I Kept An Eye Out For Selener

On my new comfort show: Selena + Chef.

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I’m coming out as a Selenator.

This isn’t a surprise to me: I grew up loving Wizards of Waverly Place, I’m famously pro-Ice Cream by BLACKPINK, and I think it was a really great move to pivot out of a Disney career by doing a Harmony Korine film. I’m listening to De Una Vez as I write this. Also, isn’t Only Murders in the Building just a grand ole time?

I’m going to ignore her very hard-to-ignore involvement with Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why (my personal 13th reason) and focus on the delightful experience I’ve had binging her cooking show, Selena + Chef, on HBOGo over the past week.

The premise of the show is that over the course of quarantine, Selena Gomez has wanted to brush up on her cooking skills and she’s asked some of the best chefs in the world to teach her from the comfort of their own homes. The show itself is shot entirely in Gomez’ new home using 4K cameras operated remotely by crew members covering nearly every inch of her kitchen. Like Jon Favreau’s The Chef Show meets Big Brother. A giant TV and video uplink connects her to her culinary guest each episode.

I love watching shows that were shot during COVID because there’s this added layer of strangeness on top of the already-present dread of living through a global pandemic. It’s like an uncanny valley thing for me—because our reality is so hyper-present in these tightly produced television programmes, it becomes even more unreal. Am I making sense? I mean, TV has always been like that, but I like how weird TV is getting. This show is the least weird thing about TV right now.

Gomez outright admits that she’s not exactly the best cook. We see her stumble, fumble and grow frustrated with certain tasks at hand. Sometimes she scares me because she isn’t curling her fingers when she’s handling a very sharp knife. But time and again, Gomez always pulls it together to complete the dish she’s learning to make. Her friends and family she’s quarantining with often rate her efforts out of five and so far they haven’t given her anything lower than a four.

She’s been working with the likes of Curtis Stone, Nancy Silverton, and José Andrés on this show. The first episode was an intense but very interesting omelet lesson from the legendary Ludo Lefebvre. One of my favourite episodes was one where Roy Choi taught Selena how to make K-BBQ Breakfast Tacos a la Kogi and she facetimed Taylor Swift. Being someone of the Swiftie persuasion, I damn near lost my mind. That whole interaction reminds me of Roy Choi teaching Sam Raimi how to make pasta from scratch with the ingredients Raimi brought from his home garden on The Chef Show.

I think famous people cooking is really hilarious. Not in a schadenfreude way, but in that obvious realisation that these celebrities also have to, like, eat. Their deification becomes obvious and a little silly. On The Chef Show, Robert Rodriguez teaches Favreau and Choi how he makes his gluten-free pizza bases out of cauliflower and it was incredibly endearing. Picturing Rodriguez chomping on his homemade pizza in pre-production for The Mandalorian is a pretty fun sight. That really clichéd expression, “you are what you eat”, and Ratatouille (2007)’s thesis of “anyone can cook” are sort of married under this premise of people that happen to be well-known in the entertainment world that also happen to have a passion for food. That wasn’t as articulate as it could’ve been. We all have our flop eras. You get what I’m trying to say though, right?

Selena has a very well-stocked kitchen. She has a baby pink stand mixer that I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it. A lot of her fans have apparently dedicated entire Instagram accounts to Selena’s iridiscent, rainbow knives. What I’ve been enjoying the most about the show is how candid she and her quarantine crew have been; the occasional ribbing from her grandfather, complaints about her friend Raquelle spending too much time on her phone, or the cheeky little jar Selena’s made to put a dollar in every time she overuses the phrase “okey-dokey”.

I find that the show highlights the joy of cooking really well, including the learning aspect. I enjoy Selena’s candor with each chef, and it seems like they find her quite refreshing as well. I like that the show doesn’t shy away from the mistakes that are being made on her journey, it doesn’t feel as contrived as it could feel despite how hyper-aware the subjects and the audience are of the camera. What I thought was really sweet was that Selena asks each chef to elaborate on what charity they’ll be supporting in that episode and she donates $10,000 on their behalf.

Selena + Chef was a nice little reminder of how fascinated I am with how we acquire new skills in adulthood. I was one of those Asian kids that was pushed into learning the violin under some pretty harsh teachers. I forgot that learning could be wholesome and nurturing and it’s not all scores and perfect thesis proposals. It’s a lot of mistakes and trial and error and though everything I’m saying is super obvious, they’re also really easy to forget. We have so many resources with to engage now and a lot of us are self-taught at a lot of things. There’s something really intimate about learning something from someone else. And I liked that Alex Russo got to show me that one more time.

Sweet Deans

I’m taking a little break from all social media for a while but I’d like to highlight how much I enjoy reacting to things using images of Jim Rash as Dean Craig Pelton from Community. Pelton is a fellow glasses-wearing freak that’s difficult to pin down in more ways than one but is deeply attracted to Joel McHale. So true, Dean.

Upon putting on Captain America: Civil War in the background, I was reminded that Jim Rash had a small cameo in the film delivering an under the radar innuendo a la Dean Pelton:

I’d like to think that canonically, Dean Pelton left Greendale and accidentally conned his way to becoming an Associate Lecturer at MIT. He’d teach fabric engineering and dalmation studies or whatever.

So Text, Bestie #3 (or #4, I May Be Wrong)

The coveted Hyperfixate column where I share no context messages from my friends that they’ve consented to sharing returns to the main timeline!

This week’s contribution comes from my wife and fellow Sopranos enjoyer Kristina:

Thanks to Kristina, I can now sleep soundly knowing that Garfield the Cat is not just a cultural icon, but definitely not a war criminal.

That’s all for this week! Catch you on the flip!