Kitchen nightmares: do we need more celebrity cooking shows?

To state the obvious, nobody is going to watch Cooking With Paris to sharpen their culinary skills. The new Netflix series piggybacks on last year’s bizarre, almost Lynchian YouTube video where Paris Hilton cooked what can only be described an anti-lasagne, and stretches it out to a painful degree. In episode one, Hilton attempts to make marshmallows for Kim Kardashian and grunts with disgust when they make a mess of her lace gloves. In episode two, Hilton takes time out from making a funfetti flan to pose in the photo booth she installed in her living room. If you hang around long enough to find out what happens in episode three, you’re a braver soul than me.

Cooking With Paris feels like a weird little throwback. Last September’s YouTube documentary This Is Paris worked hard to put clear space between the ditzy privilege of Hilton’s public persona and the woman she is now; a middle-aged businesswoman bruised by years of trauma. But Cooking With Paris is a hard slam back into the deliberate stupidity of her Simple Life days. It feels like a wasted opportunity. It’s empty calories. It’ll probably be massive.

But then again, even if it isn’t, it doesn’t exactly have a particularly high bar to clear. Cooking With Paris is merely the newest celebrity food show, As we’re about to see, it isn’t a genre with an especially high success rate. Here are Paris Hilton’s new peers.

A show in which the most bearable one from The Grand Tour, a man who cannot cook, makes an entire television series about learning to cook. On paper, this is the worst idea that anyone has ever had, but its success can be attributed to two things. The first is James May’s natural curiosity – his apparently serious desire for self-improvement often overrides the hacky ‘man being crap in a kitchen’ premise – and the second is your dad’s willingness to watch anything even peripherally about Top Gear.

Yet another show where a celebrity who isn’t very good at cooking learns how to cook. This time it’s Selena Gomez, who took it upon herself during Covid to convince some of the world’s best chefs to train her over Zoom. Which reeks of entitlement, admittedly – I’m not particularly good at building concert halls, but you don’t see me badgering Frank Gehry for a FaceTime – but Gomez is just about dedicated and infectious enough to make it work. It’s a success, pure; a third season has just been ordered.

In which Snoop Dogg teamed up with culinary empress Martha Stewart for what was either a cookery programme or a competition to see who could look most awkward. Potluck Dinner Party was a bracingly old-fashioned food show, shot on a stage in front of a live audience. But there was a DJ, and in one episode Snoop and Martha burst out of a cake, and the show could never decide how the two should meet in the middle; should Snoop be more professional, or should Martha twerk? There is a weird sweetness to this show, anche se, albeit not sweet enough to make it entirely watchable.

Guess what? Amy Schumer can’t cook! Guess what? This is a show about Amy Schumer learning how to cook. Guess what? This type of television show is probably quite overdone now, thanks. Ancora, at least this one attempts to keep it in the family. Schumer’s cookery teacher here is her husband Chris Fischer, who trained under Mario Batali and had a stint cooking at The River Cafe. He really knows his stuff. Would this be a more informative show if everyone had just let Fischer get on with it? Probably, but that isn’t how things work around here any more.

As Saved by the Bell’s Kelly Kapowski, Tiffani Thiessen basically invented Paris Hilton. So it came as a happy surprise, nel 2015, to discover that she is also quite a competent cook. In Dinner at Tiffani’s, Thiessen prepared a dinner party for her celebrity friends, including Mario Lopez, Jason Priestley and Nathan Fillion. And she was a warm, engaging, likeable host. She didn’t have to learn anything, or cock anything up, or pull irritated little faces because she was dressed too impractically to make marshmallows. It was a perfectly adequate cooking show, and as such was quite boring to watch.

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