Cooking with Paris? That’s hot...literally

Paris Hilton’s deceptively subversive food show

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Pre-lockdown, I would say I used my kitchen less than 10 times total, so my lockdown personality of “someone who spends three hours every night cooking overly elaborate dinners” has been a baptism by fire. That’s why Cooking with Paris — a show about an amateur chef cooking overly elaborate dinners and figuring out how to use their kitchen in the process — speaks deep into my soul. Also, the amateur chef in question is Paris Hilton. Loves it!

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Cooking with Paris

Cooking shows — the instructional kind, at least — have always been about ease. With a few sleights of hand and dexterous camera tricks, they whisper promises beyond our wildest imaginations, cloaking them under the veil of accessibility. You, too, can keep your kitchen immaculate even as you’re sautéeing four different things at once, they preach. You can make restaurant-quality meals at home if only you sprinkle a little pangrattato here and drizzle a little olive oil there!

Ratatouille tells us that anyone can cook. Alison Roman likes “unfussy food” and “unfussy vibes”. The Bible according to Samin Nosrat requires just four things — Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. June Xie inspires us to make 20+ meals on literally $0. Even Huey’s Cooking Adventures went a long way in evangelising the domestic kitchen. If a regular-shmegular larrikin could cook, then what excuse did the rest of us have?

Cooking with Paris upends this time-honoured formula in true Paris Hilton fashion: with a host of celebrity guests and friends, a trove of glitter waiting behind every bedazzled kitchen cabinet, frequent misunderstandings of commonplace things, and a new catchphrase. “Sliving” is the word du jour this time round — a portmanteau of slay and living your best life, as in “these blue unicorn marshmallows are sliving” or “I am simply sliving after watching six episodes of Cooking with Paris in one sitting instead of doing work due yesterday”. But some old linguistic favourites make their requisite cameo appearances too. “That’s hot,” Paris says, transferring a frittata mixture out of the oven. “Literally.”

By now, the distinction between Paris Hilton — the person-slash-entrepreneur — and Paris Hilton — the hyperbolically ditzy character — is well-known. It’s the latter who’s on full display in Cooking with Paris, a show that both venerates and satirises its star in equal, self-aware measure. The first episode (and many subsequent ones) opens like a hype reel: Paris with a pink diamanté face mask, in perfect coordination with a Barbie-hued cocktail dress, walking slo-mo through a supermarket, hair lightly billowing with the kind of illusory breeze only seen in shampoo ads. Then, suddenly, the camera cuts to reveal the cogs turning inside the machine. A camera crew holds a snarl of recording instruments very awkwardly in the middle of a grocery aisle. A guy stands there, fanning her hair with an oversized hunk of cardboard.

I can’t believe the comparison I’m about to make, but Cooking with Paris shares a certain DNA with Bo Burnham’s Inside — both amateur chef and brain-wormed comedian wield an uneasy tension that forces us to examine the boundary between the real and the manufactured. Sometimes, that boundary is so porous it might not even exist at all — and Paris knows it. In Cooking with Paris, she toys with her own public perception, realising that the real fun to be had is in the grey area between her two selves. We’re never quite sure where Paris the person ends and Paris the performer begins — she’ll ask what chives are in one scene and she’ll whip up an incredibly complex flan (of all things) in the next; she’ll claim she has no idea what tongs are, but then manage to make French toast (something I have never been able to do successfully). 

All of this is to say: Paris Hilton is a deeply unrelatable host, and Cooking with Paris is all the better for it. This is not a grounded cooking show about simplicity or ease, and it certainly doesn’t claim that anyone can cook. (Even with her incredibly expensive and intricate appliances, Paris still has her flops — a very slimy pink ravioli, made with the help of Demi Lovato, instantly comes to mind.) Dare I say there is a certain...aspirational quality to this show? Unbound by traditional culinary restrictions — balance, freshness, even taste — we see an increasingly chaotic Paris whose creations feel like explosions of childlike glee, bursting with sugary, glittery maximalism. Perhaps anyone can cook, but can anyone cook like Paris?

Cooking with Paris is now streaming.

Watch these too:

For another cooking show…

  • Only Nailed It! comes close to replicating both the chaotic energy of Paris’ kitchen and her meta-commentary on cooking shows in general. Like Cooking with Paris, it flips the script by plating a suite of culinary creations that are proudly, decadently unachievable to the average cook, and watches in glee as its contestants fail. We love schadenfreude!

Or for a celebrity fix...

  • The Goop Lap with Gwyneth Paltrow for more celebrity antics. What Paris Hilton does for food, Paltrow does (and famously has been doing since time immemorial) for wellness; the appeal lies in their disconnection from real-world woes. This isn’t a show about self-improvement so much as it is a fanciful escape into far-flung health treatments you’ve never heard of.

  • Down to Earth with Zac Efron, which is finally streaming in Australia and New Zealand! Who knew it could be so wholesome watching a former/current teen heartthrob traipse around the world learning about sustainable living?? (Apparently we all knew.) Seeing Zac Efron out of context and very much in his lumberjack era (full bushy beard, only forest-tone t-shirts) is extremely sweet.

I can’t stop thinking about:

And apropos of nothing, Kourtney Kardashian’s one-second appearance in the He’s All That trailer:

Skip to 1:22. 📣 A 📣 little 📣 scruffy 📣 but 📣 cute 📣 

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Michael Sun is the Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee.
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