If you’ve ever wondered how to cook spaghetti inside a meatball or wanted to see a giant Cheetos mozzarella stick being made, SUNY Oneonta alumna Julia “Goolia,” Class of 2012, is your girl.
She and her partner, JP Lambiase, are the creators of HellthyJunkFood, a web comedy cooking channel that specializes in fast food copycat recipe videos, giant food creations, food-related challenges and more. They have more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube, have been featured by Refinery29, Yahoo, Food Network and Huffington Post, among others, and are now focusing full time on the channel.
Julia has come a long way since her days as a Red Dragon.
While studying music industry at SUNY Oneonta, Julia was president of the Songwriter’s Club, involved in the Poetry Slam team, hosted open mics, was a teaching assistant, and took Professor Mark Pawkett’s Rock Combo class twice – singing the first time and playing bass the second.
“I wanted to be a singer,” Julia recalls with a laugh. “I loved going to Fine Arts and just sitting in the piano rooms. I was always inspired at Oneonta. I always had fun.”
After graduating, Julia stayed in Oneonta, got a job at a local radio station, waitressed on the side and began dating JP, who loved fast food. In their free time, they started a cooking channel – just for fun – to remember step-by-step how to make their own healthier at-home versions of a slew of fast-food favorites from Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and others.
The channel took off when the couple recreated a popular, trending fast food – Mac N Cheetos. Julia said she remembers wiping down tables at the downtown restaurant she worked at, with JP sitting at in front of his laptop nearby, watching the views on the video go up and up and up.
“He’s sitting at the bar, glued to the live counter, saying ‘Julia, you gotta see this!’ It was definitely exciting.”
When the restaurant Julia worked at suddenly closed, the couple packed up and drove to Florida and started focusing full-time on their channel, consistently creating videos and getting the chance to work with several famous YouTubers. Fast forward past several big collaborations and viral hits –including their DIY Giant McDonalds Hash Brown video, which was trending in the USA, Australia and India and brought in 20,000 new subscribers in one day – and Hellthy Junk Food’s loyal fanbase and subscriber list had grown to 1 million. But they wanted more. In January 2019, they hit 2 million subscribers, and they’re hoping that number will only continue to increase.
In April, Julia and JP came back to Oneonta to stay on campus and make four videos for their channels. The couple worked in Wilsbach for a day and then at Starbucks, learning to make all the drinks sold there (even secret menu items). While on campus, they also recorded two widely-requested recipe videos – working with Sodexo to make a giant Simpsons-themed doughnut and, later, lickable wallpaper a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“It’s fun to have this other side now of being able to work with the university,” Julia said. “We’ve had so much fun and will definitely be back.”
Although she didn’t end up going into the music industry, Julia says she uses a lot of what she learned while enrolled at SUNY Oneonta on a daily basis.
“I learned so much about performing and communicating – two huge parts of our channel,” she said. “Whether you go on to a career in what you majored in or not, it’s all built on that education. That’s the big thing college is for – to get you that general education and teach you important life skills.”
If she could give any advice to SUNY Oneonta students, it would be to show up and be positive.
“Be a yes person because you never know what’s going to happen or who you’re going to meet,” she said. “Put your phone down and talk to someone, work creatively with people, join a team. All kinds of experiences contribute to a good work ethic.”