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For the last four years, Bicher, 28, has been releasing boisterous YouTube videos centred on pranks, challenges and food. “My claim to fame was I made giant chocolate bars. I make giant snacks,” he said.
In the last few months, Bicher decided to parlay his online fame — under the handle Bongo, he has almost 550,000 YouTube subscribers — into a bricks-and-mortar business in his hometown.
Before he moved back to Ottawa at the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak in March, Bicher was living in Los Angeles, trying to boost his career. “They have so many salad bars out there,” he said, explaining the genesis of Super Salads, a business project with his friend and chef Yousef Ghadban.
He said the restaurant served about 100 customers on Saturday, only to have the fire set a few minutes before midnight that night. People live above the restaurant, Bicher said, and when he heard about the fire, about 20 minutes after it was set, his first concerns were about those people. They were not harmed by the fire thanks to the quick response by firefighters, he said.
Bicher said he hopes his landlord’s insurance will cover the damage and that the restaurant will re-open before the end of the week.
Bicher, who was software consultant after graduating from Carleton University before making the jump to YouTube, said his idea was to use his “larger-than-life” online persona and network to promote Super Salads. The restaurant, which serves salads to go, would have an online PR team of Ottawa YouTubers with a combined subscriber base of 13 million viewers, Bicher said.
“My circle of friends are not degenerates,” Bicher said. “We’re hardworking people who make YouTube videos. For this to happen to me is super-devastating, but you just have to move forward.”