UGLY DELICIOUS S2 (part 1) gets 7.5/10 Comfort food

Season 2 episodes 1-4

Starring David Chang, Aziz Ansari
Network: Netflix


Restaurateur David Chang (Momofuku) has set himself a challenge with Ugly Delicious. This Netflix cooking show/travelogue/personal essay seeks to have a conversation about food. Yet it’s not the food pics of Instagram, or what’s hot at the moment, but the dishes we all know – those that reflect who we are and where we came from, and those that comfort and sustain us.

As such there’s nothing quite like this show. Ugly Delicious delves into the personal, the social-political, the communal, and the historical in a way that’s different to any other cooking show before it. Each episode is even different in structure and direction, guided by the cuisine in focus, rather than a formulaic approach. The result should be chaos, a show that meanders, pulled in various directions by the differing demands that each of its elements has on it. Yet it forms a cohesive whole, as each of those ingredients is balanced against the other, producing something that is rich and delectable.

Each episode is its own unique dish, each with its own distinct flavour. Like the personal story of David Chang discovering he’s going to be a father, sharing with audiences both his and his wife’s experience, and the lives of many other working chefs with children, as he looks into the world of kid’s food. Maybe steak is more to your liking, as the episode delves into the economics, the masculine associations of the dish, and the politics of the Steak House (from conservative Republican to an LGBT venue), as much as it does the cut of the meat. Each 50 minute episode is a comprehensive dive into the subject, not merely looking into the cooking of a dish, but the aspects of it that have become ingrained in our lives. Ugly Delicious demonstrates that food is much more than just taste, but the culture, the ceremony, and the personal stories behind the dish.

Which is what makes Ugly Delicious fascinating – that examination of food in such a comprehensive fashion, looking at the myriad of effects that it has on our lives and our culture. It’s something that is so ubiquitous that we don’t consider the various ramifications that have arisen out of it, and that dishes can reflect a vast history of migration and heritage throughout the world. A cross-pollination of cuisines, some times centuries-old, sometimes the cutting edge of cuisine.

It might also point out the flaw in the format of the show, with each episode being its own unique piece, there is only so much that can be done to keep things vibrant and different. As such fatigue is already starting to creep in, with this season lacking a little of the punch of the first.

That said, Ugly Delicious is still great viewing for any foodie, providing a banquet of information and ideas. Bon Appétit.


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