REVIEW

Cooking with Paris a sugary confection that hits the spot

Cooking with Paris. Netflix, Six 21-minute episodes. Four stars

Paris Hilton does her (latest) thing. Picture: Netflix

Paris Hilton does her (latest) thing. Picture: Netflix

Chaos theory is an interesting concept to explore, and offers a surprisingly insightful answer to the question I have asked many times in this Kardashian-fuelled pop culture age.

The question - who the heck are the Kardashians and why does anyone give a flying frick about them? - has so troubled me across the 20 seasons of their show Keeping Up With The Kardashians that I never watched even a single episode.

The butterfly-wing beat that kicked off the deterministic nonlinear system that begat Kim Kardashian and her over-publicised family is the bubbly blonde heiress to the Hilton Hotels fortune, It girl and influencer Paris Hilton.

Paris was already The New Yorker and Vanity Fair famous in her teens, getting photographed showing up to things, and having a sex tape accidentally released.

When the Hollywood writers' strike of 2007 suddenly made unscripted television a financial necessity, reality TV was born and the formula had already been perfected by the cunning producers at Fox TV who threw Paris and her schoolfriend Nicole Ritchie at some unwitting country families in The Simple Life.

Appearing in the background of that show was Paris's assistant at the time, a young Kim Kardashian, who would take a leaf from her boss's book and parlay the exposure of a leaked sex tape to her own 20-season series and implausible megastardom. There's that question at least partially answered.

While her friend was dominating the small screen over the past 14 years, Paris was astutely focusing her former megastardom with an unexpected business acumen into an empire that includes a multi-billion-dollar line of perfumes and high-paying DJ work.

Heading into her 40s now, Hilton again pivots into new projects that reposition her as an adult. She isn't dropping her ditsy luxury-label-clad party-animal persona, she's just letting the audience know she's not just in on the joke, she invented it, beginning with Alexandra Dean's 2020 YouTube Originals documentary series This Is Paris and continuing the gag with this new Netflix series Cooking With Paris.

"I'm not a trained chef and I'm not trying to be," Hilton begins each episode.

"I have a few go-to options ... but I want to mix it up so I'm expanding my repertoire."

In each of the six episodes, Hilton invites an equally famous friend over to her Sherman Oaks, California residence to assist her in building on her culinary skills. She is starting from quite a low baseline - producers offscreen have to tell her what a whisk is in one episode and what zest is in another.

Those friends begin with Kim Kardashian in episode one where the pair make Frosted Flakes-coated French toast. The two are as thick as thieves and I can see the appeal Kardashian brings.

In the episode featuring the rapper songstress Sawettie, where salsa and prawn tacos are on the menu, the giant blender of lime margaritas that Paris whips up before the cooking starts absolutely hijacks the proceedings.

Hilton accidentally drops into her real voice, a light baritone, when her guard is down. In the episode she shares with Disney-child-star-turned-troubled-rebel Demi Lovato, Hilton drops into her real voice as Lovato shares a story about Hilton's advice to her younger self years before about never revealing your true self in front of the media.

"Watching you talk about what you're going through has been so powerful and healing for me," Paris shares with the singer and actress over her very public struggles with addiction. The pair cook Italian dishes including a ravioli made from flour coloured pink with beetroot powder. Edible glitter reappears across recipes and I have to say it is not for me but all power to her.

The Queen of Hearts cocktail dress she wears to cook with Lovato is probably the most practical of her outfits in this first series, outfits which include Swarovski-strewn ballgowns and a sultry red diamonds-are-a-girl's-best-friend number with a giant bow across the breast.

An ongoing bit of comedic shtick in every episode is the bedazzled or rhinestoned fingerless gloves Hilton wears and sometimes impractically attempts to cover with a further pair of rubber gloves for food hygiene reasons. While she doesn't say it, I wonder if the ageing that happens to our hands when we spend our childhoods in the sun is her motivator here.

Paris's mother Kathy Hilton has been on the most recent season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Kathy and sister Nicky are guests for the final episode, titled Family Steak Night.

The series is as overproduced as a generous Netflix budget might warrant, with a party planner decorating Paris's dining room themed to each cuisine. Generously lit and with a bossa mova laid over, this sugary confection is actually just the diversion we all need across the recent series of weeks when "real" television slams us with escalating grimness.

This story Sugary confection hits the spot first appeared on The Canberra Times.