EVER SINCE JULIA CHILD first braised boeuf bourguignonne for public-TV audiences in 1963, American cooking shows have rooted their instruction in an illusion of ease. Of course you can cook. Anyone can cook! All you do is follow the steps. The hosts—famous chefs, chefs who might be famous, famous non-chefs like Selena Gomez—prepare aspirational meals with aspirationally little effort using an aspirational number of clean bowls. The promise of food television is that you can become like them. We’re all in this together, cooking shows promise. We’re all just one tutorial away from living in a crisp East Hampton villa with our doting husband, Jeffrey.
But now, there is Cooking With Paris. The show, which premiered on Netflix this month, is about cooking with Paris Hilton. On the surface, it looks like standard-issue Netflix food filler from the service that has already brought us Salt Fat Acid Heat, The Chef Show, and Cooked. But it is so much stranger. Cooking With Paris rattles the very foundations of cooking television.
This development is not apparent in the premise, which is about what you’d expect. “I love cooking, but I’m not a trained chef,” muses Hilton at the start of each episode, explaining that she has found some new recipes to expand her culinary repertoire and is inviting friends over to test them out. In the premiere, Hilton vaguely suggests that this project has to do with how she is getting married and wants to be a mom soon, which I found exciting. It could be like an updated version of that 1908 classic The Bride’s Cook Book but on Netflix and starring Paris Hilton!
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