The pop singer’s celebrity chef cooking show is surprisingly down to earth and accessible.
When I reviewed season one of Selena + Chef this past August, I ended on the note of “I dare not say I hope there’s a season two (because that would mean a longer time for all of us in quarantine), but if we have to spend several more months cooking at home, we might as well do it with Selena.” Little did I know that in January of 2021 the pandemic would still be a raging mess, paving the way for the second season of Selena + Chef. Rather than looking at it like the meal you didn’t order arriving at your table (you know, back when people ate in restaurants), it’s more like a surprise dessert you didn’t know you wanted, because once you dig into season two of Selena + Chef, you won’t be able to resist the charm Selena Gomez and her jovial quarantine pod cooking with chef friends.
The structure of the show remains the same in season two – actor/singer Selena Gomez learns cooking skills via video from award-winning chefs and culinary superstars. Gomez’s friends and family often step up to help prep, cook, and eat the meals. To sweeten the pot, each episode ends with a donation made to a charity of the guest chef’s choosing. There’s usually some joking, fun conversations, and lots of eating. HBOMax did add recipe links that pop-up during the new episodes, which will make all the cooks at home happy and save them from furiously jotting down ingredients and steps to recreate the recipes in their own kitchens.
The biggest change in season two of Selena + Chef is that the show is aware of its online fan following. Gomez’s knives, the iridescent blades with bright blue handles, now have their own Instagram account (something that was predicted by The Spool). Gomez’s grandparents, Nana and Papa, have their own fan following as well, and rightly so as they’re a fun, relatable pair to anyone who’s cooked with family members hovering over pots and pans, watching every move and often offering unsolicited tips. Nana swoops in with some tricks in her back pocket (a silicon garlic peeler that’s much more user-friendly than smashing cloves with sharp knives). Papa’s the supervisor, ready to open jars, stop fires, and taste test at the drop of a hat.
Even with this awareness of the show’s following, Gomez and company are still somewhat down to earth amateur cooks just trying to sharpen their skills. There are still mistakes made by Gomez and her friends/sous chefs, like grabbing sugar and thinking it’s salt, or almost setting a hand mixer on fire when whisking meringue on a gas stove. They may have a cavernous kitchen with professional-level equipment, like multiple Le Creuset dutch ovens and Vitamix blenders, but they still stumble through the recipes like the best of us.
Even with this awareness of the show’s following, Gomez and company are still somewhat down to earth amateur cooks just trying to sharpen their skills.
In season two, their cooking mistakes reveal a deeper bond, a group ready to jump in and help each other when needed. In the second episode, Gomez struggles a bit trying to scrape out the contents of chicken sausage from their casings. It’s a menial task, but you can feel the strain on Gomez, who realizes she needs help and gets her friend to assist. Who amongst us during quarantine hasn’t felt overwhelmed with a simple task, and who has been the friend or family member to step in and help? These little moments in season two of Selena + Chef are probably unintentional, but they pull the audience in, reminding us all to speak up if we need help, and be ready to return the favor.
The chef lineup in the second season is a mix of chefs with cuisines as varied as their personalities. The first chef is chef Curtis Stone, the Michelin-star chef with outposts Maude and Gwen in LA. Stone is genuinely interested in helping Gomez, teaches her that there’s only one way to grill a steak (medium-rare). The second episode features Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson, who is a natural on-camera, narrating Gomez and her crew’s thoughts as they’re rendered speechless by his gumbo recipe. Also, as a side note, his restaurant FIELDTRIP in Harlem is worth the trip (you know, when it’s safe to go out and travel again). The third episode brings in chef and humanitarian José Andrés (he’s been in the news with his food relief organization World Central Kitchen), who might also rival Gomez in his dancing skills and branding expertise (he suggests Gomez market a microwave that plays her music while cooking). No matter the chef, Gomez seems at ease conversing as they dice vegetables, slice bread, or boil mussels.
Sure, not much has changed with season two of Selena + Chef. Then again, why mess with a successful recipe? In a world of unknowns, it’s nice to have things that remain constant. And look, it’s been written before that one might not dare to hope for future seasons of Selena + Chef if it means that quarantine continues much longer. Chef Andres did suggest to Gomez that “Next time we do it live.” Regardless if quarantine continues or ends, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Gomez in the kitchen.
Season 2 of Selena + Chef is now available on HBO Max.