year, I’m going to get a lot better in another year, in two years. So,

Michael Jamin:
Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my content, and I know you do because listening to me, I will email it to you for free. Just join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos of the week. These are for writers, actors, creative types, people like you can unsubscribe whenever you want. I’m not going to spam you, and the price is free. You got no excuse to join. Go to michaeljamin.com/. And now back to what the hell is Michael Jamin talking about?
What about collaborations with people? Is that something you do? I didn’t notice any.

Max Miller:
I’ve done a, I have a couple actually coming up that I’m doing. I don’t do that many, partly because like,

Michael Jamin:
Hey, look, who’s in my kitchen this week?

Max Miller:
Yeah, I think I watched one of your episodes in the last couple of weeks was with someone, young guy on TikTok who said, collaborations are the way to grow. That’s not the case with my kind of channel. To a degree, it can, but that’s just not, with YouTube. It’s not as important anymore. It used to be, but not as much anymore. But also it’s a lot more work.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, is it? Why?

Max Miller:
Well, from a technical aspect, I have trouble setting up one microphone alone, two microphones. I have trouble. I film in my kitchen. I know where everything is going to be. So if ever I have to film in any other location, it’s a nightmare. And you have to, when I’m writing a script, I’m writing it for me. So when I bring in a second voice and I don’t know what they’re going to say and everything, it’s so much harder. Nothing in my show is off the cuff. I have scripted it down almost to the word. Are you on a teleprompter then? No. So when I’m speaking, it is somewhat off the cuff. It’s not word for word what’s on the script, but I write out the script word for word. I’ll read a paragraph, I’ll remember it, and then I’ll regurgitate it to the camera. But changing the words ever so slightly, so it comes across as if it’s the first time I’m saying it. But no, I’m not on a teleprompter. I don’t think I could be. I don’t know that it would come across as real

Michael Jamin:
For me. Are you doing multiple takes then, or what, or no? Multiple

Max Miller:
Takes many. Many takes many. Yeah. Especially because I do trip over my words and everything. There are often times a lot of foreign words and complicated names and dates and everything. So I’m always kind of having to look down at the script to remember what I’m saying. And that is what my new editor is editing out. I’ll give her an hour and 20 minutes that needs to be cut down into 18 minutes because of all of the mistakes that I’ve made. And then

Michael Jamin:
You’ll give her notes on that cut and use a different take, or No.

Max Miller:
So usually whatever the last take I took is the take that I want. Once I’ve got it right, I’ll move on. And she has my down really, really well. So there are very few comments that I have to give her, and she’s super fast, so she turns it around literally three times faster than I ever could. It’s pretty astonishing. So it’s so far, it’s been a great help.

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting because like I said, it really looks like, I’m surprised that you said you’re the only one. It looks like a TV show. It looks like there’s a bunch of people helping you out. And so are you monetizing mostly through ads on YouTube or it’s selling your cookbook? Do you do that?

Max Miller:
Yeah, I mean, ads is definitely the number one spot for me. And then I have cookbook, I do sponsorships. I have a Patreon. Oh, I

Michael Jamin:
Saw that. That’s right. The Patreon, which is so, it’s so interesting. Now. That’s the problem with Patreon. You have to think of additional bonus content that you charge people for that you’re not putting in your show, and yet you’re putting so much in your show. What’s bonus?

Max Miller:
So there isn’t a lot of bonus content on my patron because everything does go, luckily, my patrons, they know how much is going into each episode, so they know that I don’t really have time. What’s the advantage there? I have other things. The main thing is we do a monthly happy hour, we make a cocktail and we do a Zoom happy hour,

Michael Jamin:
Interesting

Max Miller:
People that actually take advantage of it, which is, and I send out little gifts every few months, magnets and stuff that are associated with the show, stickers, things like that. But one thing I do do is with the first cookbook and with, I’m working on a second, they help me with the recipes. So I give them the recipes and they help with the testing. And so we have just a lot of back and forth, and they’re just so helpful and

Michael Jamin:
Oh, wow. So it’s more

Max Miller:
Of a relationship that grows with the patrons.

Michael Jamin:
And so you get a handful of people on Zoom and you just chat for an hour or so. And these are basically huge fans. They’re just huge fans. That’s what they are.

Max Miller:
And it’s cool because when I was on book tour, I would actually get to meet some of them in person. They would live in the towns. When I was in Dallas, we actually did a real happy hour and had 20 patrons get together, and we just all went to a bar and had drinks and hung out. Isn’t this

Michael Jamin:
Crazy? I mean, isn’t this crazy?

Max Miller:
It’s surreal. Surreal. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting. And when you put up your page, it’s such a creative way to make a living. You didn’t know any of this when you started your, you been like, I don’t know what I’m doing on page. And then you just figured out what my Paton account was going to be.

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, I mean, I actually had to have a viewer tell me about Patreon. I didn’t know about it. And they were like, you should be doing this. And I was like, oh, okay. And there’s been a lot of that. I’ve actually learned a lot from my viewers. It’s interesting. Patrons and non patrons. I say that when people give me critiques, I don’t often take ’em, but sometimes I do. Especially early on. There was one person who wrote me an email, and it was really critical. And it was really long it, it was absolutely in the spirit of, I know how you can do this better. But

Michael Jamin:
It was also unsolicited.

Max Miller:
It was unsolicited. I had only been doing it for two months. It broke my heart. It was horrible. And yet, I thank that person so much because everything that person said was spot on, and I put those into practice and it made the show all the better. So even when it’s unsolicited, even when it’s mean-spirited, he was not at all. But even when it is mean spirited, that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. And so sometimes you’ve got to listen and say, Hey, maybe I can improve in this way. And then sometimes you got to say, screw you. And it’s knowing what to take and what not to take. That is honestly the hard part because

Michael Jamin:
How did he know? What was the basis for his expertise when he gave you his opinion?

Max Miller:
I have no idea. Right. I honestly have no idea. Was he just someone who watched a lot of videos or was he someone who made videos? I kind of feel like he was someone who made videos or was maybe someone who had been in directing or editing, because his advice was very technical. It was stuff that if you had never been involved in being on camera or watching people on camera, you wouldn’t know. And then some of it was storytelling. I mean, it was lengthy. I think if I had printed out, it would’ve been seven or eight pages.

Michael Jamin:
Interesting.

Max Miller:
And he was spot on. And I’ve had plenty of other people be spot on about things. And then sometimes, most of the times they’re not, most of the times they don’t know what they’re talking about. Like I said, they have no expertise or whatever. And then there are times where it’s like, yes, you’re right. But doing that would either be too expensive or too laborious or all sorts of things. I mean, you get things, people being like, you should redo your kitchen.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, yeah.

Max Miller:
Oh, okay.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Thanks.

Max Miller:
I’m going to be, but not because you told me. Right.

Michael Jamin:
But if you do, that’s going to shut down your chae for a couple months.

Max Miller:
Yeah, I’m trying to figure that out. I might end up going and filming at all my friends’ kitchens. So for two months you’ll get an episode in different kitchens.

Michael Jamin:
That’s a good idea. If your friends, they’re up for it, but

Max Miller:
They’ve all

Michael Jamin:
Agreed. And would you put them in it too, or no? Too hard?

Max Miller:
No, probably not. Yeah, it’s too hard.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. It’s so interesting when you talk about Patreon, because people have asked me, are you going to do that as well? It just seems like another thing I have to think about and almost another burden I have to worry about. Once a month, I got to worry about once. What else am I going to give people? What am I going to mail people? What magnet it is something to think about. And then I felt like, is this going to be a burden on me? I’m worried about burdens.

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, I get it. And I think if I was where I’m at today, I probably wouldn’t start at Patreon, really, because are you doing it for, you need the income or are you doing it for other reasons? And so that’s the question.

Michael Jamin:
Well, the question is really, and I’m sure you think about this, it’s like you’re building a fan base. You’re building your tribe of people who will support whatever project you do next, whatever. You don’t know what your next thing is going to be five years from now. But it’s great to have a super fan base and Exactly. And that’s kind of, I mean, is that the reason why you have a Patreon? I mean,

Max Miller:
That’s why I have one. And honestly, so when I do get those mean comments, or when I get down on myself and a video doesn’t perform well or any reason, I have my Patreon patrons who are there to boost me up and give me, because like, oh, this video didn’t do well or whatever. But it’s like, but these people support me so much that they are willing to part with their dollars to support me. And it is not just about the money. It is about their fervor. But are

Michael Jamin:
You checking in with them once? I mean, other than the monthly call, are you checking in with them on a daily basis or what are

Max Miller:
You No, not daily. I post on there and everything, and I’m trying to get better and nurture that a little bit more. One thing I’m trying to do, especially in the new year, is have more ways to connect without my making more actual content. And that is going to be with the cookbook. And so we’re figuring out ways where I can show them a bit more of the behind the scenes of

Michael Jamin:
People like that. Do you have a newsletter as well?

Max Miller:
No, I don’t. I’m actually, I’m almost ready to finally hit publish on my website that I’ve been working on forever and ever. And there’ll be a newsletter, a way to sign up, even though there is no newsletter at the moment, because it just comes down to I have no minutes in the day, so I’m always having to choose. It’s like, do I want to start a podcast or do I want to work on more videos? Or do I want to do more shorts for YouTube and TikTok and Instagram? I can’t do it all. Do I want to write another cookbook? I can’t do it all. So I’m having to pick and choose, though. A podcast is something I would like to do in the new year as well.

Michael Jamin:
And a cooking podcast or no? Or just a new No, what would it be?

Max Miller:
It would be more history focused. All the history that I can’t talk about on the show, because I can’t figure out a way to tie it into food. It would be more of that and more conversational, not quite as produced, not as scripted. More telling a story, interviews, talking to other historians, to people who are in it. Episodes where me and my brother who can just talk forever. We each read some history book and then just kevech about it for an hour. So that’s what I want to do. And that again, is more about building community, giving people more of that stuff without, it’s less about the money and more just about building that audience

Michael Jamin:
And hopefully, yeah, so you’re doing it the right way, obviously. Who would’ve thought, I mean, when I look at your two millions subscribers, that’s nuts, man. I mean, you understand that. A lot of TV shows that don’t get a fraction of that. They don’t get a fraction.

Max Miller:
I was talking to someone recently who has straddled the world of YouTube and television, and YouTube is still, social media rather, is still very much kind of the redheaded stepchild and it’s traditional publishing. And traditional TV gets so much more clout, but this is actually where the dollars are, and this is where the community and the fan base is. This is still important, but he was like, do I put in two years of working on a TV show or do I put in two months of working on more YouTube videos? And the end result ends up being pretty much the same. And I own this. Netflix owns this.

Michael Jamin:
Interesting, because I was talking to a very big YouTuber who I know well a couple of weeks ago, who was pursuing, he’s huge on YouTube and was pursuing some TV opportunities. Why am I doing this? It’s just for validation. It’s not for money, it’s not for creativity, it’s not for control. It’s just for some stupid validation that I’ll never get. Anyway. So how am I doing it?

Max Miller:
It’s absolutely true. I mean, it’s funny with the cookbook, you don’t make a ton of money in cookbook sales unless you’re Martha Stewart. But lemme tell you, my parents were far more impressed that I had published a cookbook, really, than my YouTube channel, because there’s still a place for it. It is still important, and there is still that kind of legacy media thing about it. And I’m glad I did it because now I have a book that will get to always sit physically on a shelf, even if all digital stuff dies away from Solar Flare, that book will still be on the show.

Michael Jamin:
Do you have any worry though, because algorithms change every second, people’s accounts get shut down. I mean, everything changes in a dime. Is that any concern of yours?

Max Miller:
I’m always stressing about it because I stress less about the algorithm changing, even though it could absolutely happen and views drop by 90% happens to other channels all the time. Personally, I’m more worried about me burning out and that happening. But I do worry about channel being taken over or faulty copyright claims, and there are ways to combat against that, but even some of the biggest creators have fallen pre to it. And so it’s kind of like, I don’t know. But yeah, stress about it all the time.

Michael Jamin:
You do. I mean, obviously the answer is get on your own platform or not be agnostic to platform, but obviously you have ones that do better than others. So what are you going to do about that?

Max Miller:
Yeah, I mean, obviously YouTube is really where I’m entrenched, but I am trying to make, that’s one reason why I’m trying to work on the short form content, get a bigger following on Instagram and TikTok. So if something happens, I can put out a blast and say, Hey, I’m still here. There’s just, I don’t know.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s not as easy as people think it is, and that’s why people give up. And I think that’s the good news, because it leaves more space for people like you who don’t give up. Yeah,

Max Miller:
I mean, and the cool thing is everybody, I remember when I started the channel, I watched a lot of videos on how to start a YouTube channel,

Michael Jamin:
Really.

Max Miller:
And I remember so many people then were saying, YouTube is saturated. There is no more room. Who’s on YouTube is on YouTube, and nobody more can get in. And obviously that’s not true. And something, it’s like it always grows. It’s like the goldfish. It just will grow to fill whatever.

Michael Jamin:
It’s interesting because I’ve been on YouTube for a long time. I get very little traction on it. On TikTok, I’m pretty big. But YouTube, no one seems to care.

Max Miller:
Well, and that’s the thing on TikTok, I can’t usually get people to watch most of my videos. It works on YouTube. I’ll have one thing that works really well on Instagram, but not on TikTok and vice versa. So when I say there’s no space on YouTube, I think there absolutely is, because there are new channels hitting a million subscribers every day. But there are so many more venues. There is TikTok. There wasn’t five years ago, TikTok really was very, very small. And now it’s huge. And so there are just always new things coming. So if you put out good content, people I think will watch it is just they got to find it. And that usually is what takes time.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I was talking to Taylor Lorenz who wrote a book on the history of influencers and stuff. There’s many people who they prank videos on TikTok or YouTube or whatever, and those poor people burn out real fast because they have to constantly one up themselves, whatever this prank was today, the next one’s got to be bigger. And then it’s like they’re destroying their lives because they have to. But you don’t have to do that. You just have to come up with another recipe.

Max Miller:
I’m lucky in that because, yeah, I was just watching a video where it’s like, why is every YouTube video the most we did every blah, blah, blah? It’s because it’s always, it’s the Mr. Beast ification. It’s like got to get bigger and bigger and bigger. But as long as there’s history that I haven’t covered, and there always will be, and food that I haven’t covered, and there pretty much always will be. I’ve got stuff. So I think that before I run out of ideas, I will run out of me. I will burn out before that happens. Or not burn out, but get bored and just not enjoy it anymore. And the moment I don’t enjoy it anymore,

Michael Jamin:
People may not realize that even the thumbnails on YouTube, there’s a lot of thought that people put on thumbnails, and usually they’re crazy and you don’t do that. Your thumbnails are classy looking. But at some point, you must’ve experimented with crazy thumbnails at some point.

Max Miller:
I haven’t gone super crazy, and this is going to sound really ridiculous. The problem with the channel growing as fast as it did meant that I didn’t get a lot of time to experiment, really. By the time my videos between the second video and now they haven’t changed in format at all, really. Well,

Michael Jamin:
It works.

Max Miller:
It works, which is great. But there are things that I would’ve probably changed to make it more, to make it better or whatever, but I can’t change some things now because the audience just loves it so much. And now it’s just kind of, but do you really feel that?

Michael Jamin:
What would happen if you experimented? You’re worried about losing them?

Max Miller:
Not so much worried about losing them. It’s more I’m a collector, and so if I change too much, then it’s like, well, this one doesn’t belong in the collection. I have a few live streams on my channel, and I don’t even count them as videos because Well, it’s not in the format. So

Michael Jamin:
That’s more than your thing though.

Max Miller:
Yeah, it’s my thing. But also if I were to start over again, I wouldn’t have an eight second opening title scenes. That is YouTube death.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is, but it’s not. That’s part of what makes it look like a TV show, by the way.

Max Miller:
Yeah, no, it works. I mean, it does work, but it is kind of like, gosh, what would’ve happened if I hadn’t had that eight seconds? But it’s not enough to, since it is working, it’s like, well, why change

Michael Jamin:
It?

Max Miller:
And whenever I’ve really experimented with thumbnails and tried to change it, I haven’t noticed that they’ve done better, a lot better or worse, partly because my channel is a little bit more, A lot of people are like, this feels like an old PBS show. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It’s classier. Yeah,

Max Miller:
It’s classier. And so I’m like, I don’t think the thumbnail where I’m on there going would really, you’re not going to, because the video is not going to deliver on that. That’s not what the video is. And so then it is clickbait, and I hate that. So are they the best? No. But do they work? Yes. And I’m fine.

Michael Jamin:
Do you talk to other or a lot of other creators, and do you think a lot about this or you are a little silo and you stick to what you do?

Max Miller:
I’m very much in my little silo. I mean, I think about it all the time, but I don’t talk to many other creators about it. I do have a handful, especially in the last year since I’ve been traveling that I’ve gotten to meet. But part of the thing has been that they do have big teams. I’ve made friends with Josh on Mythical Kitchen, who’s amazing, and he puts out so much fun stuff. But that’s a big group because part of the good mythical

Michael Jamin:
Morning

Max Miller:
Production world. So when I’ve gone to film stuff, there’s a dozen people behind the camera. They’ve got seven cameras and lighting in a studio, and writers and editors and everything. So it’s hard to talk inside baseball with him about all aspects because he’s not involved in all aspects and other people who aren’t involved in all aspects. So it’s kind of like, all right, who does their own thumbnails? I can talk to them. Who does their editing? Oh, I can talk to them. So that’s kind of the problem with being a solo creator. There are plenty of us out there. I haven’t met all that many. But

Michael Jamin:
Even in terms of navigating your career or navigating trolls or anything, I’m surprised you don’t have. Yeah,

Max Miller:
No, I mean, I’m not as social as I probably should be. So there aren’t many people that I talk to on a regular basis. And not creators, I mean just people in general. A handful of friends, none of whom are in this field who I talk to. I talk more about board games than I do anything else. What we do, we play board games, or most of my friends who are close do more what you do. They’re professional TV writers. And so I can talk to them about writing and storytelling, which has been a huge help. But thumbnails not so much.

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting. Well, max Miller, thank you so much for joining me. I think you’re a huge inspiration. I think what you’ve done is so, I know you’re rolling your eyes, but I think it’s so admirable. Thank you. Like I said, in my pocket, I just like to talk to people who invent themselves, which is what you’ve done. You have invented yourself, and you have not asked for permission. You just did it. And all these, you put the energy out and great things have come from it. I’m not a cooking guy, and I like your videos. I just think it’s wonderful what you do. So I couldn’t cook any, I can’t make a sandwich, but thank you so much. But yeah, so everyone should go. Is your handle the same everywhere on all your channels? Pretty much

Max Miller:
Tasting history with Max Miller, except on Twitter, where I think it’s tasting history one.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it has to be short. Yeah, Twitter is short. Everyone go follow him. Go check out his channel. It’s such an interesting, I imagine you’re going to have some great Christmas content coming up because to, yes. Sure. Great. Max, thank you so much. Don’t go anywhere. Thank you for joining me and everyone be inspired by this guy. Keep creating for more. Keep following me next week and keep creating. Alright,
So now we all know what the hell Michael Jamin is talking about. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for my free monthly webinars @michaeljamin.com/webinar. And if you found this podcast helpful or entertaining, please share it with a friend and consider leaving us a five star review on iTunes that really, really helps. For more of this, whatever the hell this is, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. And you can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane and music was composed by Anthony Rizzo. And remember, you can have excuses or you can have a creative life, but you can’t have both. See you next week.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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