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Paris Hilton's Cooking with Paris offers some surprisingly complicated pleasures

  • "Spun off from a prescient viral video from pre-pandemic 2020 in which she semi-competently demonstrates how to make lasagna, the show sends Hilton back to the kitchen to keep refining her skills," says Judy Berman. "Each of six episodes, which clock in at under half an hour apiece, opens with Paris shopping at some kind of specialty grocery store; she mangles the word cotija at the tortilleria and screams 'ew' at a whole prosciutto in Eataly. (Truly, Paris Hilton walked so Alexis 'Ew, David' Rose of Schitt’s Creek could run.) Then she whips up a kitschy themed dinner with guests ranging from Kardashian and Glaser to YouTuber Lele Pons and rapper Saweetie. Finally, they consume the meal while making pleasant small talk in front of an Instagram-y backdrop meant to evoke Tulum, or a retro diner, or, more abstractly, Lucky Charms cereal. Hilton talks a lot, in This Is Paris, about what she calls her character or her persona: the daffy, girlish, shopaholic heiress who talks in catchphrases (remember 'that’s hot'?) and has never heard of Walmart. That is the Paris who hosts Cooking, gliding through the pristine kitchen in sparkly cocktail dresses, attaching Chanel logos to filet mignon with toothpicks and professing not to know the words tong or whisk. At 40, she’s better than ever at playing this naive role. (It helps that she looks as though she stopped aging at 23.) While her banter with guests is only really interesting for how credulously they react to her performance of Paris, her comic instincts when alone with the camera are spot-on. 'Cute top,' she drawls offhandedly to one of her tiny dogs when he crosses her path in a leopard sweater. It’s a total throwaway, but I cracked up." But Berman adds: "Indeed, it seems easier for her to retreat back into a familiar character than to make permanent space in public life for the woman we meet in This Is Paris. Along with being less bankable—no one likes an introspective influencer—a permanent embrace of authenticity might spark a renewed reckoning, not just with Hilton’s credible allegations of abuse, but with the reports of vile bigotry that have cast the real pre-fame heiress as an aggressor as well as a victim. All of this makes it tough to enjoy the fluffy confection that is Cooking with Paris; I couldn’t help but add mental asterisks to the spectacle of Paris bonding with Saweetie over her love of the Philippines and, in the finale, chatting with mom Kathy and sister Nicky as though they were the world’s happiest family. What might have been a perfect comforting, low-stakes bedtime show under less complicated circumstances often ends up feeling, instead, like a waking nightmare."


    • Cooking With Paris is a disaster: Hilton's new cooking show is "an utterly unappealing sit that many viewers will tune out before the first episode has ended," says Daniel D'Addario. "I have no reason to disbelieve Hilton that when she is on-camera, exhibiting an incuriosity that’s breathtaking in its extremity, she’s putting on a performance. But does it matter? Paris Hilton may not actually float in a sea of assured entitlement, the way Paris does on Netflix. But she is, if nothing else, the one who thinks this act is funny, rather than bone-tired." He adds: "A show about an unskilled home cook trying to make fun meals is not necessarily the ground on which to stage a debate about authenticity and representation in food media. But Hilton has been given a massive megaphone by Netflix, and has only the imagination to use it to say, for instance, that Mexico is the place that reminds her of Taco Bell and Tulum; provided the opportunity to learn a single word, Hilton decides it’s cooler to live in a reality where she’s the boss. It can be easy to forget just how big Hilton was in her moment, and Cooking With Paris, perpetually, seems to be reaching for something in the past. Hilton’s constantly repeated catchphrase, 'sliving' (a clumsy portmanteau of 'slaying' and 'living') is transparently an attempt to recapture the magic of 'That’s hot,' if magic it was. Having Kim Kardashian West as a guest on the first episode, too, is a meta nod to Hilton’s own personal history."
    • Cooking with Paris might be a perfect vehicle for the current iteration of Paris Hilton since it doesn't take itself seriously: "The show is absurd," says Jaya Saxena. "Hilton knows it’s absurd, and she knows that you’re here to watch her be absurd so you can laugh at and sometimes with her. Everyone is in on the joke, I guess. Or maybe everyone is the joke. It’s 2021. Who can tell anymore?"
    • Cooking with Paris  just isn't compelling: "If anything, the episode reinforces how insufferable some celebrities can be and how overdone the series’ style and aesthetic are," says Lovia Gyarkye. "Hilton pretends not to know her way around the kitchen (she asks what tongs are), an act that contradicts the narrative she presented in that first YouTube video of her cooking. Kardashian West seems to be herself, which requires no further explanation. The pair cobble together their meal and almost burn down the kitchen in the process. While there is a sense of camaraderie between the two — they are old friends, after all — it’s not compelling enough to watch for 25 minutes. Maybe the producers know that, and that’s why the episodes rely so heavily on gimmicks: upbeat jazz tempos punctuating the conversations, one too many cuts to Hilton’s fuchsia pink table where she opens the recipe book, whisks eggs and caresses a Frosted-Flake-covered piece of toast, etc. Cooking with Paris could have succeeded as a show in which meals are the conduit, not the product. Food is a tonic for relationships, facilitating gossip, confessions and generally good conversations. There are glimpses of that in some of the five episodes I watched."
    • Cooking with Paris is a self-aware fantasy that is enticing: "Between the edible glitter and aimless internet searching — 'What is zest lemon?' Hilton earnestly asks Google in Episode 2 — the pop culture icon lets her unique personality pull you into the fun of this Barbie Dreamhouse-meets-Nailed It! hybrid," says Alison Foreman. "In each of Cooking with Paris’ six episodes, Hilton invites over a guest who helps her cook (or try to cook) a meal that is later served against an extravagant, themed backdrop, with Hilton sporting an outfit made to match. These culinary experiments have mixed results. But what actually happens in the series’ all-too-brief first season is fairly predictable. The Frosted Flake-encrusted french toast works great, because how could it not? Hilton breaks an industrial-grade blender, because how could she not? These hijinks are enjoyable if you’re someone fully onboard with Hilton’s brand of celebrity, but if you’re someone looking to be newly won over by the former The Simple Life star you won’t have much luck. From the jump, Cooking with Paris assumes you want to be 'cooking with Paris' — and considering the star’s tumultuous Hollywood history that may not be true for all viewers. If you are someone who wants to like Cooking with Paris, you will need to understand Hilton’s evolving personal history and complicated relationship to the modern fame economy."
    • Throughout Cooking in Paris, Hilton uses the word "sliving": She invented the term to blend the phrases “slaying it” and “living your best life," and has applied for a trademark for it.
    • Paris Hilton's goal is to prove people wrong with Cooking with Paris and her documentary This is Paris: “There are a lot of misconceptions. I feel like I’ve been underestimated a lot in my life, but I love to prove people wrong,” Hilton says. “Everyone assumes, ‘Oh, everything is just handed to her and she’s so spoiled.’ That couldn’t be any farther from the truth.”

    TOPICS: Cooking with Paris, Netflix, Paris Hilton, Reality TV