There is joy in food. There is joy in watching people make exquisite food. But, is there joy in watching them fail, spectacularly at that, while attempting a gourmet preparation? Yes, we’d say, if the trend of celebrity food fail shows is something to go by. And yes, as one would imagine, the lockdown didn’t help matters much.
The results are there in front of us, in the form of a five-episode-long food show with Paris Hilton that dropped recently on Netflix. It’s called Cooking With Paris and is well-worthy of being on your cringe-list if that’s the kind of thing you are in to. While we talk about Paris’ brave and often messy culinary endeavours, it’s important to set the record straight. She isn’t the first to do this. She joins the league of other Hollywood celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Amy Schumer, and Snoop Dogg, in this unique television experiment.
There’s a celebrity, there’s food, there’s chatter but it’s not going to leave you with envy or drive you to your own culinary experiments. If anything, it might give you a sense of pride in your limited cooking skills. Can you chop an onion? Well, then you are already one better than Karan Johar.
The producer-filmmaker featured on Discovery Plus’s Star VS Food earlier this year. Yes, a desi star-studded version of the celebrity food fail shows is already here. With season one featuring the likes of Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Pratik Gandhi, Malaika Arora, and more. The first two episodes of season two are out and they feature Jahnvi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor.
Where’s the appeal in Cooking With Paris?
We did the unthinkable, we got down to watching some of these. We started with Cooking With Paris. While we tell you what that was like, we must warn you that this is a rabbit hole you do not want to go down. It’s been a few days, and we could well consider ourselves MasterChef-worthy after all the epic on-screen fails, we’ve encountered.
If you want to learn how to cook, you’d want to ditch these shows altogether and watch one, where a real chef does the job, or at the very least one with a celebrity who has cut his/her teeth in cooking earlier. Cooking With Paris is not that show.
It begins with an introduction to Paris Hilton (who needs that?) and to her home that’s part dollhouse and part luxury palace. She’s preparing for a feast. The theme is in place, the décor in progress, the only thing that is missing is the ‘food’. And in a food show, yes. It is a sign of things to come.
The first attempt is with Paris trying to make marshmallows, blue ones with edible glitter, looking like the kind of goop you don’t want to be in a mile of. Kim Kardashian is her guest and assists her in the cooking. Paris evidently doesn’t know her way around the kitchen, is dressed in haute couture, and has diamond-studded cookware. Why aren’t we surprised?
What follows is a series of fails, and well, a series of high-profile guests. From Demi Lovato to YouTuber Lele Pons and sister Nicky Hilton. They’re all helping Paris put a meal together and successes are few and far in between. What’s abundant? The kitchen mishaps that provide both entertainment and a strange kind of solace.
A history of food fails is the new trend
While celebrity food fail shows may have caught on in a whole new way during the pandemic, where nearly everyone was left to fend for themselves, the appeal of celebrities failing in the kitchen isn’t new. A simple Google search will lead you to lists and lists of kitchen disasters at the hands of famous people.
Some that garnered much attention included Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger’s burnt bagel, Kanye’s odd-looking cake, Carrie Underwood’s charred pecan pie, Pink’s exploding cheesecake, Olivia Spencer’s peanut butter cookies turned pancakes, and so many more.
These pictures and videos have displayed viral potential in the past resulting in laughs and helping fans connect with their icons in a whole new way. It is then, natural for the world of OTT platforms to cash in on ‘kitchen disasters’ as the new form of celebrity reality television.
Pandemic fuelled food shows
The first wave of the pandemic, marked by lockdowns world over, saw a spike in home food trends like never before. Restaurants were closed as were food delivery services. The connoisseurs of gourmet food were left to their own devices and the result was there to see, all over our social media feeds. Everyone was making banana bread! And don’t even get us started about the sourdough loaves, the spurting starters and the dangerously technical conversation surrounding them.
It wasn’t just common folk this time, but quarantined celebrities too. Everyone had made their way to their kitchen, and at one point our social media feed was a delightful contrast of carefully plated gourmet meals, and epic fails. There was envy, there was camaraderie, and there was warmth, for everyone was trying to make sense of isolation and turning to food. It was sustenance, it was subdued celebration, it was warmth and a reminder of better times.
Shortly after the first wave, in August 2020, is when Selena + Chef and Amy Schumer Learns to Cook, were released. Both of them, featured celebrities, not gliding their way to gorgeous meals, but learning, and often failing. Though Selena Gomez, as several fans observed, did know her way around the kitchen.
In it for the Star or the Food?
When we began watching Star VS Food, we saw ourselves doing the inevitable, cringing at the lack of celebrity kitchen skills and comparing one with the other.
As Karan Johar whined his way through a session in the kitchen struggling with the onions, and the heat, and rolling sushi; actor Arjun Kapoor was sporting enough to slow cook a meat dish. Pratik Gandhi (of Scam 1992 fame) slow roasted artichokes by hand taking every failure in his stride, working hard to help serve a meal to his family and friends. Malaika took to the kitchen with panache and recreated her mother’s Malayali fish curry.
As we do with most reality shows, we sat in judgement as we went from episode to episode, wondering what made us keep going. It also lacked the finesse and culinary perfection that MasterChef shows bring to the table for audiences around the world. . And yet, over three nights, we had binge-watched, two celebrity food fail shows. We were invested in the process, in the big displays, and most of all, in the element of surprise that came through disasters and fails. The time Paris Hilton replaces her ravioli mess with a frozen, store-bought pack, or the time when Karan Johar is caught in the storeroom of a restaurant with an ingredient list, he can’t make sense of. Those moments are many, and they kept us going.
In realising what makes celebrity food fail shows work, we had had our own moment of reckoning. As much as we were cackling our way through these shows, we felt closer to these on-screen divas who made no qualms about taking their failures to television.
We have since, been kinder to ourselves during culinary experiments in the kitchen. A cake that didn’t rise? A pesto too grainy? An oblong chapati? So what, we aren’t the only ones failing!