Netflix's Ugly Delicious

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This show is different from traditional travel cooking shows: it’s not cheesy and not dull; it’s real and honest.

Ugly Delicious is a Netflix show about cooking, travel, history, and culture. It is hosted by chef David Chang and food writer Peter Meehan. The show premiered on February 23rd. There are a total of 8 episodes, each of which focuses on a particular dish and shows how it is made differently in different places.

Throughout the episodes, we learn how food like pizza, tacos, fried chicken, and more is cooked and eaten in different parts of the world. It even touches on the dispute of which is better: Asian dumplings vs Italian stuffed pasta, in a debate-styled episode filled with clips from the mock “Culinary Debate Society” and real life adventures of Chang checking out both types of food. Throughout the show, David gives exposure to Asian food, which is often not represented enough. He admits it’s his favorite and also recognizes we will all prefer what we grew up eating. I really appreciated Chang’s appreciation of both “high end” and “low end” food. In Ugly Delicious, he defends and even eats Domino’s pizza and KFC on the show.

This show is different from traditional travel cooking shows. It’s not cheesy and not dull; it’s real and honest. I love how Chang is open, curious, and not afraid to ask questions about food. You can see that he has a real emotional connection to food and where it comes from and how it is made.

The movement of the show sticks out from traditional travel cooking shows too. It plays little sketches and comedic shorts between tidbits of people and food. It keeps things interesting as the show keeps moving, and also reminds me of surfing the internet as you run into endless content.

A running theme throughout the show is traditional cuisine versus evolving recipes. Some people think that traditional food (like New Orleans crawfish) should only be made a particular way, the same as it always has always been. Other people think cuisine should grow and fuse to create new delicious foods. David Chang thinks in Italy, it’s fine for folks to hold onto tradition and cook food to be traditionally Italian, but in America, the melting pot of the world, there is opportunity for culture and food to blend and cuisine to benefit (such as Viet Cajun food).

Overall, Ugly Delicious is easy to watch and easy to enjoy, particularly if you are a foodie. If such is the case, I would certainly recommend this show to learn about the sociology surrounding some popular dishes and maybe gain some new perspectives about food.