Paris Hilton totters through the produce section in a hot pink ball gown, four-inch stiletto heels, and matching fingerless lace gloves. She pauses, the two-foot taffeta bow attached to her back swaying slightly, and trains her eyes on a small man in a grocery store apron. “Excuse me, sir,” she purrs. “What do chives look like?”
This is our introduction to Cooking With Paris, Hilton’s new show that premieres on Netflix today, August 3. The series promises to “turn the traditional cooking show upside down” as Hilton gathers a few famous confidantes and attempts to broaden her culinary horizons. Unfortunately, Cooking With Paris falls flatter than an undercooked Funfetti cake—especially for those of us with previous stake in Hilton’s reality television career.
The six-episode season of Cooking With Paris features a guest roster that includes reality star Kim Kardashian, rapper Saweetie, singer Demi Lovato, and, in the final episode, members of Hilton’s immediate family. The show’s description reads thusly:
[Hilton is] not a trained chef and she’s not trying to be. With the help of her celebrity friends, she navigates new ingredients, new recipes and exotic kitchen appliances. Inspired by her viral YouTube video, Paris will take us from the grocery store to the finished table spread—and she might actually learn her way around the kitchen.
Each 25-ish-minute episode kicks off as Hilton shops for ingredients in a series of outlandish outfits. During her uncannily awkward grocery excursions, the heiress often pauses to mispronounce ingredients and casually harangue store associates. In the show’s fourth episode, Hilton gestures to a container of mozzarella and asks an Eataly pizza counter attendant to doctor a Neapolitan slice on the sly. “I cannot do that,” the associate replies as Hilton slinks away.
After arriving home with her grocery haul, Hilton convenes with her chief of staff to determine the decor for the feast that follows each cooking session. Hilton’s team then works frantically behind the scenes, dragging in themed accents to match each type of cuisine. The decor varies to include ostentatious Tulum-inspired greenery, old-fashioned steakhouse accoutrements, and Americana diner vibes, but the underlying message is clear: it’s all very, very expensive.
While her team labors, Hilton welcomes her guests. They embrace, they talk about nothing, they make a few dishes from anonymous recipes; finally, they enjoy their meal in the hastily decorated dining room while Hilton’s staff lingers off-camera, staring into the distance like a bunch of off-duty Westworld robots. All the while, Hilton shows off her extensive collection of fingerless gloves that surely must reek of garlic at this point.
I need to be clear about something: you will not learn to cook from Cooking With Paris. There are no recipes or step-by-step instructions as Hilton and friends prepare the dishes. Instead, a cutesy font occasionally rolls across the screen with vague cooking tips like “grab a bunch of marshmallows” and “microwave ’till it’s all melty.” We’re also not privy to the kind of effortless culinary skill apparent in Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. This begs the question: if we’re not learning to cook with Paris, what are we doing here? Grub Street writer Rachel Sugar puts it perfectly:
“To understand what Cooking With Paris is, it helps to start with what it is not: It is not informative. It is neither practical nor culinarily interesting. There are no useful tips or tricks or fun cultural facts, the kind of trivia you might pull out, years later, if you were ever at a party and someone asked, “So what’s the deal with Himalayan salt?” It is not funny, although the twist is that it is also not serious. It feels as though it should be satire, except it doesn’t satirize anything specific.”
This would all be fine if Hilton leaned into her past as a reality entertainer. I remain a rabid fan of The Simple Life, which aired from 2003 to 2007 and followed Hilton and best friend Nicole Richie as they explored America’s heartland. The Simple Life is funny, weird, messy, and full of delicious cringe as Hilton and Richie make total idiots of themselves. Cooking With Paris desperately needs that goofy energy. Hilton does try to inject some of The Simple Life’s weirdo camp into Cooking With Paris, leaning into her old penchant for inventing slang, just as she and Richie used to do during their Simple Life days. But now, Hilton offers only one lackluster portmanteau: “sliving” (slaying + living your best life = sliving). It doesn’t land.
In Hilton’s world, no one appears to have any fun—not Hilton, not her staff, and certainly not her guests, although her dogs do seem to enjoy her high-priced kitchen scraps. In the first episode, Hilton and Kardashian embark on what must be the least enthusiastic cooking experiment of all time, turning a batch of homemade marshmallows in a sticky, gloppy mess. “I’m gonna need to touch up my makeup,” Kardashian murmurs, barely cracking a smile as she wipes the mess off her hands. “I’m literally crying.”
There’s also no room given to more substantive conversation, though that’s not for lack of openings. In Episode 2, for example, Saweetie makes her signature shrimp tacos while telling Hilton about the perils of renting rooms from strangers, which the rapper did for years while she worked her way into L.A.’s music scene. Saweetie also mentions her mother’s Filipino heritage, which could have been a great segue into a broader culinary discussion. Unfortunately, Hilton dismisses the conversation, noting that she’s been to Manila but is too busy to check out any of the country’s less cosmopolitan attractions. Later, in Lovato’s episode, Hilton lauds Lovato’s “bravery” but never clarifies exactly what that means. Hilton also refers to the nonbinary singer as “sis” before the two sit down to dine.
Of course, I didn’t expect hard-hitting social discussions on Cooking With Paris. But I did expect a bit more—more drama, maybe, or more Simple Life–style antics. Hell, more food. At the very least, I had hoped for a glimpse of Hilton’s ridiculously costly lifestyle in the same vein as Selling Sunset or The Real Housewives franchise, both of which showcase nauseating wealth in a way I find ghoulishly entertaining. “I love your life,” gushes Episode 3 guest Nikki Glazer—but we don’t ever really see Hilton’s life outside of the stiletto-heel-shaped cake cutter in her dining room.
Without a tangible angle, the show feels dull. Watching Paris Hilton eat candy and wander around in a velour sweatsuit just doesn’t have the appeal it did 20 years ago. In a way, Cooking With Paris feels like a sterilized peek inside Versailles, lacking the sort of gonzo excitement that prevents us from guillotining the absurdly rich. More than that, Cooking With Paris is entirely without conflict, because Hilton can always afford a backup plan. (In Lovato’s episode, Hilton adds too much oil to her homemade ravioli, destroying the pasta. Fortunately, the night is saved with a package of prepared Eataly ravioli.)
Like everything else in Hilton’s life, the star’s kitchen is magically consequence-free. You can stuff yourself with marshmallows and stay rail-thin; you can spend the majority of your adult life partying and never age; you can employ a legion of domestic staff to clean up after your kitchen messes. And while I excused, even relished, this lack of accountability in a younger Hilton, there’s something unsettling about seeing the former party girl in a 40-year-old woman’s body, pretending not to know how to pronounce “tomatillo,” lounging around amid strictly decorative Smeg appliances, and bragging about how she has three cell phones, one exclusively for pranks. It put me off my appetite.