If the average person has seven careers in a lifetime, Rob Barrett is working on his third go-round.
The Eden Prairie resident has been a college professor, a songwriter, a music producer and a minister of music at a church. He’s been a sculpture and a high school volleyball coach. And that’s just for starters.
But perhaps the career path that has meant the most to him and for which he is best-known has been his stint as the host of the online “Cooking for Dads” show.
Barrett conceived the idea around six years ago and admits he had very little talent for cooking.
“A year after I started I still had no backing and no budget,” Barrett said. “It was just me and the camera.”
Barrett was a member of the Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Commission when the seed for the show was planted. Long-time parks director Bob Lambert was retiring, and he had mentioned to Barrett one of the things he planned to do now that he had the time was more cooking.
Lambert sent Barrett a few ideas for quick and simple meals anyone could prepare. That became the theme for the “Cooking with Dads” show — no measuring cups, no sifted flour, nothing frou-frou.
Later, Barrett and a friend had purchased the fixings for a rather ambitious meal they were planning to prepare for their families. The friend cancelled, and Barrett offered to make a video of preparing the meal.
Online video was at the height of its popularity. Barrett decided to purchase his own YouTube channel.
“I got in at the right time,” said Barrett, whose full-time gig was as technical director for a large church in New Hope. “My idea was if you make good video, people will come.”
Barrett describes the online audience as a “fickle mistress.”
“You’re the hottest thing one day and it’s over the next,” he said. “Look at Gangnam. It’s over for him. That was it.”
Barrett has managed to buck the trend and holds the online record in several categories for views of various broadcasts of “Cooking for Dads.” His video detailing how to prepare prime rib has reached 300,000 hits. Other popular productions include a lesson in how to prepare tasty chicken wings without deep-frying them and a soul-warming presentation on crafting macaroni and cheese.
Barrett has tried over the years to go more mainstream with his show. While making some inroads, the call to the big-time hasn’t happened yet.
Barrett dreamed of being of the Food Channel, but there was one problem.
“They hate me,” he said laughing.
He flirted with National Public Radio pitching an idea to take his show in that direction. NPR was expanding and it seemed like a good fit. The company eventually went silent after three weeks. Not a word.
“So you want to be in show business?” Barrett mused, shaking his head.
He has been featured in the “New York Times” and has worked the circuit of television and radio stations in the Twin Cities. He’s been on NBC’S TODAY Show and has worked with Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. He has a program on KTIS-FM a couple days a week and is a full-time instructor at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, teaching courses in music and the business side of the music industry.
He’s published a cookbook and writes a blog. The first printing of the cookbook has nearly sold out.
Barrett says one of the keys to adding an adventure to your life is the Nike slogan “Just do it.”
“That was my problem,” Barrett said. “I had this idea for a video and just sat there. Six months later, someone else did it.”
And once you decide to strike out, do it with excellence.
“You need to have the production value to stick out from the crowd, especially online,” Barrett said.
Finally, he took a bit of advice borrowed from Winston Churchill – never give up.
Barrett points out that other Twin Cities television celebrities who eventually went national – like Colleen Needles and Andrew Zimmern – spent eight years building their stature.
“I’m only in year six,” Barrett said.
The best way to keep up with Barrett is to Google “Cooking for Dads.” He operates a website and his YouTube channel is a catalogue of all his shows going back to the beginning.
And even if you’re not a dad or not even a male, you are welcome to join the fun.
“Women always ask me if they can watch my show,” Barrett said. “Today the audience is about 40 percent women.”
Contact Paul Wahl at [email protected]