What makes “Ugly Delicious” compelling, ultimately, is Chang’s commitment to rejecting purity and piety within food culture. “I view authenticity like a totalitarian state,” Chang declares, in the show’s first episode, adding, “It’s not that I hate authenticity, it’s that I hate that people want this singular thing that is authentic.” In food culture, particularly American food culture, the concept of authenticity is wielded like a hammer: This pizza, made with San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala and a yeast-risen dough, blistered in an ultra-hot wood-fired oven for less than a minute, is authentic; that pizza, ordered on the Domino’s Pizza Now™ mobile app, dressed with toppings that arrive at a franchise location pre-sliced in a vacuum-sealed bag, passed through an industrial conveyor-belt oven, is not. The problem with such rigid categorizations, according to “Ugly Delicious,” is, for one thing, creative stagnation. Chang, after all, made his career on an exuberant disregard for convention. His restaurants—with their Japanese names, Taiwanese pork buns, Korean rice cakes, Continental flourishes, and intellectual-bro Americana twists—remix and subvert everything from ancient culinary traditions to standard restaurant-service expectations.The fridge and larder yesterday were quite frankly not at their brightest and best. But then a forlorn supermarket coriander plant, pate bought from Chadwick's on Saturday, a stray roast chicken thigh, wilting chilli, plus sad carrots and my brother's pickling brine screamed banh mi at me.
A Co-Op baguette later Franco-Vietnamese fusion life was good and I settled down to binge watch this fine new Netflix series nodding with approval: Eat it all let God sort 'em out.