Paris Hilton glides down the aisles of a Gelson’s, a high-end Southern California grocery store where most people don’t typically pick out cereal in a Pepto-pink gown that’s giving Marilyn Monroe. But most people aren’t Paris Hilton, who is doing exactly that in the opening shots of her new Netflix series, Cooking with Paris. At first, the footage is filtered a pink hue, as if shot from the inside of a bubble, but then the illusion pops and there’s the blonde icon, surrounded by regular shoppers, struggling with a stack of cereal boxes and realizing her “dress got so fucked up.”
Hilton, as she reminds viewers in her trademark baby whisper on the opening credits of each episode, is “not a trained chef,” and she’s “not trying to be.” But she loves cooking, and is preparing for a life of whipping up eggs and dino nuggets for her future children, which she’s planning on having soon with her fiancé, VC guy Carter Milliken Reum. As it turns out, Hilton is a surprisingly relatable host for a cooking show, particularly for people who also have no fucking clue what they’re doing in the kitchen but are enjoying the ride anyway.
“[Cooking] is all very new to me,” she told me over the phone. “My whole career I've been traveling 250 days out of the year. I was eating mostly plane food or hotel room service. Now, since I have my cooking show, I've learned how to cook basically anything.”
On Cooking with Paris, Hilton whips up a meal with friends, including Kim Kardashian and comedian Nikki Glaser. Her sister, Nicky, and mom, the newest sensation of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Kathy Hilton, also stop by. No matter the guest, Hilton floats into her kitchen decked out in all-caps-FASHION, often with “slutty” lace or bedazzled fingerless gloves. You may be wondering, cooking with bedazzled gloves? That seems annoying and messy. “No,” Hilton assured me. “It’s more fun.”
And fun is always Hilton’s modus operandi. She keeps recipes in a gem-covered notebook, writing each word in a different color marker so it’s all “rainbow.” All her cooking utensils are cute, like her penguin kitchen timer, cherry-shaped measuring spoons, and cake cutter that looks like a high heel. And her guests eat in a dining room decorated to match the theme of their meal—meaning shrimp taco night with rapper and self-described food raccoon Saweetie is hosted in a room decorated to look like Hilton’s fave Mexican destinaysh, Tulum.
This all falls in line with the version of Hilton the general public knows and adores, back to her days as a Very Famous Rich Girl and reality TV pioneer on The Simple Life. But it’s also important to remember that Hilton is in on the joke. “I'm very self-aware,” she said. “I know exactly what I'm doing, and I just wanted to make a really fun show for people to enjoy and to laugh after everything that we've been through since the pandemic.”
Her endearing absurdity is what makes Cooking with Paris charming, but also, inadvertently, a realistic cooking show. The cooking is messy, she routinely forgets the names of utensils like whisks or tongs, the blender confounds her, and she offers steps like “cover with a shitload of foil.” Sure, she puts on rubber gloves OVER her fingerless gloves when handling food, instead of just taking them off, but c’mon, it’s Paris Hilton. Expecting her to sacrifice fashion for some raw shrimp is a fool’s errand, and so is thinking that she doesn’t know this is completely ridiculous.
But there are also more subtle, emotionally resonant moments to the show, calling back to her childhood and the future she’s planning for her own kids. It comes in dashes among all the fluff, but it’s a lovely glimpse into the person underneath the glitter.
“Moving on to the next phase of my life, about to get married and have a family of my own one day, it just makes me think how important it is to be able to do all of that for your family and your children,” she said. “The importance of family in general and just being together during meals is something that's always been a part of my life since I was a little girl.”
Take her famous “sliving lasagna,” for example. (Sliving, for the uninitiated on Hilton terminology, is her word for killing it—an amalgamation of slaying and living your best life, which she has trademarked and put on merch.) It’s a family recipe, passed down from her grandmother Kathleen, “an amazing cook.” The secret ingredients, Hilton told me, are sugar and lots of ricotta—she “Paris-sized” it by adding the “sliving.” In fact, the dish forms a part of her earliest memories with food. “I just remember always being in the kitchen with my mom during the holidays,” she said. “That's how I learned how to make my lasagna. Just memories with my mom and sister in the kitchen, watching her.”
Even though she’s basically a chef now, Hilton clearly doesn’t forget who she is. She’s always understood the assignment. She’s the perpetual fish-out-of-water, whether it’s playing the out-of-touch socialite on reality TV who once asked “What is Walmart? Do they, like, sell wall stuff?” or her foray into pop stardom with the iconic banger “Stars are Blind.” “I am so proud of that song,” she said. “Every single summer, when I'm walking on the street or just anywhere I'm going, people are always coming up and saying, like, ‘Oh my god, I was blasting that song.’ It's such a summer vibe. It's such a timeless song...I love it, and I love that the whole world does too.” She loves that it has resurged in pop culture thanks to its inclusion in the 2020 film Promising Young Woman'', and told me lots of people have had the first dance at their wedding to “Stars are Blind.”
This juxtaposition of high and low is never so apparent than in her well-known love of Taco Bell. Her go-to order, she tells me, is the three crunchy taco value meal with extra sour cream and cheese, a side of rice, an order of cinnamon twists, and a Sprite. “I’m obsessed with Sprite,” she said. But in a shocking twist, Hilton has never heard of Baja Blast. “Is it good?” she asked, to which I inform her that it is very good. She says she’ll try it next time, and I believe her.
Whether she’s in a gown cooking dinner, ordering from a drive-thru, or, as we see on the show, slamming a slice of pizza outside Eataly while crouching in the middle of the entryway wearing an outfit that costs more than my student loan debt, everything she touches comes with a wink. But there’s always a person under a persona.
Since the premiere of the documentary Framing Britney Spears, we’ve been revisiting as a culture the ruthless scrutiny famous young women of the early aughts endured from gossip pages, paparazzi, the media at large, and the public. That includes Hilton. In 2020, she released the documentary This is Paris, an unflinching look into her life in the spotlight, public perceptions of her, and abuse she endured while in boarding school at Provo Canyon School. While fun is still the main course on the show, here and there Hilton catches you off-guard with lovely bits of depth and honesty that feel meaningful.
That’s evident when Demi Lovato, who has been open about their struggles with substance abuse and mental health issues, stops by to make an Italian meal. “I have really deep conversations with a lot of my friends that came in, but we didn't use all of all that,” Hilton said. “But with Demi, I'm just so proud of how vulnerable and open and honest [they’ve been]. It was inspirational to me to tell my story after seeing Demi be so vulnerable and saying the truth. I just wanted to let Demi know that I was so proud. I've always felt like a big sister to Demi.”
Even while laughing and making ravioli, Hilton and Lovato share a touching moment of support for one another. They each remind each other that they’re there if either ever needs to talk. Hilton isn’t just an entertaining host, but an attentive one holding space for a friend.
Moments like these, dolloped into the sprinkle-covered confetti cake that is Cooking with Paris, serve as a reminder that Hilton is many things—a daughter, a dork, a diva—and she’s deliberate with it all. That’s sliving.