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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ugly Delicious is a uniquely formatted documentary-style show that uses food culture as a gateway into discussion of deeper topics, from authenticity to immigration. Hosted by David Chang, the restaurateur behind Momofuku, and his creative partner Peter Meehan, the show picks a simple topic for each episode (for example, pizza or tacos or Thanksgiving) and looks at it from many angles. There's a variety-show feeling to Ugly Delicious, as it frequently jumps from place to place and from style to style. One minute, Chang will be suiting up to deliver pizzas, and the next minute he's tasting avant-garde pizza in Japan with Aziz Ansari. But each episode is about more than the food it covers. The Thanksgiving episode is sneakily about what cooking means within a family, while the tacos episode talks frankly about immigration. These couched subjects make this a great watch for families with teens.
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What's the story?
An episode of UGLY DELICIOUS usually begins with a simple, broad topic like pizza or tacos. Hosts David Chang (the restaurateur behind Momofuku) and Peter Meehan start by checking out their favorite restaurants, and then slowly expand the scope of the episode to both high-brow and low-brow cuisine. For example, the pizza episode starts inside a classic New York pizzeria before traveling to Italy, Japan, and the city they think has the best American pizza, New Haven, Connecticut. Chang also talks about his love of fast-food pizza, visiting one chain and even training to be a delivery man. As each episode explores many different types of the food its focusing on, Chang uses the food to talk about deeper, more personal topics. In the pizza episode, for example, he wonders what it means for food to be "authentic": What is authentic pizza? Can authentic pizza be made outside of Italy? Can it be made using nontraditional ingredients, like clams or raw fish? Can fast-food pizza be authentic? Ugly Delicious never attempts to definitively answer these questions, even if Chang clearly has his own opinion on the answers, but instead uses different styles and points of view to attempt to see all sides of them.
Is it any good?
This series is more than just another food show; it's a show about what food can mean to people beyond mere sustenance. Hosts David Chang and Peter Meehan dive into the cultural background of many of the foods they cover, how different cultures can influence each other's cuisine, and how each culture's food reflects that culture's place in America. In that way, Ugly Delicious sneakily uses food culture to explore the idea of America as a melting pot -- which is always an important discussion, but feels even more vital and urgent now.
To get as many different perspectives as possible, the show uses a collage format. Chang is the face of the show, but Meehan takes over as host frequently; actors like Aziz Ansari and Gillian Jacobs stop by; and food luminaries like Mark Bittman and Wolfgang Puck make appearances. The show travels from Copenhagen to Mexico to see Chef Rosio Sanchez open a taco restaurant, it drops in on Chang and Meehan making Thanksgiving dinner with Chang's mother, and it fosters a rivalry between New Orleans and Houston over crawfish. With animated interstices and comedy sketches and montages, it sometimes feels like Ugly Delicious is constantly throwing different approaches against the wall to see what sticks. But even if your mileage may vary with each particular segment, the show's ambition is undeniable, and the premise feels incredibly relevant in that it's a uniquely American show that also reaches across cultural barriers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the significance of food beyond just filling you up when you're hungry. What does food mean for your family? Your culture? How does it bring people together?
Families can talk about what it means to eat "good" food. Who decides what food is good or not? In the first episode of Ugly Delicious, David Chang talks about his fondness for fast-food pizza, even though his peers and fellow chefs look down on it. Does food need to be served at a fancy restaurant to be good?
Families can talk about what it means to cook. What's the difference between cooking at home and being a professional chef? Why do people love to cook? What are the qualities that make a good chef?
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