Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
David Chang cannot stop crying. At the start of the episode, when he and wife Grace tell their parents over FaceTime that they're having a baby. In the middle, talking about how they found out Grace was pregnant the same week his close friend and mentor Anthony Bourdain died. By the time their baby arrives at the end of the episode, you'll almost definitely be crying too.
All this emotion is probably not what any of us expected when we clicked on the new series of Netflix's Ugly Delicious. After all, this is a show where the first series mostly involved fancy chefs and random celebrities stuffing their faces and having entertaining arguments about things like which country makes better pizza.
The first episode of series two is a special one, but it's not a total departure from the Ugly Delicious of old. The show's scope has always been pretty loosely defined, each episode basically just a chance for Dave to unpack some of the food-related thoughts and questions cluttering his mind. It's just now his mind has shifted from wondering "what makes the perfect taco" to "how do you raise a child?"
The obvious first stop is Mum's house. Sherri Chang was the breakout star of the first series and furthers her case for a spin-off series here, effortlessly whipping up Korean baby staple gyeran-jjim (egg custard) as if she makes it every day. "What babies have you been making this for?" Dave asks. "No one," Sherri replies in that subtly guilt-inducing tone mums have.
How do other chefs do it? Well, most struggle. A couple of Dave's mates out in Portland have made it work by running their restaurant (the amazing-looking Han Oak) out of their house, like a Michelin star version of the classic Kiwi dairy. Upside: more family time. Downside: sometimes customers will wander into your bedroom, thinking it's the bathroom, which is not ideal when you're trying to feed a baby in there.
Looking ahead, Dave visits Dan Giusti, the former head chef at Noma, who now does admirable work trying to improve the state of food in schools. "What does a third-grader eat?" He wonders. "Probably nothing you've ever cooked," replies Dan. Dave makes them a chicken rice dish. "It's actually kind of good," one surprised-sounding third-grader says. "You've done well, bro."
There is much to learn, but the main lesson is probably that there's nothing that can really prepare you. In all the enthusiasm, the episode probably bites off a little more than it can chew – one second Dave'll be eating a school lunch in Japan; the next he's making baby food with [actor] Nick Kroll, then suddenly Grace is having sushi with the author of a book about how conventional pregnancy wisdom is often total bulls***.
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That's just trademark Ugly Delicious, though – hectic, hyperactive, the product of a busy mind. And that's probably what makes it so moving when the baby arrives, and everything slows down. It's rare for food television to get so personal and rarer still for it to be this good.