Paris Hilton descends down a foggy spiral staircase, operatic music blaring. She’s in full glam, wearing a sheer-paneled white gown. As the fog fades and the California sun shines on Hilton through the window, there’s a sudden cut to her struggling to pull out a grocery cart. Once her cart is settled, a masked Hilton casually enters the Los Angeles Eataly as if she is a normal person shopping at Eataly.
Every episode of Cooking With Paris opens with a similar sequence: a dreamlike, cinematic entrance to a store, contrasted with mundane, common grocery problems like knocking shit over and asking an employee what chives look like. After shopping, Hilton goes back to her unicorn-filled kitchen to prepare some food before a celebrity guest comes over to help her finish making the meal. Cooking With Paris, which drops today on Netflix, is a fever dream I do not want to wake up from. The idyllic, tranquil atmosphere is tinged with a bit of the nightmarish; the show feels so real and yet so bizarre and unattainable at the same time, like your mind playing tricks on you. What makes Cooking With Paris so soothing are Hilton’s contradictory taste (she loves Taco Bell and Chanel equally), an imaginative atmosphere, and that it’s the story of a woman in the public eye who is finally harnessing her power as she goes into the next phase of her life.
After over 20 years in the public eye, Cooking With Paris is finally an outlet that lets Hilton be her true self in front of cameras: a dramatic, childlike, and confident extension of her exaggerated, performatively clueless persona on The Simple Life. Unlike the rural setting she was thrown into in the early 2000s, Hilton is in her own world. It is a very pink, very glittery, and very expensive world — and this time, she’s in control of it. The show is essentially a follow-up to This Is Paris, the 2020 documentary that highlighted Hilton’s cultural influence, misrepresentation in the media, and the trauma she has from an abusive boarding school her parents sent her to when she was a teenager.
The bubbly, surreal Barbie aesthetic includes homemade McDonald’s fries served in pink toy cars, “gilded” onion rings (onion rings dusted with gold, of course), filet mignon covered in glitter, and a cookbook that looks like it was designed by me during my early-2000s gel-pen phase (according to Hilton, she “only writes in rainbow”). But this charming aesthetic is not limited to the food: It’s all over every aspect of the show, including the text that appears onscreen, the romantic music, and Hilton’s wardrobe, which is never appropriate for what she is cooking. Guest and rapper Saweetie puts this aesthetic more simply: “rich-bitch shit.” All of these silly, somewhat fantastical elements are so Paris Hilton in that they perhaps only appeal to the taste of an adult who grew up with unlimited wealth, but that’s the point. Hilton is showing off, because this is who she is.
The inaccessible and seemingly impossible wealth of a Hilton should be infuriating. In Holly Golightly cosplay, Hilton buys truffles that cost $1,000 per pound, then 23-karat edible gold flakes to put on top of onion rings without a second thought. Unfortunately, Cooking With Paris is so soothing in its escapist, anticlimactic-but-in-a-good-way quality that the part of my brain that wants to scream “Eat the rich!” took a nap.
Hilton’s guests on the show are almost exclusively other wealthy celebrities who presumably haven’t cooked in their own kitchens even during the pandemic, when this was filmed. For example, Hilton and Kim Kardashian West almost use a KitchenAid as a blender, Hilton and Demi Lovato do not know what lemon zest is, and Hilton accidentally blends the top of a salt shaker into salsa. And those are just the start of the minor kitchen nightmares intertwined in the show. A lot of this could be the persona she creates for the cameras: Hilton is smarter than she lets on (and smarter than the media allowed her to be), so she mixes the dumb blonde/ignorant rich-person stereotype seen on The Simple Life with someone who actually knows her shit, like when she confidently combines various, more expensive cheeses into boxed mac ’n’ cheese, a recipe she is so familiar with that it’s muscle memory. Or when she brings out a box full of sunglasses to wear to prevent from crying while chopping onions.
Although Cooking With Paris is not informative (minus the sunglasses tip), it serves a personal purpose for Hilton. In episode one, she tells Kardashian West, “I feel like I’ve been living like a 21-year-old for my entire life, and now I feel like I’m ready to move on.” Throughout the series, Hilton alludes to her plans to get married and start a family “next year.” Last week, “Page Six” reported that Hilton is pregnant, which she confirmed was false on her podcast later that day. Either way, fast-food-loving (she mentions Taco Bell a lot, which is a way into my heart) Hilton, whose pantry is filled with candy and cereal, is ready to be a mom and a domestic queen. If anything, Cooking With Paris is about a woman transitioning from one period of her life to another. Not all of us have access to the kind of wealth and fame Paris Hilton has to make a spectacle out of it all, but it’s refreshing to see someone else going through a process everyone identifies with in some way: wet pasta dough.