Sunday 4 March 2018

Netflix Must-Watch: Ugly Delicious

Ugly Delicious is Netflix's latest food documentary, featuring multiple James Beard award winning chef and restaurateur David Chang from Momofuku. The series is a mix between a food and travel documentary with a refreshing perspective and format that differs from the other food documentaries out there.
Ugly Delicious is upbeat and funky, very reminiscent in style to Lucky Peach magazine, which was created by David Chang, Peter Meehan and Chris Ying and which sadly closed in 2017. Chang's food writer pal, Peter Meehan stars in the show too, hence the impression that Ugly Delicious is pretty much the Netflix version of Lucky Peach.

Unlike Chef's Table it's not about showcasing artsy looking food and upscale restaurants that only an elite group of people in the world can afford. Ugly Delicious explores some of America's favourite foods such as pizza, tacos and fried chicken as well as themes like homecoming and fried rice. Chang travels all around the globe to research a different theme for each episode, visiting his chef friends and other celebrity buddies.

What's refreshing is that the show is presented by a non-white chef whose parents are from Korea and who grew up in America, so you really get another point of view on the American food culture. Not just from Chang himself, but also the people he interviews. The show isn't only about food itself but also the issues that surround and underpin our relationships with these foods. Chang tackles subjects like race, authenticity, food appropriation and tradition in the context of food. What makes a pizza authentic? What's the story behind the origins of fried chicken? In what way does Korean barbecue differ from American BBQ? The show really points out that food isn't just about feeding people, it has history and cultural significance.

David Chang's charismatic personality and general curiosity about food shines through. He doesn't act like a food snob and even decides to include Domino's pizza in the episode about pizza. He appears as quite genuine and real, which can be seen when he spits food he doesn't like in China or when he gets given out to by his mother when cooking a Thanksgiving feast in her kitchen.

For me, the one negative was the BBQ episode. It only featured white American pit masters and definitely omitted some historical research on the origins of barbecue food in the U.S. While the issue of race and slavery was very much talked about in the fried chicken episode, it was sadly ignored in the BBQ episode.

Other than that, Ugly Delicious is fun and interesting to watch. It's guaranteed to make anyone hungry but will also hopefully open up the conversation on interesting matters around food and culture.

Have you watched Ugly Delicious? What did you think?

Disclaimer: This is a fully independent/unsponsored post