It is hard to tell if the latest chapter in the rehabilitation of Paris Hilton, a Netflix cooking series called Cooking with Paris, is surprising or not. On the one hand, Hilton is about the last person who comes to mind when you imagine someone slaving over a bourguignon below stairs, let alone eating one. On the other hand, cooking is an easy fit for her brand, and the thinnest of premises on which to hang half-hour chunks of Paris being Paris, in ever-more absurd costumes and antiseptic luxurious interiors. As the first episode opens, we see her in the supermarket in a hot pink diamanté Covid mask and hot pink ballgown. Hilton turned 40 this year, and by now we’re all in on the joke, a point reinforced by the camera cutting to show the crew hard at work filming the illusion. We’re no longer watching Paris, but the construction of the idea of Paris. It’s best not to think about it.
The inspiration for the series appears to be a YouTube video Hilton made last year, which was watched by more than five million people, most of them presumably startled at the evidence Hilton could make a passable lasagne. Sadly her expertise does not reach to the first meal of the day. “Cereal is my favourite food group and my number one: Lucky Charms,” she says, introducing a breakfast menu inspired by marshmallows. She will enjoy this meal surrounded by dogs, balloons and shades of pink and white. Her first guest is Kim Kardashian, a childhood pal and fellow heiress-turned-sex-tape-veteran-turned-globe-straddling tycoon. Kardashian assumes the role of culinary guide, like Jack Grealish becoming a philosophy lecturer. There’s something endearing in watching the two women make pretend small talk about cooking, as though either has gone a day without a private chef.
The opening dish is “sliving blue marshmallows”, sliving being an elision of slaying and living your best life. The recipe calls for lashings of blue food colouring and glitter. Even Ottolenghi rarely calls for glitter. Next up is “frosted flakes French Toast”; less one night in Paris, more one night in the diabetes ward. “How did you learn to do all this?” Paris asks, observing Kim frying bacon. “What’s a tong?” Paris asks, marvelling at this alien utensil. It’s good fun, as far as it goes. Hilton’s persona is entertainingly wry. It’s just pointless. There’s no serious cooking advice – which is fine, nobody is tuning in for Rick Stein – but nor is there insight into either woman. Watching Cooking with Paris is almost indistinguishable from not watching it.
You come away with the sense of a wasted opportunity. For all their desire to play the fool, Kardashian and Hilton are two of the internet age’s most compelling figures: savvy and brilliant women who had rigged a full spread of sail before the rest of us knew which way the wind was blowing. There is a frisson to their personal lives, too. Hilton talks about wanting to settle down at last, having spent her whole life as a gilded 21-year-old. Kardashian, we know, recently got divorced. But these things hardly get a look-in amid all the meaningless gliding about. For Cooking with Paris to endure, it has to offer more than cooking with Paris.