Cooking with Paris is the most relatable cooking show

Jared Richards on the fundamental truths of Paris Hilton’s chaotic kitchen

You’re reading Scene & Heard, a weekly newsletter where I chat to a guest writer about the one scene from a recent Netflix release that left them floored. It’s part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get it in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.

I’m Michael Sun, Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee and one time I saw Paris Hilton walking across a footbridge in Sydney (my life has never been the same since). This week, I chat to culture writer and Paris stan Jared Richards on the one scene — the one dish — from Cooking with Paris that sums up the show’s propensity towards unhinged (and ultimately very relatable) recipes. Bon appetit!

MS: As Lea Michele once famously declared: it’s turkey lurkey time! That is also what I imagine Paris Hilton said as she covered this holiday turkey with sprinkles, sparklers, and a Chanel logo on Cooking with Paris.

JR: If you're Lea, I'm Sarah Jessica Parker, so let's have a kiki! Of all the creations on Cooking with Paris, I can't stop thinking about this turkey: it's somehow even more chaotic than the lasagne she made last year, which went viral on YouTube, eventually landing Paris her own six-part cooking show. Influencer, model, EDM DJ, actress, and now celebrity chef: what can't she do? 

Well, she — self-admittedly — can't really cook, which is why she's brought along some famous friends to help her nail her "favourite" recipes each episode. Kim Kardashian West helps with a fluffy frittata, rapper Saweetie guides her through making a Mexican feast, and Demi Lovato... well... Demi and Paris have a lot of fun, even if their Italian dinner flops.

Paris might not be the greatest chef, but she is the greatest celebrity (and arguably the greatest pop star of all time) — and she knows how to throw a party, too. Paris adds edible glitter to almost every meal, whether it's dessert or dinner. As she would say, she's just 'sliving' her best life — Paris' portmanteau of 'slaying' with 'living' that feels very fetch, in that it's NOT going to happen.

Enter her turkey feast, the highlight of Paris’ holiday spectacular. Brining, stuffing, and roasting a whole turkey is impressive itself, but — not content with a crispy skin that genuinely looked divine — Paris and YouTuber Lele Pons add a few decorations. "I feel like we need to, like, make it cuter," Paris says, "like designer turkey?" The first step is a dusting of edible glitter, which is ultimately fine since edible glitter has no taste. But then they just start pilling anything and everything on top — sugar buttons, sprinkles, sparklers, and these sugar-cookie prints of designer brand labels: Gucci, Chanel and about twenty skewers donned with Louis Vuitton logos. The only word for it is surreal. This turkey haunts my dreams, as if it were the woman in Mulholland Drive

I have just one word to say to that turkey and the word is ’silencio’. Tell me truthfully though: could you make a better turkey?

Good gobble God no! I've never even dared try, though I don't think I've ever lived in a sharehouse with an oven that can cook a roast evenly. Paris obviously doesn’t have that problem — her kitchen is decked out and she even uses bottled water to wash the uncooked turkey. The problems she does have, though, are oddly relatable, like breaking her blender twice across the season. Sure, hers might cost hundreds more than mine, and I've never accidentally dropped a salt shaker's metal cap into one. But who among us hasn't done something equally dumb?

That's really what I love about Cooking with Paris: despite how ridiculous so much of it is (Paris' spatulas are encrusted with diamonds! She cooks in designer gowns and lace gloves!), it might be the most relatable culinary show I've ever seen. Cooking has previously been a sore spot for me. I tend to recoil when it comes to a lot of culinary culture. Without any discernible cultural connection to food, I've always felt ashamed of my low-brow, white-bread palate. Meatloaf was one of my favourite meals as a kid, save for a long-held TV dinner obsession, where I'd plead every other week for microwaved turkey. (I'm not taking any questions at this time.)

When I do cook for others, then, I always go a little too adventurous in compensation, often realising as I'm mid-way through a three-course meal that I don't have a core utensil or that my dicing skills have ruined the textural jouissance of a dish (gasp!). 

Cooking with Paris's premise is that Paris has 'always' loved cooking and is finally showing it to the world, which is, uh, obviously a slight embellishment. But is it any more of an embellishment than any number of celebrities who have released cookbooks of their favourite dishes to “make” at “home”?

I never thought watching a multi-millionaire cook would be comforting, but I really admire how messy and ad-hoc Paris is in the kitchen, considering she's such a put-together person. And the messiness? That's hot, because Paris said so, and everyone at her dinner party slives for it (look I’ve really tried with the sliving here).

Paris Hilton is a relatable icon! You’re right, though, that there is this high-wire tension between the relatability — the chaos, the amateur cooking skills — and the complete disconnection from reality — the lace, the glittered turkey. Are we seeing every facet of the diamond that is Paris’ persona here?

Sorry to get all Before Midnight, but can we ever truly know every facet of another person, let alone Paris Hilton? Still, we're definitely the closest we've ever been. 

Last year's doco This Is Paris peeled back the layers of her valley girl persona, revealing what true Hilton heads already knew: you have to be pretty smart to make a career out of playing dumb. Part of the fun with Paris has been constantly questioning whether she's in on the joke or not. Had she really never heard of Walmart before The Simple Life? Does she really not know where her oven's fan is? Sure, you can try and work out what's real and what's fake, but who really cares as long as we're sliving (okay, coming around to it...). 

And on Cooking with Paris, Hilton shows us both Parises — the pink-obsessed rich kid and the shrewd businesswoman who plays to the cameras. She slides in and out of her baby voice across the show: sometimes she doesn't know what a whisk is called, other times she makes a perfectly fluffy frittata. 

As they say: she contains multitudes, which is something that not every celebrity chef and/or cooking show can say.

Paris is, famously, the Walt Whitman of being hot. There's two types of celebrity chef: chefs who become famous (Samin Nosrat, and, to a more avocado-based extent, Antoni), and celebrities who pivot to cooking as part of their branding. Cooking with Paris's premise is that Paris has 'always' loved cooking and is finally showing it to the world, which is, uh, obviously a slight embellishment. But is it any more of an embellishment than any number of celebrities who have released cookbooks of their favourite dishes to “make” at “home”?

Cooking isn't particularly glamorous — it's messy and stressful, especially when it's for a crowd. But cooking shows or influencers tend to pretend that everything ends up picture-perfect without careful food styling: it's all very aspirational. Hats off to anyone who has ever made a recipe that looks as good as it does on Instagram (and maybe I'm just outing myself as a sub-par cook), but it was oddly refreshing that some of Paris's dishes didn't look amazing. Preparing a turkey roast overnight then completely screwing it up in a second by adding sprinkles might not be a mistake you or I would make, but I've definitely had some equally dumb last-minute additions.

Jared, I guess all of this has been me trying to ask you…are you now going to cook like Paris?

I'd love to adopt her (unwarranted??) confidence in the kitchen, though easier said than done. I will definitely be adding diamantes to my spatulas ASAP, though, and will no doubt break my housemate's expensive blender at some point in the future. Sorry, but that's the price of sliving!

Jared Richards is a critic living on Gadigal land, who writes for Junkee, The Guardian, NME and more. He's on twitter @jrdjms.
Netflix Pause is produced by the Netflix ANZ editorial team who you can also follow on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. If you haven’t already, subscribe to us to get three free newsletters in your inbox each week filled with deep dives into screen culture. And leave us a comment too, if you’d like!