Netflix has been adding and adding to their collection of episodic originals to the point where it's getting overwhelming (even for a guy who considers himself a film buff). It's anxiety inducing! I want to consume all of it, however, time is a limiting factor… I've found it best to create a playlist and stick to it. One of the many things I selected to be on there is the docu-series, Ugly Delicious. I had it on "My List" for several months and I clicked it because I was fed up with the ever-growing-never-viewing Netflix feed I was producing.
What I thought was going to be food porn with wacky experimental recipes, including gratuitous shots of slow-motion syrup drippage, turned out to be a chef's exploration of culture and tradition. David Chang, world famous chef, looks at food like a historian. He traces its origins and develops a conversation around it. He tests the opinions of other world-renowned chefs on originality and as to whether a plate's birthplace is actually where it is deemed, "the best." An interesting example is when he travels to Japan for the pizza. It is acknowledged by the world that Italy is the king of pizza, yet, Chang offers the possibility that maybe it's not. He further presents the idea of recipes merely working as pliable templates.
I initially wasn't too into Chang. I thought he was really aggressive and instigative. He would seem to strike up a conversation or ask specific questions he knew would get a rise out of his guests for the sake of riling them up. However, I quickly realized that he's just a guy genuinely passionate about food. That’s why he’s at the top of his class. He follows what he loves and wants to know more about it, discuss it, and create it. Each episode deals with a lot of pressing topics: stereotypes associated with food and why that is, how barbecue is identified, and the breaking of traditions for the sake of experimentation.
The series was very enticing and thought-provoking. He exposed a culinary universe most people are ignorant of, including myself. I don't think too much about a food's history, I just try to satiate my cravings with whatever I'm in the mood for. This show opened my eyes to a level of understanding between food and society that undoubtedly lends itself to educational media. For that, I am grateful to have watched (more like, binged) this Netflix original. When you can genuinely leave a show with a different perspective on something, it has done its job.
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