New Media Makers (today’s will feature The Hunger Service) is a series of interviews covering contemporary content creators that I believe everyone should get to know. Subjects that stand out from the norm, whether it’s their imaginative content or inspiring personalities. It’s also a way, for those unfamiliar with content creation, to start producing their own.

The first installment of the series will feature my close friend, Lawrence (L.A.). L.A. is an event/cosplay photographer and a streamer on Twitch.tv. His channel (The Hunger Service) offers a fun and educational stream for viewers interested in the finer points of cooking. Having well over 15 years of culinary experience and 10 years of photography, L.A. broadcasts his delicious crafts with expertise.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by Wen Chen/Misk Photos

Originally meant for just video games, the streaming service has expanded to a multitude of categories for thousands of channels, serving over 45 million watchers. Viewers can interact with their favorite streamers through chat or even donations. For many, it’s just a hobby, but for several others, it becomes a full-time job.

L.A. recently became a Twitch partner, something that takes a dedicated amount of hours and a strong enough fanbase to achieve. The following interview will give insight into his daily life as a streamer/photographer, while also offering advice for those interested in starting their own streaming channels. Let’s get started!

So what is The Hunger Service?

We try to create simple and delicious food, quickly and efficiently, while also not trying to break the bank. Making the directions as simple as possible so that everyone can learn how to cook. I believe people are not emphasizing or trying to learn how to cook.

There are so many food options nowadays, not just restaurants and quick service places, but also in the grocery store. You pick out a meal and throw it in the microwave! The Hunger Service is about bringing it back and making it simple. Hopefully teaching people how to make food on their own. We’re definitely trying to get people into the kitchen.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by The Hunger Service
The Hunger Service
Image provided by The Hunger Service

What made you decide to stream on Twitch? Why not other content creation sites (Youtube, Vevo, etc.)?

What’s funny is, sometime in 2015, I created the Hunger Service Youtube. I recorded one video: recorded, edited and posted. The thing about the Hunger Service on Youtube, it was supposed to be like a food porn channel, versus a teaching channel. The Hunger Service name was created because we wanted to make people hungry. I didn’t like the Youtube culture I guess. I felt like Youtube videos had to be at a certain production value, a certain look, and a certain construction. There are a lot of restrictions on how long that video had to be. Consecration on Youtube is freaking hard! It’s very poised and very structured.

On Twitch I can be a little more free-form, I can answer comments and questions directly. There’s so much more interaction with the audience I have, which is contained in itself. In general, I’m much more of a people person. I enjoy talking and interacting with them, versus responding to Youtube comments. Twitch felt more organic as far as production is concerned. Whatever happened on stream, that’s it. It’s not dressed up or edited to be the perfect vision of cooking, as opposed to the reality of cooking.

Was it always The Hunger Service? Were you streaming something else before?

So I attempted to stream under another name, but with video gaming in 2013-2014? I didn’t really dedicate myself to it because I didn’t have the equipment to do so properly. I had an old computer back then. I’d play Destiny off my Xbox using an old cable and an old capture card. It just wasn’t working for me. If something popped up in chat, I would miss it, just because I would need a separate monitor. I just wasn’t feeling it at all. I would enjoy the gaming part, but I would neglect chat whenever somebody came in.

And now you’re a Twitch Partner, what was the journey like and what does it mean for you?

Being a Twitch Partner, I feel like it’s the first hill or summit on a multi-summit mountain. I feel like it’s just the beginning and it shows that I have momentum. There are people willing to watch and enjoy my content. It’s a door that’s opened because I can say I’m a Twitch partner now. “This is my community, this is my channel, this is what we’re about.” It’s an accomplishment on its own, but at the same time, I feel there are no laurels to sit on thus far. The checkmark looks nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if I’m not doing anything with it.

Tell me about being a photographer.

I’ve been a photographer since about 2010. The first couple years, I was just kinda playing with learning to be a photographer again. I had done a lot of photography stuff when I was in high school, played around with it in middle school. I was always interested in it. Then in 2012, I decided to open up my own business (imPhotography).

Someone randomly said that they like my work, and asked if we could do a graduation shoot. And I thought to myself, “Huh, maybe I can actually make a living doing this.” From there I’ve been doing mostly weddings and cosplay work, which has been a lot of fun. I still do “regular” engagements, portraits, and graduations. But that’s what keeps me busy outside of the Hunger Service.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by The Hunger Service

How has that life inter-mingled with your Twitch life? How do you balance the two?

It actually works out, considering that I actually need photos of my food. So knowing that stuff kinda helps. But they tend to keep themselves relatively separate. There are times where I’ll have to run off to a convention for a weekend, then I wouldn’t be able to stream on Twitch.

For the most part, those worlds kind of stay separated. I always have time to work on photos and deal with photography stuff, then I would always have time to deal with cooking. Before I started the Hunger Service I always cooking every day, so it’s not much of a leap to add a camera. It does take me longer to cook nowadays, but I’m still in the kitchen, so it doesn’t really interfere with each other. It’s very much fifty-fifty.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by Wen Chen/Misk Photos
The Hunger Service
Image provided by The Hunger Service

As a Twitch user and viewer, what are some issues/controversies that you feel need to be addressed?

They haven’t implemented the new community guidelines yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing more protection from users as a streamer (harassment). Not just for me, but for my friends who are also streamers. I feel that it’s also a good thing that line can be reversed. It will look at streamers that encourage that type of behavior. There are some that act like the sky is falling, but I feel like it’s going to be a good change for Twitch. Some of the Twitch culture that people are worried about losing is going to be worth losing. There is a toxic culture of viewers out there.

Twitch staff is doing their best to walk that line, but there’s definitely going to be some growing pains. That’s our biggest issue on Twitch right now, the evolving nature of the community guidelines and what that’s gonna mean for streamers and viewers. People love talking about IRL and those streamers, but I don’t think that’s an issue for Twitch. There’s a market for it. If they’re not breaking the rules and there are people watching, then play ball.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by Wen Chen/Misk Photos

With people using more streaming and online services (Netflix, Twitch, Vevo) what will happen to old media vs. new media?

I think that new media is going to be the new norm. Millenials and Gen Z, they’re all drifting away from cable television and where they consume their media. I think Twitch is on the frontline right now, as far as streaming and entertainment are considered. I think that Twitch, Netflix, and Hulu, they’re all going to be the future and we’re going to see the relative decline of traditional TV media. It will be interesting to see how the big media companies play in this new playground.

What are some things people should consider before starting their own Twitch channel?

If you start your own Twitch channel, you’re not going to see numbers right away. I remember streaming my first month with only a handful of people sitting around in my channel. You’re going to dedicate time and you’re going to need to be consistent about it. I feel a lot of people neglect to see that when they start. They think that when they dive in they’re going to get viewers. There’s so much work that goes into a stream, not just from the technical standpoint (making sure it sounds good and streams smoothly), but also outside your stream.

Interacting with the community and being active on social media, making sure people know you’re streaming. Looking at it from that point of view, it will help you get started. It’s not as simple as turning a camera on and playing a video game or doing whatever you’re doing. If you’re starting from scratch on Twitch, be prepared to start climbing a hill. It can happen overnight, but those are lightning strikes.

I’ve seen people who have streamed for a year and are still working on that grind with maybe a dozen or two dozen viewers on their channel. I’ve also seen a person who started streaming at the beginning of the month and ended up with like 300 viewers every stream. Sometimes you’re at the right place at the right time, but for a lot of people, you have to grind it out. Make sure you have time.

What do you hope to see for the future of The Hunger Service?

I’m always hoping to improve my stats as far as Twitch is concerned. It’d be great to get more viewers, more subs and such. It’s all very numerical of how the stream is doing. But I also want to do more outside my kitchen. Going into restaurants and doing interviews, taking people into the inner-workings of restaurants. I feel people would like to know that stuff. See not only food made by me but other people. Rating other people’s kitchens, see if I can cook in them, stuff like that. Maybe, eventually, get sponsored by Publix or something, I don’t know!

I hope to continue growing this channel, I hope to continue growing as a person with this channel. I foresee myself being on Twitch for a long while right now, but I also foresee myself reaching out to companies. Hopefully getting some sponsors, that’d be nice!

I have a website that I just started for the Hunger Service. I’m still adding recipes and cleaning up on there. The Hunger Service started on Twitch, but it will not end on Twitch.

The Hunger Service
Image provided by Wen Chen/Misk Photos

Any shoutouts or future projects you want to let old and new fans know about?

My girlfriend streams on Twitch too! She’s the one that actually got me started on Twitch. She started a month before I did because she wanted to try it out. A month in, she said I should do it. So definitely a shoutout to her and thanks to her for pushing me into it.

As far as future projects are concerned, there’s a lot of things I have planned for the Hunger Service. There’s a lot of work I have yet to do, as far as photography is concerned. I’m hoping to maybe make a cookbook, like an actual book with recipes in it!

We’ll see what the horizon leads us too because the Earth’s not flat (shots fired).

I’m definitely going to be at Twitchcon this year. As far as other conventions are concerned, I’ll be up at a few of the Atlanta conventions. Momo, AWA, Dragoncon, thinking about Anime Boston. I want to go to PAX East!

I think it’d be nice to see the creative community featured even more on Twitch. It’s a growing and lively place. It’s super positive and it’s really chill.

Where to Get Your Own Taste of The Hunger Service:

The Hunger Service streams Monday through Thursday at 5pm EST and Saturdays 5pm EST. And if you happen to be at any of the aforementioned cons, be sure to give L.A. and Elysia a shoutout!

And for questions or bookings about his photography:

The Hunger Service
Image provided by Wen Chen/Misk Photos

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