Jauja Cocina Mexicana: Meet the Mexican grandparents who captivating YouTube with their recipes
Janet and Jack's children initially laughed at them: "They told us this is a platform for millennials," they say. They now have almost 6,000,000 subscribers and the number continues to rise minute by minute.
When she left her native Mexico to live in the United States, Janet Kushner found that she did not belong in the new place she had chosen. She missed her roots, especially her food.
"One way to connect with my country was through its food, its smells, its flavors and I started cooking more and more," explains Janet.
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It all started when I started looking for recipes online and realized that they had no problems and when they did it wrong, with errors, inaccuracies. Her husband Jack then made a recommendation to her: why not start a YouTube channel?
Not knowing how to do it, the couple accomplished the process by discovering other talents they didn't know they had. Janet devoted herself to cooking and Jack records the video, edits, and uploads it to the digital platform.
They now have nearly 6 million subscribers to the YouTube channel, which features videos of Janet cooking traditional Mexican dishes, from tacos to pastries.
"I don't feel influential. The first time we realized that the canal had grown a lot was when we were traveling to Merida, and we were recognized by a lady at the airport. And they didn't have to queue to get through the migration! Janet says with a smile.
For both, Jauja Cocina Mexicana represents a bridge to connect with the immigrant community. Also, the name means prosperity. Jack explains why you chose that word in order to all the recipes produced in a feeling of abundance in the homes they create.
“The truth is that Janet does this because it is his passion. She loves cooking, she loves this from the traditions of our country, sharing with our Hispanic community, for her that is the pleasure of doing it. Not because he wants fame, "says Jack.
Janet spends Sundays working on the recipes, so she can prepare them on camera on Mondays and Wednesdays. They film during the day, and Jack gets up at 1:30 a.m to edit and upload the video, so it’s available by the time most computer users are getting to their desks on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She shops for the ingredients at H-E-B, but she’ll sometimes make a trip to Fiesta or a neighborhood Mexican market for chiles, banana leaves, or other specialty ingredients.
Thirty percent of their viewers are from the U.S. — mostly from California, Illinois, Texas, and Florida, but other states, too — and 60 percent come from Mexico. Other viewers stream from Egypt, France, or the Netherlands. “We get dudes writing from Japan asking about how to make tortillas,” he says.
Janet says it’s moving when people tell her that they now enjoy cooking for their in-laws or children who otherwise might not spend as much time at home. “They call Janet a ‘salvamarido’ a marriage-saver, Jack says. "They’ll say, ‘For years, my husband never came home for lunch,’ or, ‘He didn’t like my cooking, he wouldn’t show up, and then I discovered you and started making your recipes, and now my husband is here for lunch. And now he won’t leave me alone."
The amount of work that goes into each video can wear on both of them some days. “We’re not spring chickens anymore,” Janet Kushner says. She wants to go to one video a week, but Jack isn’t sure they can still maintain the videos needed to keep the channel profitable and highly ranked by search engines.
They hope to write a cookbook someday and maybe take their meetups on the road. Kushner’s biggest dream would be to follow in the footsteps of Josefina Velazquez de Leon, the Mexican cookbook author and culinary anthropologist who traveled around the country interviewing home cooks about their family foods and whose work influenced Diana Kennedy in the 1950s and 1960s.
Many of those home cooks are the ones today who email or leave comments about Kushner’s food reminding them of their own family foodways.
Austinite Ricardo Martínez says that he first started watching Kushner’s videos because they were easy to follow and the recipes always turned out well. “Watching her feels like visiting a favorite tía to learn old family recipes,” he says. For several years, he’s hosted a pozolada, or pozole party, the Saturday before Thanksgiving using Janet’s pozole rojo recipe. “Everybody is impressed that I don’t use canned hominy.”
She has seen her audience evolve over the years. When she started, Kushner would use a molcajete and people would leave a negative comment about using a specialized tool. “Now, people tell me, ‘Señora, I have my molcajete now!'
She doesn’t want to see culinary traditions and know-how lie dormant or remain unknown. Documenting them in a format that can be easily shared is important to both Kushners.
When they aren’t making videos, sometimes they’ll go out for barbecue or Tex-Mex. Chuy’s is a favorite, especially their flour tortillas. “I told him to banish my tortillas de harina recipe,” she says. “I’m from Mexico City, I don’t know how to make them.”
Amid all the tracking of page views and completion rates, “at the beginning of the day, it’s all about the human connection,” Jack Kushner says. “If a person like Janet is able to connect with viewers, and if viewers are able to feel that connection and feel like the channel is for them, that’s what makes the channel grow.”
The couple receives a daily message from followers who thank them for the recipes. Many of these people see Janet as a friend they can turn to for cooking advice.
Before starting the project, the couple said that their children initially laughed at them. "We were told that this is a platform for 'millennials'," says Janet.
Now her children are very proud. Janet and Jack claim that age influenced their success. In addition, her followers are 'millennials'. According to Jack, who manages social networks, the vast majority of followers are women between 20 and 40 years old.
“The older I am, the more knowledge I acquire. I think people trust an older lady more than a person who is just starting out, explains Janet.
What happened as a way to feel in touch with their roots became a life project for Jack and Janet. Both are retired, live in the city of Austin, and are now more connected than ever in their Hispanic community.
Ultra Seller Shoes honors people like Janet and Jack for sharing Mexican cuisine through their YouTube channel.