The show Selena + Chef, streaming on HBO Max, is one of the few good things to be born out of quarantine. The format of the series gives viewers a glimpse into award-winning singer and actress Selena Gomez’s home, specifically her kitchen. In an effort to improve her cooking skills and entertain us all, Gomez has cameras watching her every move as she connects with famous guest chefs, like Aarón Sanchez, Roy Choi, and Kelis Rogers, thousands of miles away in their own kitchens. It’s like a super-high-quality cooking show that takes place entirely over Zoom. In addition to lending their time and expertise, each guest chef preselects a charitable organization and the show donates $10,000 on their behalf.
When the show first aired in August 2020, Gomez was quarantining with her closest friends and family. Her grandpa and grandma (lovingly referred to as poppa and nanna), little sister, and close girlfriends all make appearances to be kitchen helpers and certified food tasters as Gomez works through recipes for dishes like Korean BBQ short rib breakfast tacos, oxtail poutine with yuca and farm fresh herbs, and even a Thanksgiving spread, all for the first time.
Something about this show must have resonated with viewers, because despite many places “opening back up” and certain COVID-19 restrictions allowing for dining out and larger gatherings, this show about staying in and learning to cook remotely continues to be renewed—HBO Max recently announced in a press release that a fourth season is on its way. Many of us have learned how to create connections without being in the same room since the pandemic started. Selena Gomez manages to do it not only with the chef teaching her how to cook from a completely separate location but also with the audience at home watching.
Seeing Gomez struggle to properly place the lid on an Instant Pot or failing to understand the setting on her own oven or realize in the moment that garbanzo beans and chickpeas are the same thing genuinely comforts me to my core. Her consistent blunders but ultimate successes give any beginner cook the confidence to try.
As a viewer you might even absorb some culinary knowledge, learning mouthwatering recipes via step-by-step instructions. My favorite vocab lesson has been the term “mise en place,” which roughly translates to “everything in its place.” This is the concept of having your ingredients measured out and your necessary tools laid out in front of you before you start cooking. The few times I have used prep bowls while cooking or baking, it has made the whole process much easier, even if it does add dishes to the clean up.
Even with all the flubs, Gomez has learned a few new tricks like how to eyeball a tablespoon’s worth of oil into a pot. She’s made it clear she is not ready for any cooking competition shows, but she’s definitely confident enough to cook for loved ones. The next season is set to premiere in 2022, so I recommend curling up and giving the previous seasons a marathon viewing.