When Paris Hilton this week dropped the first episode of an apparent cooking video series on her YouTube channel, cleverly titled “Cooking with Paris,” I decided to make the lasagna that is the ostensible aim of her inaugural 16-minute tutorial.
My exercise would be an effort to see if I could make some sense out of the chaos (the former reality TV star doesn’t give precise measurements, or really any at all, for most ingredients — though she does get oddly specific about some, like the seven grinds of pink Himalayan sea salt). And it would answer the question that Paris herself didn’t, by not doing the bit at the end of every cooking show and video where the host tastes the dish they’ve made and after some eye-rolling and faux swooning, proclaims it delicious: Was Paris’s “infamous” (her word) pasta dish any good?
Underlining the project, of course, was a certain level of snark. But a funny thing happened while I was watching and re-watching the video to prepare for it. I realized that Paris Hilton is a legitimate powerhouse in the kitchen, and that everyone — even the most experienced cooks among us — can learn something from her.
It occurred to me that the point of her video isn’t actually to teach us to make a lasagna. That is to say, actual edification isn’t the purpose of almost any food show or YouTube tutorial — sorry Julia Child, but literally three people watching you are going to make that duck à l’orange — it’s entertainment. Paris knows this (I’ve long suspected she understands and manipulates our celebrity obsession in a very meta way), and by not even pretending it’s instructional, Paris has called our bluff.
Still, “Cooking with Paris” is not without a culinary takeaway. Rather than looking to her for the kind of detailed instruction you can find in a zillion high-quality recipes out there, maybe it’s best instead to simply absorb Paris’s kitchen energy, which is truly astounding, and the real lesson here.
Here’s what I learned:
Cook with confidence
Paris is a dazzling chef. I know this because she says so, right upfront. “As you all know, well, maybe not all of you know, but the people who do know know that I’m an amazing cook,” she says by way of introduction. Later, she congratulates herself on dumping a pan of meat sauce into the lasagna pan. “Killed it,” she concludes.
I try to channel such radical self-assuredness as I attempt to follow along. I stifle my worry about whether a single egg is enough to bind a vat of ricotta cheese, as Paris seems to think. I shrug off the anxiety of the vagueness of the number of cans of sauce — is it two or three? Four pounds of meat seems like an awful lot, doesn’t it? “Relax,” I tell myself in a very Paris voice. “It’s going to be fabulous. You are an amazing cook.”
Do it your way
In Paris Hilton’s world, a soup ladle is a spoon and a potato masher is a fork. None of the utensils she chooses from the kitchen drawers make any sense for the tasks at hand, but this does not bother Paris. She dismisses the available spoons as “brutal” and goes to work breaking up the ground beef with two spatulas and, later, said potato masher. She even has her own culinary lexicon, wherein boiling noodles is described as “steaming” them and the weird fingerless gloves she wears are called “chef’s gloves.” Yes, Paris, yes.
In this large and seemingly well-equipped kitchen (not hers, it’s clear) she’s like someone three margaritas deep, whipping up dinner in a beach rental house where they don’t know where anything is. But not knowing where things are or having the correct tools does not faze her for a split second. “Whatever,” she says upon realizing that the cheese is not the kind she wanted. “Life could be worse.”
I embrace this anarchy as I cook. I smear the ricotta with a ladle. I bash the beef with a potato masher. I am freeeeee.
But have some standards
As cavalier as she is about … well, everything else, certain elements of Paris’s recipe are not to be trifled with. She is adamant that the lasagna noodles remain intact. If they break, “it ruins the whole thing,” she says. She prescribes adding precisely 11 grinds of black pepper to the sauce because she likes this number. It’s lucky, she says. I carefully count my rotations.
Create the right atmosphere
On the massive island that serves as her prep space, Paris (or perhaps an assistant) has assembled an odd assortment of objects along with the ingredients. There is a bust of a sultry Marilyn Monroe, a statuette of what looks like a cutout photo of Paris Hilton in an evening gown, and … wait, is that a gold swan? What looks like an essential-oil diffuser perches off to the side, billowing out steam.
Before I start cooking, I sweep my living room, looking for my own talismans. I find a Hello Kitty figurine and a Frida Kahlo magnet. I snatch a Dorothy Parker book from the shelf and mass the bunch together. It’s like a 3-D mood board.
Make time for self-care
“Always stay hydrated,” Paris instructs us as she takes a swig from something she calls Neuro Trim. I Google this and learn that it is a celebrity-beloved beverage line that promises all sorts of magical health benefits. I do not have any Neuro Trim, so I pour a glass of red wine. My kind of hydration.
Paris stops mid-recipe to spritz her face with something called Unicorn Mist, which is apparently from her own brand. I also do not have Unicorn Mist, and this makes me sad. Instead, I flick some tap water on my face and imagine Paris’s disapproval.
Paris has time to indulge in such rites because she cannot be bothered with mundane kitchen tasks. Prepping vegetables? That’s for suckers. “I was supposed to chop these onions and garlic,” she says listlessly. “But I feel my lasagna should not have onion or garlic in it.” She wishes the noodles were the no-boil (that is, “no-steam”) variety. She is visibly annoyed that the cheese is not pre-shredded. “So brutal,” she says as she drags a ball of mozzarella across a grater.
Her no-apologies, self-forgiving attitude throughout her cheese-grating ordeal might be Paris Hilton’s biggest gift to harried cooks. “Some people might do this much more gracefully,” she says. “But I’ve had a long day.”
I think I might have discovered my new mantra. Thank you, Paris.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how it tastes
By the time the lasagna comes out of my oven (it baked for almost two hours, which maybe is too long, but Paris is vague on cooking time), I’ve determined that how it tastes is completely irrelevant. Which winds up to be a good thing, because Paris’s infamous lasagna is pretty basic.
It’s quite watery (probably from all that ricotta). It could use something more — maybe onion or garlic? The noodles are pretty soft because the dish was so deep that to cook it all the way through, it had to spend a lot of time baking. And there is a TON of it, like enough to feed 20 hungry people.
I can’t even blame Paris, because she didn’t really tell me how to make it. But she did teach me something about attitude. “How is it?” asks a colleague I’ve recruited to help me assess the final product. My reply: “It’s AMAZING.”
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