Selena + Chef, an unscripted series with Selena Gomez on HBO Max is a 10-episode cooking series features the multiplatinum-selling recording artist, actress, producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist as she navigates unfamiliar territory making delicious meals while stuck at home in quarantine, joined remotely each episode by a different master chef.
Now in production for season 2, was born by Selena finding herself at home just like the rest of us more than we ever thought we might be, and in our kitchens perhaps more than we ever thought we might be as well. And wanting to make healthy, delicious meals, but by her own admission not necessarily being the most expert chef.
And so, the idea was each episode a different master chef would, from their own kitchen, teach Selena how to make a delicious and challenging meal, in some cases.
This is Selena’s first time starring in an unscripted show, being on the camera in this way, and it was an exciting opportunity for her.
While watching the show, viewers can easily agree she’s a great guide and irrepressibly charming the way she walked the audience through how to make these different dishes in an unscripted and unrehearsed way.
The Koalition spoke with Selena Gomez about her new cooking series, the process of inviting others into her home, the safety measures of creating a show in the COVID-era, her career and the passion she has for her fans.
Selena + Chef didn’t have any culinary producers planning everything out, dicing up the onion perfectly. This show is about Selena learning on her own, of course with the expert advice of these great chefs who decided to take part in this series.
“I’ve had a very difficult time [allowing camera into my home] because as I enjoy my position, I just definitely try to keep more of a private life. But this was different for me. I was actually really excited because I had just moved into my home. And that’s my new kitchen in the show. So basically I hadn’t officially moved in yet. I didn’t have certain furniture. It just didn’t feel like my home yet. [But] I felt very comfortable. I’ve worked with [Executive Producer] Aaron [Saidman] before.”
“It was actually so strange because there’s no one in my house, but there’s these cameras everywhere. I was just like so confused because they had them in all these beautiful places. And then when I saw what they were filming, I was like, “That’s so crazy. It comes out like so well.” It comes out like a normal cooking show. And that was really, really cool, but also very odd because everyone is outside just everywhere. And you’re like, ‘Hi, guys.'”
Like the rest of us, Selena found herself at home with a lot more time on her hands than usual. As an entertainer used to traveling the world and working on various projects, her kitchen became her stage as she sliced and diced for her latest show.
“I think I equally pay as much attention as I can to each individual thing. I’m so lucky have the best label who’s super understanding, and I’m really, really lucky I have a lot of things I get to do. I don’t do anything I don’t want to, of course, but it just — life gives me so many different challenges and I just, I really thought this would be something lighthearted, because I was getting definitely down.”
“There’s more important things going on, but this was an opportunity to make something that could make people smile. I hope they’re going to laugh because I look like a fool, and just enjoy. Like if you want to try the recipes and like — and I wanted to do that simply because I love cooking. I just don’t know how to do it all the time. I love to make sure that all the new things that I step into are something that about.”
As a result the show becomes a fun escapist ride for the viewer, and no matter your cooking level you can learn just like Selena did; and this what makes the series so special.
“It’s exciting to do something different and it doesn’t matter if I’m watching a cooking show or not. I don’t even know how to make it, but I watch till I like figure out how to do it, like the not-as-impressive version of it. Pinterest and stuff has a bunch of recipes. Epicurious has a bunch of recipes and all the websites from these amazing people. And so it’s really cool because I feel like you are [a chef].”
During her weeks of cooking, the most challenging dish to master “was the octopus just because I really, really didn’t like that. It was a whole process that I’m okay never doing again in my life.” However, “the simplest dish [is] the French omelet [which] was really difficult because I’m just so used to doing it the American way, and there’s such a specific way to do it that it was meant to be simple, but I’m not Chef Ludo.”
However, the most comforting dish Selena discovered “is my nana’s chicken and dumplings. I’m from the South so it’s like this yummy, just biscuits, like, with all this chicken and it was — I would say that’s my favorite with the French omelet there was this trick where, because it has to be kind of circle-ish, kind of, you can use a wet towel and you can kind of press it over the edges so that it looks perfect. And so I’ve been doing that with a few things, not even just an omelet, just like presentation. I’ve never cared more about presentation than I do now.”
Even though Selena had professionals helping her out, this was something Selena was still essentially alone in her kitchen and there was something special about Selena having to fumble her way through and figure things out, even though she had an expert professional helping her out, this helped created the magic of the series.
“[It was ] a lot more intimidating. But it was super fun. Everybody was so great and I enjoy connecting with people this way. [It’s] one of my favorite parts of my job. You step on a film set and you’re meeting incredible people, and in music [I’m] working with incredible people. Being able to get some of the greatest chefs onboard with this it just came together. I think it was something people should enjoy and be lighthearted and take an escape.”
Other than improving your cooking skills, the quarantine affected Selena in other ways. There were revelations she made about herself when life was able to slow down.
“I think there’s been a lot of blessing in the breaking, if that makes sense. It’s not easy for anyone to walk through what we’re walking through. It’s not normal and it’s affecting people, specifically with mental health, and people who have never thought about things they’re thinking about now, and it’s just confusing. It was hard but I tried to find what I needed to get me through it. I have great friends, and I see a therapist and [I] just try to like keep my mind positive, but it’s all been great. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned more about my country than I ever have from school or anything. So I’ve been very grateful for that, as well. A lot’s changed and I’m 28 now, whatever that means.”
“[I] hope with anything I do is to inspire, encourage and anything to get kids’ minds, their minds going. And I’ve always been that way. I just hope this can bring them joy, but if it’s something they discover they love, that’s even better. They’re finding different things to do. I feel like schools and certain academic worlds don’t give you the option of trying something that maybe would interest you. They have these four blocks and everybody sticks to it. So something that is fresh and new for young kids is exciting and I would want nothing more than to see all these cute little chefs become grownups.”
At the end of the day, Selena + Chef is a series you can watch both ways. You don’t have to prepare a meal to enjoy this show, but you can definitely follow along and get that instruction from great chefs like Antonia. And you’ll see the list of ingredients and the different implements you need to make that dish. But it all depends on the person, there are no rules. Make whatever version desired or try to come as close to what’s on-screen. The incredible part of the instructional element to this show is anyone watching is getting the same information Selena is getting; and for Selena, there were moments on the show that were very empowering because she did everything on her own.
“I have a seven-year-old sister and what she wanted for her birthday were these little kid knives because she watches us in the kitchen cutting up fruit or bananas or something. So, she’s obsessed with it and when I would show her clips of the show, she was so excited because she just loves to watch. She doesn’t need to cook anything, but she’s [there watching]. And I’m like, “What are you watching?” It’s like they actually think it’s fun and funny. And I know my sister’s trying and it’s pretty scary. But it’s just like those moments are what makes all of it worth it.”
Season one of Selena + Chef is currently streaming on HBO Max.