Some time in 2020, Paris Hilton published a video on YouTube of herself making lasagna. It was chaos, it was compulsively watchable, and it was funny. (I still say, “Sorry, Barilla,” out loud every time I open a box of pasta.) Like so many of our modern-content origin stories, the video went viral, a major streaming platform bought it, and now, weighing in at six episodes of around 25 minutes each, Netflix is pleased to announce the arrival of Cooking with Paris. (Both Netflix and Paris are doing well, thank you.)
Some could define the word “cooking” as “preparing (food) for eating especially by using heat,” and I can say after watching her use heat to prepare food for eating that Paris is definitely cooking. But I’m not here to critique this as a serious cooking show, because it’s not. Cooking with Paris is, undeniably, “not about the pasta.”
The show follows a vague talk-show format: someone hot, charming, and famous (Saweetie, Demi Lovato, and Kim Kardashian West, whom I would love to cook with because it seems like she might? She cleans as she goes, so I already adore her) comes over to “sous-chef” with Paris to make some sort of themed meal. “Have these two people ever met before?” you might ask yourself. Maybe, but who cares? The guests are the least interesting part of this affair.
Some of those who watched the lasagna video that launched 5.2 million views ridiculed Paris’s technique for “searing” meatballs. As I watched her struggle to remove ricotta cheese from its container, I remember thinking, Damn, Paris Hilton is truly so smart. So quintessentially good at being Paris Hilton. Come on—obviously she’s opened a container of something at least resembling ricotta. Right? While you were laughing at her, she was laughing at you for laughing at her. And that’s what makes her an artist, with a gift for turning public opinion up to 11, spinning straw into even more gold, which she then spins into fingerless gloves to cook in.
After watching four and a half episodes, I’m still not sure if she can cook or not, toggling between giving her too much credit (is she playing up her naïveté in some subversive feminist trope?) and not enough. I am worried for her safety—why is she using a blender to simply combine eggs and cream?
While you were laughing at her, she was laughing at you for laughing at her.
And we may never know. That is her brilliance, her mystery, her gift. It’s why some of us have been collectively obsessed with her for the better part of 25 years, fueling her trajectory from rich and famous to richer and famouser. She plays to the people, we love her for it, and it’s wonderful to see the whole exchange in action.
As a person who has dedicated her life to earnestly attempting to teach people how to cook, I have never spent much time with reality television. This show, by design, is not for me. But something tells me Paris doesn’t care either way.