The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Comedian Sydnee Washington found herself bored and not performing comedy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Used to dining out, she wanted to find a way to stay busy, so she started an Instagram cooking show, with a heavy dash of humor. Used to dining out, she wanted to find a way to stay busy, so she started an Instagram cooking show. Sydnee told us how she really feels about cooking while making an especially hot batch of wings.
I'm a woman of leisure, and I usually order out. As soon as the pandemic hit, my friends were like, “How are you going to survive? You don't even know how to boil water. You're going to starve to death!”
I'm a woman of leisure, and I usually order out.
To me, that was a challenge — and I love a challenge. I was like, “Oh no no no, I'm going to be able to cook. I’m going to cook and create content.” I wanted to find a way to make people laugh at me and have a semi-full stomach.
Growing up, everyone cooked, but I lived with my great-uncle and great-aunt, who had diabetes and high blood pressure and hypertension, so everything was very specific to what they could eat. We didn't have a lot of sugars or salt in the cooking. My family was making “food,” but after I left home, I was eating spaghetti — which is so basic! — and I realized that some people are really eating good. It just wasn’t seasoned the same way growing up because we had to make sure that no one would have to get a leg cut off. What I grew up with was all right; it was edible, but it wasn’t amazing.
I wanted to find a way to make people laugh at me and have a semi-full stomach.
I'm a comedic chef now — I wouldn't call myself anything else, considering I'm not able to do what I used to do, which is in-person stand-up. I’ve been doing Syd Can Cook for months, and I still can't make macaroni and cheese. My macaroni and cheese is definitely not WAP; if it is WAP, it’s because I put too much milk in it. Before every show, I’m like, What am I gonna wear?! Because I know the food is not gonna look good enough, which means I have to so people still want to watch.
My macaroni and cheese is definitely not WAP.
I’ve made risotto, which is a lot of arm work. I made croissant bread pudding, which was fun and yummy and easy to make. Now I like making rice; I'm still having a hard time with it, but I remember when I couldn't do it at all. So, I'm learning. And I love making buffalo wings; it's easier now, and it just makes me so happy. I went to a sports bar to watch basketball that I’m not interested in at all, but I was like, “Oh, I could come back here for the wings — they’re worth it.”
These ones are spicy as hell. I put too much — I was trying to go all in on the spice because I wanted to impress, but they’re a little too hot for me. I have to watch it with the salt, too. We don't measure here: We just let it flow — we let our hands guide us.
I'm a comedic chef now.
I think people try to stick to recipes a lot, and that's what really messes you up. Baking is very specific, but with cooking you can do whatever your taste buds desire — you don’t always have to go with exactly what somebody is saying on the recipe. Sometimes you just have to have fun and see what happens. And hopefully it's not like, Oh my God, we need to throw this out, because people are starving. For the most part, you can put more seasoning on there, but you can't take seasoning out. So, play.
With cooking, you can do whatever your taste buds desire.
Though, I've had some rough times. I made shrimp scampi, and I didn't realize the shrimp wasn't good. Like, it was bad shrimp. I ate a bite of it, and I was like, Oh, my God. I had to throw the whole thing out. It hurts to throw it out, but bad shrimp is … bad.
My funniest moment was when I made meatless lasagna, which is a fail. Why would you have lasagna without meat?! It was cheese and spinach. Yamaneika Saunders came on and made lasagna, but hers was so much better. She came on the screen, and she just totally blew me out of the water. Hers looked proper, and I didn't have any tomatoes. Everybody was like, “Yeah, where's the tomato sauce?! You don't have to have meat, but where’s the sauce?!” It was a white lasagna. You know how you have a white pizza, a bianca? That's what I was trying to do — I was trying to be healthy, but I just looked like a fool.
I have a full kitchen now; it came together. But I didn't have any of this until I started this show — I'm not gonna lie. I have measuring cups, but the measurements rubbed off, so I just don't know what it is. I have a timer, I have a peeler, I have so many knives. I have a meat thermometer. There are a lot of odds and ends that I wouldn't have gotten until the pandemic.
One day, I want to make a roast, like a pot roast. Like, that's old-school mom. I want it to be Everybody's home, and I've been in the kitchen all day, making this dinner for them. Hopefully somebody will want to marry me after this.
I'm still not in love with cooking; I'm in love with trying and challenging myself.
I'm still not in love with cooking; I'm in love with trying and challenging myself. It's the dishes for me — the dishes just never end! And I have two cats in here that bring nothing to the table except more dishes. So, I don't really have much help over here.
On the days I don’t cook, I'm a little scavenger mouse — I'm just looking for anything and everything. If my neighbor is cooking, I’ll have leftovers. I love leftovers; I thrive on old pizza. I'm not really trying to cook every day. That's not my brand at all. If I cooked every day, I probably would be better at cooking.
If I cooked every day, I probably would be better at cooking.