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Meet Captain Beany, the folk hero who has dedicated his life to baked beans

“Password?” a muffled voice asks from behind the door. I’ve arrived at the residence of Captain Beany, a man who has dedicated his life to baked beans—going as far as to transform his council flat into an operational baked bean museum. Taken aback, I reply: “Baked Beans?” The door, hanging a blue plaque plastered with the words ‘The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence’, swings open. I’m hit with a luminous wall of orange.

Captain Beany welcomes me into his home dressed in a tangerine suit, tinted glasses and high-heeled boots to match. His head is completely bald and his eyebrows shaven, replaced by tattoos of baked beans where hair once was. It seemed like he had prepared for my arrival—or perhaps this was just his everyday attire.

“Take a seat, Jack,” he says as he leads me into his living room. The space is, of course, mind-numbingly orange, littered with artefacts of his past achievements. A shelf running across the length of the wall displays countless trophies, newspaper cuttings and photographs. The wall adjacent hosts a large canvas of Captain Beany himself, akin to a historical renaissance painting.

He clocks my sensory overload as I slump back on the—you guessed it—orange sofa, offering me a cup of tea. “It’s a lot… I could write a book if I had the time,” he adds. Although his eccentric personality may have initially caught me off guard, his warm Welsh hospitality soon has me at ease.

“This museum is full of baked bean artefacts from across the world,” Beany beams, touring me around his flat. “To this day, people donate things to me, and I cherish them.” It’s clear Beany takes great pride in his home—with meticulous attention to detail paid to every object—from the orange toilet brush to the Heinz branded toaster.

Meet Captain Beany, the folk hero who has dedicated his life to baked beans

His spare room, however, is the star of the show: hosting a collection of early 1990s bean memorabilia, countless limited edition Heinz cans and even his own baked bean-themed coffin—with the phrase ‘Rest In Beans’ etched into the wood.

The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence sits at the epicentre of Port Talbot, a small post-industrial town in South Wales. The town’s mammoth local steelworks, which is one of the largest in Europe, protrudes against the horizon. “I was brought up here and to this day embellish this town. It’s a lovely, tight-knit community,” he says.

“The Museum now has relevance, it has a special connotation—it’s the highest rated attraction on Trip Advisor in the local area,” Beany continues. “For me, it’s like a theatre: I’m the main actor and you are the audience. I love nothing more than entertaining people from all walks of life. I never know who’s going to walk through that front door, but I make it my mission to accommodate them and leave them full of beans.”

Captain Beany—formally known as Barry Kirk before legally changing his name back in 1991—found his life’s calling for beans, and with it his new identity, in the 1980s. “I’d always love drama, dressing up and stuff like that,” he recalls. “At the time, I was working for BP and wanted to put something back into the community.”

Meet Captain Beany, the folk hero who has dedicated his life to baked beans

“I was walking down the street and saw an album cover of Roger Daltrey in a charity shop, he was in a bath of baked beans and I thought to myself ‘If it’s good enough for Roger, it’s good enough for me’.” Unknown to Beany at the time, this was one of the most formative moments of his life—unearthing his dedication (and obsession) to baked beans, all the while raising money for charitable causes.

Ironically, our meeting was 36 years to the day of his first baked bean stunt—spending 100 hours in a bath of baked beans to raise money for a local charity that helps children with special needs. “You can’t really rehearse that kind of thing,” he notes, recalling the moment in September 1986 when he first stepped into the bean-filled bath.

“You literally have to go in hell-bent on spending 100 hours in a bath of beans. I didn’t know what to expect, I just went for it. I managed to stick it out for the whole 100 hours. When I got out I was shattered. My mother grabbed me and said, ‘Son, don’t try anything like that again…’”

That advice, obviously, fell on deaf ears. Throughout the decades, Beany has since dipped his fingers into countless charitable events: from running marathons to pushing a can of beans for a mile with just his nose. He’s also had a notable political career too, running in a number of local and national elections across Wales since 1990.

“I thought it was time these politicians were taken down a peg or two… In 2015, I stood for Port Talbot in the local elections and managed to beat UKIP,” he continues, bellowing out with laughter. “We beat UKIP! The person standing for them was so embarrassed he didn’t even turn up to stand next to me.”

The tattooed beans covering his head glisten under the sun which peeks through the window. When questioned, I’m surprised to find they’re not just there for show but tell a deeper story about Port Talbot’s close-knit community and Beany’s abundant altruism.

“These beans have the initials of everyone who donated towards a local girl called Marlie-Grace Roberts to have a life-changing operation,” he remarks. “She has cerebral palsy, she was only four years old at the time and we pulled together, as a town, to raise £40,000.”

“I thought I’d do my bit by getting 60 baked beans tattooed on my head and offering the local community to sponsor the cause by spending £60 to have their initials on each bean. In the end, it raised £3,600. She had the operation and to this day she’s walking now. I guess there’s a price on my head after all,” he laughs, leaning forward to point towards the bean tattoo with the initials ‘MGR’ on the centre of his forehead.

It’s clear Beany is dedicated to not just baked beans but expressing the message that it’s okay to be yourself. “​​I always wanted to create a role model. It didn’t have to be baked beans per se—it could have been spaghetti. I always felt like I didn’t conform to the norm. I feel blessed that I’m content with who I am. It’s a message I want to put out to everyone who doesn’t fit in: do your own thing, don’t hinder your inhibitions, be flamboyant and the captain of your own boat. The world needs more people like that.”

He shows me the palm of his left hand and points towards the creases. “In life, I could’ve gone this way and lived a normal life,” he says while tracing his right index finger up towards his thumb. “I might’ve been married, I would’ve been settling down—but obviously, it went offshoot,” he chuckles, this time more diminished than before, tracing his index finger up another crease.

“Perhaps in a parallel universe, there would be a Barry Kirk living a normal life. But in terms of my legacy, I believe I was meant to be this persona, this character, until the end of my days. To be honest with you, I don’t have time for relationships,” Beany continues, letting out a brief sigh and eyeing the ground. “I’ve had encounters with tins of beans in a past life, of course, but I’m still very much a bachelor.”

He goes on to note how his parents have since passed away and his brother now lives in Scotland, where he works for the NHS. “We’re like chalk and cheese—he’s a state registered nurse. He knows me, I’m not completely mad but I am eccentric. He always embellishes the fact that I’m like this. Port Talbot is my family too—that’s what I love to say. The odd thousand people living around this town are my neighbours and my family.”

While leaving, I stopped to take a photograph outside Beany’s flat when cheers were heard from neighbours across the street as the bean enthusiast’s bright orange suit juxtaposed against the pebbledash. I arrived at the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence expecting a man with a questionable obsession with classic (but rather bland) British cuisine. I left with a deeper appreciation for Beany as a person, his altruism and his commitment to his community. It was clear he loved Port Talbot, but equally, Port Talbot loved him back.

Introducing Nikocado Avocado, the YouTuber slowly killing himself for views

Some people quit smoking for their New Year’s resolution, others join the gym. YouTuber Nikocado Avocado, however, has the aim of hitting 400 pounds (just over 181 kilos). Chances are you’ve seen the famous mukbanger’s content recommended by the YouTube algorithm—known for his aggressive outbursts, his jarring persona and gluttony.

It’s the fuel that’s propelled him to stardom. It’s his identity, his brand—from KFC to Burger King, you name it and over the five years of his YouTube career, he’s eaten it. It’s what makes Nikocado Avocado (real name Nicholas Perry) stand out among the sea of countless other mukbang content creators. Let’s just say, if mukbang was pop music, he’d be Beyoncé.

Yet despite his success on the surface, Nikocado Avocado’s journey has a darker underbelly—a story of addiction to engagement that is leading him to an early grave. To understand how he got to this point, we have to look back.

The story of Nikocado Avocado

Only half a decade ago, Nikocado Avocado was a vegan vlogger living a modest life in Colombia. At the time, he weighed between 150 to 160 pounds, a stark contrast to his weight now, which is approximately 350 pounds. On 5 October 2016, the first of many mukbang videos were uploaded to his channel—and while he made the decision to start eating meat, he would still maintain a relatively clean diet.

At the time, the content creator stuck out like a sore thumb in the mukbang community, as in the beginning, these types of videos were almost entirely dominated by women creators. During his early career, Nikocado Avocado would almost always include his pet parrot in his videos while he ate—a novel and slightly absurd characteristic which would assist him in standing out from the crowd.

In the early stages of his mukbang career, he seemed to be relatively unscathed by his diet. According to research on the psychology of mukbang videos, this type of content impacts the “viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness because mukbangers who were very thin and slim consumed very large portions of food and did not gain weight.” This is no doubt a spell which Nikocado Avocado found himself under—claiming to be a long term fan of mukbang videos, it’s plausible that he was convinced he was immune to obesity caused by mukbang eating.

This was short-lived, however. When he weighed himself in May 2017, he’d gained 50 pounds. The problem is, instead of seeing this as a genuine health concern, he instead integrated it into his content with the goal of gaining both more weight and more views. In another upload titled “I’m getting fat & don’t know why,” he would state that his weight gain was “a medical mystery” that it was just “water weight” or “stress.” 

By the time he hit the 300 pounds mark in April 2020, his mindset had visibly changed. No longer was Nikocado Avocado claiming any ambition to change his ways—instead, he’d claim he passed the point of no return and that it was easier to embrace his weight for views rather than going through the effort of losing it. This only amplified his viewership—as his weight continued to grow, so did his ad revenue.

By April 2021, with more than five million subscribers across six channels, he’d earned enough money to move into a $2.3 million penthouse flat. A comment left on the video announcing his new move states, “enjoy your house bro. You got not much time left.” It encapsulates the dilemma Nikocado Avocado faces: the exchange of health for money. Or, on a deeper level: the exchange of health for meaning.

Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos?

But how has the YouTuber amassed such a vast and loyal fanbase? According to Kagan Kircaburun—a psychology researcher at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) who specialises in behavioural addictions online and is the first academic researcher into the addictive behaviour of mukbang watching—the answer is not black and white.

“According to our research, there were many reasons why people watch mukbang videos. We pinned down six main reasons why people are drawn to the videos: entertainment; sexual gratification; obtaining healthy eating gratification; discovering different foods—particularly Asain cuisine; using mukbang to escape from real-life problems or unpleasant feelings; and, finally, to watch their favourite YouTuber,” Kircaburun told SCREENSHOT.

That said, the researcher also added that, in some circumstances, mukbang watching can have therapeutic value. He recalled a time when he interviewed a woman who watches mukbang videos to help her deal with the symptoms of anorexia. “It made her feel relieved, reducing anxiety and helping her eat,” Kircaburun noted. “Listening to the sounds of eating, as well as watching the facial expressions of mukbang creators, can also have a therapeutic effect for those dealing with eating disorders,” he continued.

This echoes the views of mukbang video creator Rammseth Mukbang, who noted that watching someone “eat a certain meal can soothe people who are on a diet—like they are ‘eating in spirit’. I’ve had feedback that my video helps people after a stressful day. We are entertainment, but there is also a human touch… We bring comfort to viewers, we make a positive impact.”

Emily, a 26-year-old student living in Philadelphia—and self-proclaimed “lover of mukbang”—highlighted how it was the “relatability and human aspect” that draws her to mukbang content. She shared that she often watches mukbang videos while eating too and that “reading the comments helps me feel like part of a wider community.”

This is also something Rammseth Mukbang touched upon, describing the online community as “flawed yet beautiful.” In his experience, there is a significant disconnect between larger and smaller creators. “Bigger channels naturally move away from the community. Between smaller channels, you develop some fun banter and real connections. You all want to grow, so there is a sense of camaraderie.”

Like with most things in life there are always two sides to the coin—the good always comes with the bad. Mukbang is no different. Kircaburun warned that there are numerous ways in which watching this type of content can lead to unhealthy behaviour. Not only can the videos “affect someone’s eating and table manners negatively,” it can also lead to “some adolescent and young people becoming obese as a result of watching the content for a long time,” he explained.

“Making these videos involves consuming a very high capacity of food, some creators are professional eaters. But young people see this and think it’s normal. This can lead to a warped perception of food quantity and ultimately obesity,” Kircaburun added. Nikocado Avocado’s story is an embodiment of this, a reflection of the impact mukbang making can have on the health of its creators (and viewers too). A hyperbole and amplified reflection? Perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless—and something which urgently needs addressing.

On one hand a success, on the other a death sentence

“On one hand it’s a success story, at least from a marketing perspective,” noted Paul Smith, CEO of Baked Bean Marketing—an online marketing agency that specialises in managing high profile influencers—when speaking to SCREENSHOT. “In five years, he’s amassed almost three million followers and hundreds of millions of views.”

But at what cost? It’s clear Nikocado Avocado has bitten more than he can chew. Smith added, “On the flip side, he’s 300 pounds more than he weighed when he started making videos. You have to ask whether all that money he’s generated from this brand is worth it? Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of this is about money—but is it worth the health implications? That’s the burning question.”

Given the fact that obesity is linked to more than sixty other chronic diseases, the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. So why does he continue to grow bigger? Smith described this as a snowball effect—a damaging cycle caused by YouTubers “all fighting for the same view.” He explained, “You make one video mukbang video today where you eat a certain amount of food. Tomorrow, to keep up engagement, you’ll have to put out a video even better than that. In Nikocado Avocado’s case, for instance, it’ll be a bigger portion of food. It’s a never-ending spiral.”

This is on the mind of every online content creator. It’s the toxic nature of the internet that, unfortunately, keeps us all hooked—tapping into our primal drive to keep growing engagement and, ultimately, feel valued. The Nikocado Avocado case can be likened to clout-chasers hungry enough for views to throw themselves on top of trains for TikTok views or fall off cliffs for a selfie.

This isn’t a secret either, social media apps are designed to be like this. Often in our mind’s eye, when we think of social media addiction, emphasis is placed on the consumer, but it impacts creators too. Akin to the addictive behaviour of doomscrolling, Nikocado Avocado (and most similar YouTubers sacrificing their health for viewership) are showing tell-tale signs of an addiction disorder. With Nikocado Avocado’s story in particular, his deadly habits have been cemented through an unmistakable brand: with extravagant, violent freakouts and a merch empire of T-shirts that read “you made me do it” or “it’s just water weight.”

An addiction to food, views and meaning

Smith “absolutely” believes that this snowball effect can breed addictive behaviour. “If you make three to five thousand pounds from advertising revenue—sometimes five to twenty thousand—off the back of your videos, ask yourself: would you stop?” And I agree. It’s easy to paint him as the perpetrator here—an individual who has damaged his health through the consequence of his own actions.

But that viewpoint is narrow-minded. Instead, it’s better to think of him as the victim—a person who’s dug himself a hole he can’t escape from. This rings true when you consider how his diet is not just drastically altering his body, but his mind too.

Behavioural science experts believe that “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever “a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” Nikocado Avocado has created a situation where his habit of eating vast quantities of food in front of a camera has turned into an obligation. To treat such an addictive disorder requires a multi-level approach: from personal support to specialised training. But to what extent should YouTube and similar social network channels step in—and do they at all?

Luckily, the internet isn’t as Wild West as it was 15 years ago. YouTube does have policies that every content creator has to abide by otherwise their videos will be removed, but these are nowhere near as stringent as those on traditional television networks, Smith further explained. “It’s a completely different ballgame to mainstream television. I believe there should be more control over what’s posted online. YouTube doesn’t take action 95 per cent of the time—unless it’s explicitly dangerous—so where does it end?”

Perhaps it’s the mere-exposure effect, but from researching his journey over the last few months, I’ve developed a soft spot for the guy. Indeed, Nikocado Avocado is the manifestation of modern-day internet culture—the good and the bad. He represents how new media, unlike traditional TV, has allowed any creative who sees a gap in the market to make a success of themselves, just with a camera and an internet connection. On the other hand, he embodies the worst of what digital culture has to offer: an addiction to engagement which can lead to a death sentence. Until measures are taken, from outside sources and Nikocado Avocado himself, he’ll continue to eat himself into an early grave… One mukbang at a time.