At first, the concept of a racy but classy online cooking show hosted by a dancing pinup girl might seem a bit incongruous.
"It's not like we came in and did a focus group," said Foodgasm co-producer and Oak Parker Etta Worthington. "But Ashley's intense pleasure in food, her sassiness, it all worked together and it made sense."
Foodgasm is hosted by Ashley Simone, an OPRF High School grad and career performer whose new web series blends her fascination with 1940s style with a deep passion for cooking.
"Food is love," she said.
After a fundraising campaign through the online group funding site Kickstarter, the show made its YouTube debut earlier this month. The second episode is scheduled for today.
For Simone, a performer trained at Oak Park's Momenta Dance Company who at 21 took a dancing gig with Ringling Brothers circus and now regularly appears at Chicago's legendary Green Mill jazz club, getting in front of the camera wasn't the hard part.
Remembering "to chop and dice and say my lines and be interesting and keep the flavor of what I want to do with the show" was a bit tougher, she said.
Each show begins with Simone dancing (a Texas two-step for Tex-Mex fare; a tango for Argentinian) her way into the kitchen, where she delivers a saucy monologue while preparing recipes designed for certain lifestyles (think vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free.)
Simone said the first several episodes were more like practice runs designed for the host and crew to learn how to raise production quality and keep costs low.
"We're still learning what to do and what not to do," she said.
Shooting has wrapped up on 10 Foodgasm episodes, all of which were shot inside a friend's Bronzeville condo. For the next batch of episodes, Simone is hoping to move the production outside, either to a large outdoor patio or rooftop garden, and to add cocktails to the mix.
"We're going to get a little bit more into it, then get ready for a full pilot and then shop it around," Simone said.
Worthington, an adjunct professor of film and television at Columbia College in Chicago (and also Simone's mother), believes the Foodgasm concept will take off on the national stage.
"Getting a loyal following [online] is a way to convince those with the money and the power that not many people have what Ashley has to offer," Worthington said. "With Ashley, it's not artificial. It fits her."
Foodgasm will unveil new episodes twice a month, with episodes appearing every other Friday on the show's YouTube Channel.