From the moment they all hit the culture scene, like bugs on a windshield that somehow peel themselves up and flit off shinier than before, Paris Hilton and the Kardashian/Jenner gals have appeared cut from the same entitled, vapid, self-obsessed, etc. cloth.
Where they diverged is that opposed to the Kardashian ladies, who drove themselves to be multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, Paris always seemed to just be trifling with anything she did. She came off as the ‘old money’, the blonde, European-rooted American (named Paris…), with soooo much family riches at her disposal she had no need to make anything work for personal financial gain. Meanwhile, the Kardashians repped the ass-busting second-generation immigrant narrative, not resting on the comfort their father provided but making their own fortunes and community-property-ing with celebrities who in turn had their own fortunes.
Paris had her own reality show. She recorded an album or two. She licensed products. She took pocket change to appear at clubs. She toyed with boyfriends who were hot first, their wealth just a bonus if applicable. Then, as the KarJennians took over the world, Paris receded, with a nonchalant wave of her hand. “That’s all just too much work,” she seemed to be saying, “and I don’t need to work.”
Yet boredom is a persistent devil with the idle rich who once enjoyed seeing themselves move around (barely) on a little screen. So Paris is back with her latest trifle, Cooking With Paris. This time, however, she’s got a keeper.
Paris has always winked at her dumb rich girl persona, never enough to appear to be criticizing herself, but enough to let her fans know the way her money allowed her to behave was not normal, not something they could really ever understand. Her milieu was palatial homes, sprawling pools, private jets, roped-off VIP dens.
In Cooking With Paris, our princess of excess has plopped herself into a much more accessible world, stilettoing into a kitchen that could easily be in a meager $400,000 builder house in a gated community outside Atlanta. It’s clearly not a kitchen she knows, as we find out quickly. She proceeds to launch into a cooking demonstration, tilting on a line between innate obliviousness and knowing self-parody with comic deftness that her previous work has only suggested. It’s too real to be silly, too silly to be real.
It looks like one of the things Paris has been doing while out of the spotlight, besides inventing the term ‘sliving’, is growing her hair. It’s verging on crazy-lady, Crystal Gale length, its severe straightening having less to do with current trends and more to do with someone whose hair is a brand ID and can’t be altered. Her fingerless leather gloves and rainbow-motif sweater say she’s still tough but girly.
She’s here in this unfamiliar kitchen to show us how to make her “infamous lasagna”. Now, either that’s a euphemism for what we can all guess, or her lasagna has actually done something memorably naughty, like gave Kim Kardashian diarrhea.
It does feel like Paris was purposely kept in the dark about the set-up, so that she has things to play off. (Smart.) Her assistant had to have known how clumsy it would be for Paris to dump those big lasagna noodles into a pot of water, and Paris reacts by complaining that she wasn’t provided with pre-cooked noodles and that we all should make things easier on ourselves and use the pre-cooked. Which btw never achieve the right texture, so, in case you were thinking about actually following Paris’ cooking advice, don’t.
After apologizing to the sponsor for dissing their dry noodles (“Sorry, Barilla”), she gets her cheese together, or rather she gets a packed Saturday night at Olive Garden’s worth of cheese together. As she pulls out tub after tub of ricotta, all you can imagine is the time you’d spend sitting doubled over on the toilet, wondering if the same happened to Kim. After pointing out that she is actually using way too much cheese, she adds an egg and shaves mozzarella into the vat of lactose. She explains that the gloves are to protect her fingers while grating, even though the gloves are fingerless. There’s some suspense as her trepidation grows noticeably while the mozzarella wedge gets smaller and smaller…
Now comes the slapstick, also presented deftly. It’s time to “tan” the meat, a fraught twist of a cooking term if there ever was one, so she plops and squeezes pounds of ground-up animal (she earlier called alternative cheeses abnormal, so vegans beware) into a way-too-small frying pan, on a burner that’s only two settings are “blaring hot” and “simmuh”. What comes next is the first of many LOL moments: her salting technique. It’s kind of like throwing a handful of darts all at once. Some will hit the board, but most will fly all over the room. And she does this with the pour spout fully open, so the amount of salt that does go on her meat is shocking. She owns up to the salty debacle, and shows us a practical way of dabbing the excess off the meat. Wet the towel with water from a plastic bottle though, she notes, because who knows what’s in the sewers under this strange kitchen. She could be in Guadalajara for all she knows.
While the meat is tanning, she searches for the proper utensils. Not that she’d know what they were, as in her assessment, spoons are “brutal”. This kitchen is purposely set up for comedy, as the cooking tools have been placed in drawers on the opposite side of the island from the range, forcing Paris to walk back and forth every time she needs something brutal, which is clearly tiring her out. She fishes out three different kinds of spatula, two metal and one “I have no idea what this is”, proving she’s never made a cake. She then – and here my disbelief is taken to another level – jabs at the pile of meat with all three utensils at once, double fisting two of them. She does soon discard one, and soon after that her wrists get tired. She takes a break to open the jars of tomato sauce while someone off-camera deals with the meat.
Oh, look, what’s this in the pantry? Is it basil or oregano to season the meat? No, it’s Himalayan salt, which Paris thinks “sounds cool”. So onto the already heart-attack-level-sodiumed meat that goes, along with precisely 11 grinds from a pepper mill. I thought she’d make a Spinal Tap joke, but forgot it’s Paris Hilton.
All this cooking gets a girl dewy, so she takes a break to spritz herself with her Unicorn mist. This is a too-obvious comic move, and thus a narrative misfire.
But she’s back, spotting an errant onion and garlic on the counter and realizing she was supposed to chop them up for the sauce. It’s too late now, besides this is already starting to bore her. “I’ve decided this lasagna will not have onion or garlic,” she announces officially, then puts on big sunglasses which were intended to keep her mascara from running while she chopped the onion, which she will not be doing now, but whatever. Useless accessories have always been part of her brand.
The meat is attacked again, this time with a barbeque burger flipper and a potato masher. Then the sauce is added to the already too-full pan. She gets to use her famous catchphrase “that’s hot” when she tries to move the pan, so if there was any doubt everything was leading Paris to this show, it is now dispelled.
It’s time to put it all together. She starts with the meat sauce, then layers upward with the noodles. She expresses severe disdain for the noodles that rip – “don’t use those, they ruin everything” – and spreads on the cheese, again reminding us that it’s way too much and we should not use this amount. Thou dost protesteth too much, Paris. Am I sensing you and your infamous lasagna may currently be in a lawsuit with Kim over a ruined La Perla thong?
As she dumps her final layer of meat slop and tops with more cheese, she tosses us her last nugget of culinary wisdom: people think lasagna is hard to make, but it’s really fun and easy. Well it’s harder than making, like, toast or something.
You won’t get a usable lasagna recipe out of Cooking With Paris, even though it’s wrapped in a graphics package that attempts legitimacy, puts up ingredients before it begins, and has a big sponsor. What you’ll get is a fine piece of meta comedy, and Paris Hilton in her Playboy-Bunny-meets-Ivanka-Trump prime. She invites us to send in what we’d like her to cook next, and oh, the possibilities!
She has so many places to go with this show. If she can’t even sprinkle salt properly, how will she handle steaming, sifting, rolling dough? What gloves will she wear to chop herbs? Will she accidentally impale one of the zoo of small creatures dashing around underfoot? Who will lose a finger when she tries to split an acorn squash? Dare she attempt a reduction?
Cooking With Paris is done in a way that no drag queen or SNL writer could possibly make funnier. As long as she keeps the tone in this comic sweet-spot, she’s got a winner, an infinitely more watchable 15 minutes than any two minutes of the tired Kardashians. In fact, let’s bet how long it takes one of them to copy this formula.
Welcome back, Paris, and bon appetit!
Cooking With Paris is on YouTube