GOOD VS AUTHENTIC
Ihate when things become an institution,” chef David Chang declares in the episode dedicated to barbecue on his latest TV show Ugly Delicious. He’s talking about the institutionalisation of specific foods and cuisines and how they encourage parochialism on your plate. It may seem like a harsh statement, but it’s one Chang attempts to justify through the entire eight episodes of the show, where he along with his Lucky Peach co-founder and former NYT food writer Peter Meehan discuss big American favourites, including pizza, tacos and fried chicken.
Although it takes you into gourmet kitchens as much as it does into hole-in-the-wall eateries, food trucks and home kitchens in China or Mexico, this is not a food show that relies on pretty pictures. Chang has a serious question to ask—does authenticity trump tastiness? Every episode, stitched together through fantastic use of animation styles and even comedy sketches, has chefs, food writers, industry experts dish out food for thought. Whether it is while defining pizza (what’s the outer limit for toppings? Can what Chef Ryu Yoshimura of Savoy, Tokyo, serves be called fusion pizza or sushi?) or likening Chinese Peking duck to barbecue, the show always provides cultural context. For a non-American viewer, this can be eye-opening, such as understanding why black people in America shy away from barbecue and watermelon. Many of the chefs featured on the show are Chang’s buddies. The home cooking episode features not only Chang’s family at Thanksgiving, but also Noma chef Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen home where his wife Nadine is in charge of the kitchen. With only eight episodes to the show, we can’t help but hope there will be another season.