In 2010, Morenstein was 25 and working as a substitute high school history teacher in Montreal, Canada, making about $28,000, Canadian, or about $21,000 USD per year. He also spent his spare time messing around with a video camera and picking up small gigs as a videographer.
"I was going and filming weddings, music videos and stuff like that," Morenstein tells CNBC Make It.
Morenstein harbored dreams of performing on camera, having gone to the occasional acting audition around Montreal, only to be told that his six-foot-six-inch, burly frame was best suited to play "a gigantic mutant," he jokes. At the same time, Morenstein and his friends were watching a lot of amateur videos on YouTube where people like them were racking up millions of views doing everything from comedy skits to instructional videos.
"I was kind of, like, 'I'm going to make my own show.... I saw YouTube as a means to do that," he tells CNBC Make It.
Morenstein brainstormed content ideas, including comedy skits. But it wasn't until one night in the summer of 2010, when he was hanging out drinking with a group of hungry friends, that Morenstein finally stumbled on the formula that became YouTube gold.
"We came up with the idea of putting a bunch of fast food items on a pizza, and how silly that would be," he says. "It probably sounds really simple now, but somehow, in 2010, that was mind blowing to a lot of people — at least, 120,000 people. That's how many views the first video got."
Epic Meal Time kicked off its weird internet food party on July 9, 2010, when Morenstein and friend Alex Perrault decided to follow through on the idea from the night before, to create "a pizza more disgusting than we ever thought possible in an attempt to take their taste buds on an incredible journey," according to the text displayed at the start of the video.
The aptly titled "Fast Food Pizza" video shows Morenstein and Perrault traveling from Taco Bell to McDonald's to Wendy's and a handful of other fast food restaurants to compile French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers and a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme, which they then put on a pre-made pizza. After topping it all off with a fresh layer of shredded cheese, Morenstein pops the monstrosity into an oven for 12 minutes and then he and Perrault dig in.
"Sometimes people come up with a goofy idea and they wake up the next day they're like, 'What were we thinking last night?' We woke up more like, 'Let's do it!'" Morenstein tells CNBC Make It eight years later.
After filming the fast food pizza stunt, Morenstein wasn't entirely sure it would make for a popular YouTube video, but he edited the footage himself and eventually threw it online that October. The video got over 120,000 views within days and it's currently been viewed more than 5.7 million times.