How a YouTube video about jar sauce sent Nat's What I Reckon viral

'In my opinion jar sauce is just the most boring way to eat, and it tastes f---ing disgusting too.'
'In my opinion jar sauce is just the most boring way to eat, and it tastes f---ing disgusting too.' Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

He's the straight-talking tattooed cook whose YouTube video about jar sauce made him the star of the first Australian lockdown. Here, Sydney comedian, content creator and musician Nat's What I Reckon shares the story of how it happened.

I never thought cooking f---en tomato sauce was gonna land me on national television, squeezing a rubber fish named Deborah on Today Extra and pretending it helped me refrain from swearing ... but it did.

After acting like a d---head on camera for close to a decade, this was the thing that did it.

Just before I made that Quarantine Sauce video, it was looking like COVID had completely ruined me. In December, when we came back from the States, we were doing great – I'd been offered an amazing expo-hosting gig and had even been approached by a booking agent to do a small run of shows upstairs at the Factory  Theatre in Sydney. I wasn't sure I was ready for it, but this was ultimately the move I wanted to make – and sometimes you just have to bloody go for it, champion.

We went out and postered the neighbourhood the night before tickets went on sale. We sold out the first show so fast that people barely had time to see the posters, the second show in less than 12 hours, and the third in not much longer. Within three days, the posters were already out of date. Suffer in ya jocks, eh.

On the back of that, we booked some other cities ... and suddenly I had a show to write. My partner Jules and I slaved over it for months. We moved the bones of it around and bashed it into shape, practising every day and pulling together the media for it. We filmed new episodes to debut as part of it, critiquing the shit out of each other, getting the timing right.

'Jar sauce is something of a metaphor for shit food.'
'Jar sauce is something of a metaphor for shit food.' Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

March came and we were packing shit. The first three shows happened, and they were bloody amazing, mate. We had the best time – we even got a standing ovation, would ya believe it? We were ecstatic and so pumped for the rest of the tour.

I'd just finished the first run of shows in Sydney when it all got very bloody serious. The expo I was meant to host was cancelled.

Then, when we got news of the first impending lockdown, we had to can all the shows for the foreseeable future. That meant no more national tour, champions. I thought I'd finally made it out of being a deadshit and could finally start kicking some big goals in a comedy career, but no. I was f---ing devastated. Jules and I sat in my car and cried. We thought we had lost the big chance at success that we had been working so hard for. I have always been a bit of a f----up, and at that moment truly believed this was the universe trying to remind me of that.

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I knew we were gonna be spending a bunch of time inside, so I had this idea to make a cooking video, since I f---ing love cooking and it's my way of coping with a lot of stuff. I saw on the news and when I headed to the shops that people had been panic-buying loads of stupid shit like toilet paper, as if filling their houses with toilet paper was gonna get them through a pandemic. And I noticed that people had completely cleared the shelves of that f---ing jar sauce garbage, while the fresh produce section looked like someone had declared it a f---en biohazard or something.

I'm not trying to judge people too hard here, and if you're 17 and don't have a stove, only a microwave, then fair enough. Jar sauce is something of a metaphor for shit food. I need a scapegoat and it's a pretty good one. In my opinion jar sauce is just the most boring way to eat, and it tastes f---ing disgusting too. Translucent, kids'-shitty-craft-glue-looking bechamel sauce has frightened me for years, it's f---ed. Whereas it's heaps of fun – and way bloody healthier – to make your tucker yourself. If you're stuck at home and have a shitload of time on your hands then why not give it a run, eh? Making fresh tomato sauce is about as easy as it gets. Granted, not as easy as removing the lid on a jar of trash and tipping it onto some overcooked pasta, but there is very little joy in that, I reckon ... unless you're super hammered,  in which case most garbage food becomes quite exciting, but EVEN THEN it's not that hard.

I took it upon my piss-taking self to stick it to jar sauce on camera and crank out a video.

So I took it upon my piss-taking self to stick it to jar sauce on camera and crank out a video showing how to make the simplest tomato sauce. I was kind of in between places when I filmed that video, so I ended up angrily prattling on and shooting it in the kitchen of an Airbnb. I took out all my COVID-cancelled frustration on jar sauce and the hoarding of toilet paper, and it kinda helped.

Jules and I came back to town and, thinking this was probably gonna be our last chance to visit the pub for a while, set up in the back corner of the upstairs bar at the Town Hall Hotel in Newtown – or the Townie, as it's affectionately called. It was there over a beer that I threw together this video that, to be honest, I thought was kind of average. I hated the sound on it and felt like I could have done heaps better – but I thought it was funny enough and I knew I had to get some content out. I didn't think it was gonna go so nuts, that's for sure. The video went absolutely off its f---ing head!

Suddenly I was getting phone calls and emails from TV channels, production companies, newspapers and what seemed like anyone with a phone, asking me to sign exclusivity contracts or be interviewed by them.

Nat's What I Reckon's new book.
Nat's What I Reckon's new book. Photo: Supplied

All because I had made some sauce and told a jar to go f--- itself.

I was a bit suspicious of the whole thing, thinking, What the f--- is going on here? This isn't the way it's supposed to go, is it? I feel like I just lost everything and now I'm bloody Mr Popular.

My audience skyrocketed. I started getting the most awesome messages from champions from all ends of town, from kids, parents, grandparents, people who had never cooked, people who had been scared to, even people who cooked professionally, all telling me how much they enjoyed my vids, and often that I'd encouraged them to get in the kitchen. It blew my bloody little mind.

This is an edited extract from Un-cook Yourself: A Ratbag's Rules for Life by Nat's What I Reckon, published by Penguin Random House, RRP $32.99. Buy now