Standing in a swimming pool while on a family vacation in South Carolina, Randolph County resident Matthew Hussey heard a man exclaim “Hungry mania, is that you?”
He knew the guy was talking to him, and he uses the name of Hussey’s YouTube cooking show, “The Hungry Hussey.” He was also “identified” at the grocery store and by his new neighbors in upscale Trinity who drove their golf carts into the corner of his house looking out into his backyard to see if they could spot his outdoor shooting area with Blackstone, pellet grill and Big Green smokers beg.
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“It’s rough when it happens,” said the 1997 Central Davidson High School graduate and native of Davidson County. “It’s something I still don’t expect. It’s crazy.”
It may be crazy, but it is also a reality for a modest country boy of over six feet tall, whose cooking skills blossomed at an early age out of necessity, but which became a hobby and a passion. It helps moms and dads all over the world.
Hussey is one of The Courier-Tribune’s 2021 Newsmakers – the people who work behind the scenes to connect and interact with community members.
His cool Southern charm continues with viewers of his cooking show, “The Hungry Hussey,” which was discontinued on his YouTube channel of the same name. Every week at 9:30 a.m., he uploads a new video that shows himself making dishes from “good groceries” like Blackstone Griddle’s scrambled pork chops, carnitas, cheese grits and sausage and Oklahoma onion burgers. He also wows connoisseurs and cooks novices with his smoked meat from The Big Green Egg.
Sahar Hussain, his wit and skill has managed to attract 118,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, more than 13,000 followers on Facebook and 8,609 followers on Instagram. She noticed and invited the food and kitchenware companies, which made him an influencer on their products and turned his hobby into a source of income.
He can simply put a can of Cheerwine Zero in an Instagram post from his outdoor cooking studio, or use Dalstrong’s knives to slice meat and vegetables in his culinary show and Cha-ching, he’s making money.
How did the fun of cooking begin
Hussey, the father of Matthew Hussey, was a truck driver who ate a lot of meals on the road as far as he was concerned. So when he wasn’t on the road, he wanted a home-cooked meal, something Hussie’s mother, Malinda, a wonderful chef can easily do.
However, she had surgery as a boy, Hussey recalls, which made it difficult for her to lift heavy pots and pans and stand for long periods of time. That’s when he became obsessed with his mother’s hands and legs in the kitchen.
“She was sitting in a chair and telling me this needed to go into this and do this,” he said. “I found out that I love helping my mom and bringing the kitchen.”
His father died when he was only ten years old, so he climbed more into the kitchen to help his mother.
He very much enjoyed his time in the kitchen with his mother, and has continued to hang out with her over the years and learn from her. When he was in his early teens, he discovered cooking shows on his local PBS channel such as “Cooking Cajun” Justin Wilson and “The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr”.
“At that time we didn’t have cable TV,” he said. “…I would watch them and then I would go into the kitchen and start cooking. It might not be exactly as they cook, like they might cook with steaks, but we had chicken, but I got it done.”
When he turned 16, he landed a job in the kitchen at Skipper Seafood Restaurant on U.S. Highway 64 in Thomasville. He started at the frying line, cooking puppies, french fries and chicken. Owner Evans Feridinos admired Hussey, raising him up the ranks in the kitchen to learning everything from how to make homemade tartar sauce to fish and shrimp. At Skippers, you truly know that making things at home and with the highest quality ingredients really elevates any dish.
He remained in the position while earning an associate’s degree in computer engineering technology from Davidson County Community College, then began his career at General Electric in Meppany.
YouTube star is born
He married Makenzie Hussey in 2011 and they have two young children. He has always been the primary cook in their relationship.
“My wife is a school teacher and she can cook,” he said. ‘I remember when I was dating and she wanted to cook for me. She made the lasagna and then got up and took the salad bowls to her little laundry room area. I heard what sounded like the clothes were shivering. I went in there and said, ‘What are you doing?’ She said she didn’t want me to see her pour the packed seasoning on our salads because the dressings were homemade.”
The idea for The Hungry Hussey started on social media and with still photography, there was another hobby that Hussey loved. He had received his first Big Green Egg, a kamado-style cook, and had begun posting pictures of his smoked and grilled meat and vegetables.
On his birthday in August 2015, Hussain’s wife gave him Blackstone. This gift shook the culinary world. He continued to post pictures and started a cooking blog, eventually calling it “The Hungry Hussey.” In 2016, encouraged by two friends, he began filming videos of his cooking adventures in his backyard, then in Davidson County, on Blackstone and Big Green.
“I didn’t know much about YouTube at the time,” he said. “I was using it as a place to drop some videos.”
Eventually, Blackstone reached out to Hussie, offering him a chance to make money on social media and YouTube posts with Blackstone. If customers purchase Blackstone using the link on his social media channel, they receive a baking tray discount and Hussey takes a percentage of the sale,
He watches a lot of Food Network shows and has a huge collection of cookbooks. He will adapt any recipe to make it on a blackstone or a large green egg. Hussey uses Blackstone for most of his YouTube videos because you can cook a lot of food in a short amount of time.
“Early on it was hard trying to connect with people in the videos while I was shooting,” he said. “All I had in front of me, though, was a (camera) lens. It’s weird to say you’re calling the lens, but I do. Your first 10 videos are bad. You’re just trying to improve.”
He wants to make his videos short and entertaining. About a year ago, he hired an editor in Michigan to help with the editing process. He tries to post a new video once a week at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday and might cook and shoot three or four recipes in a day until he has a bunch of videos to post.
“You want to get to the point in a video and make it short because of how much people are paying attention,” he said. “I tend to over-explain things. It’s my engineering brain. I give out a lot of information.”
He had a few hundred subscribers on YouTube in the first year, but the simplest video of him cooking sausages and eggs increased his viewership. Over 1.4 million people around the world have watched the video of him frying small pieces of Neese sausage and scrambled eggs.
“I think it hit people because of the story it was told,” he said. “I told them how this was a meal my mom often made for her kids. It was a single mom and it was ready quickly and it was full. People related to this video.”
Ultimately, Hussey will like to focus entirely on YouTube as his sole profession and use that to launch other opportunities, such as opening a small butcher shop, such as The Butcher’s Block in Lexington and Winston-Salem. He would also like the butcher to have space for cooking demonstrations.
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“I love doing it, and I hope I can continue to develop it,” he said. “I don’t want to be too polished. I want to show real life. Mistakes happen. I leave these things in there… almost like reality TV. I was shooting that day and the wind came up and I have these screens to help with the sunlight that comes under the deck where I photograph. Those winds blew out the screens and shattered. I leave that there. This is real life.”
Jill Dos-Rennes is a senior reporter for The Dispatch and Courier-Tribune topics and profiles and is always on the lookout for advice on business, entertainment events, new and secret menu items, and interesting people in Davidson and Randolph counties. Contact me at email@example.com.