Shows cooked to per­fec­tion

The Kansas City Star - - Fyi Preview - BY KATIE WALSH Tri­bune News Service

Folks, our long na­tional night­mare is over. That’s right: “Top Chef” is back. New sea­sons of Bravo’s cook­ing com­pe­ti­tion show are so few and far be­tween, it’s an event when a new one drops, and so March 19 was cause for cel­e­bra­tion as “Top Chef Sea­son 20: All Stars” started its run. If you need to fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with any of the re­turn­ing chefs, Hulu has the whole cat­a­log up, and what bet­ter time to dive in?

Staying at home with ex­tra time and lots of gro­ceries means we all seem to be chef­ing it up right now. If you need any in­spi­ra­tion for your Quar­an­tine Cook­ing, now is the time to dive down the rab­bit hole of famed food mag­a­zine Bon Ap­petit’s cult fa­vorite YouTube chan­nel, with cook­ing shows that put Food Net­work to shame. Rather than go for the anony­mous over­head cook­ing videos seen every­where on so­cial me­dia, Bon Ap­petit knows they have a wealth of en­ter­tain­ment in the good-look­ing and charis­matic food ed­i­tors who pop­u­late the Test Kitchen, and they have in­cred­i­ble amount of ex­per­tise to go along with their charm and cook­ing chops.

There’s the stern taskmas­ter with a per­fect palate, Chris Morocco, never without a tast­ing spoon (watch him recre­ate recipes from taste and smell in “Re­verse

Engi­neer­ing”), lov­able Philly lunk Brad Leone (he tack­les all things fer­men­ta­tion in “It’s Alive”), and bril­liant baker Claire Saf­fitz (she makes high-end ver­sions of junk food in “Gourmet Makes”), among a host of other charm­ing food­ies.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to watch the process of recipe de­vel­op­ment in “Mak­ing Per­fect,” in which they’re paired up to tackle dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of pizza (Sea­son 1), and Thanks­giv­ing din­ner (Sea­son 2). But it’s the in­ter­per­sonal dy­nam­ics that makes the videos ad­dic­tive (take a look at the YouTube com­ments that dis­sect ev­ery mi­nor in­ter­ac­tion). Like TV writer Mar­garet Lyons said on Twitter, “it’s Parks and Rec,” and she’s right. The pleas­ant and quirky per­son­al­i­ties of the Test Kitchen and their in­ter­ac­tions make for de­light­ful watch­ing, and I can at­test to the men­tally cu­ra­tive pow­ers of watch­ing Molly Baz make mac ‘n’ cheese, es­pe­cially if your at­ten­tion span can’t han­dle a whole movie or series right now.

Need more stream­ing cook­ing con­tent? Ju­lia Child biopic “Julie and Ju­lia” is on Net­flix, star­ring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. If you’re in­spired to try a sim­i­lar pro­ject, cook­ing your way through a cook­book, do like the mil­len­ni­als do and cook your way through Ali­son Ro­man’s reper­toire, which in­cludes her two buzzy cook­books “Din­ing In” and “Noth­ing Fancy,” as well as a cat­a­log of vi­ral recipes on the New York Times cook­ing app, with ac­com­pa­ny­ing tu­to­ri­als filmed in her cozy Brook­lyn kitchen for the NYT Cook­ing YouTube chan­nel. Be sure to cap­ture your ef­forts for the ’gram!

For your quar­an­tinethemed cin­ema, this week brings the re­lease of “Vi­var­ium,” on all ma­jor stream­ing plat­forms and On Demand, star­ring Jesse Eisen­berg and Imo­gen Poots as a cou­ple who be­come trapped alone in a sub­ur­ban dystopia. Un­able to es­cape from the labyrinthi­ne maze of the cookie-cut­ter hous­ing de­vel­op­ment called “Yon­der,” and sad­dled with rais­ing a very creepy and men­ac­ing child, they slowly start to un­ravel in this sur­real and tor­tur­ous en­vi­ron­ment. This freaky-deaky movie boldly di­rected by Lor­can Fin­negan is in­cred­i­bly dark, and ei­ther the per­fect quar­an­tine watch or the worst. Ei­ther way, it’s to­tally fas­ci­nat­ing and un­like any­thing else you’ll see. Make it a double fea­ture with an­other Eisen­berg/Poots two-han­der, last year’s pitch black com­edy “The Art of Self­De­fense,” in which they costar as a pair of karate stu­dents who come un­der the spell of a lo­cal mar­tial arts teacher (avail­able on Hulu/Ama­zon/YouTube).

Fi­nally, let me add my voice to the cho­rus that “Tiger King” on Net­flix is the true crime do­cuseries we need right now. Fol­low­ing the tra­vails of Ok­la­homa’s own big cat en­thu­si­ast and zoo owner Joe Ex­otic, all I can say is ev­ery twist and turn will have your jaw on the ground mul­ti­ple times.


Lee Anne Wong, left, and Bryan Volt­ag­gio make their cre­ations on “Top Chef.”

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