I watch a lot of food-related TV. I’ve talked about it a lot on this very site. Usually, though, it’s stuff like Nailed It! and Chopped. Non-competition food shows are less a part of my diet. My favorite of that style of show is probably still Good Eats. However, I was also really into the first season of Ugly Delicious. The show stars and is based around Dave Chang, a famous chef and restaurateur known for places like Momofuku. It was a heady show. Chang and his cohorts have serious conversations about food, and how it interacts with culture and politics. You don’t learn a lot about cooking. You do learn a lot about the history of food, though, and how food shapes the world.
The first season of Ugly Delicious is really good. It’s interesting and engaging. Chang is a great TV host. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes, it’s serious, but it was all worthwhile. I highly recommend the eight-episode first season of Ugly Delicious on Netflix. It’s a “cool” food show, if that makes sense (and I know it doesn’t but go with me).
As such, I was hyped when I found out a second season was dropping. I have already watched it all, which was easy because it was only four episodes. That’s the thing about season two of Ugly Delicious. It can’t hold a candle to the first season.
We have to start here: Dave Chang (and his wife Grace) had a kid. This is felt this season in many ways. Some of this is my assumption, of course. Instead of eight episodes there were only four. Chang cedes hosting duties to his compatriots more than in season one. He’s still the focal point, but there is a lot less traveling for him. Instead, guys like David Choe and some other chefs and food writers make the trips for him. We get the content, which is valuable, but we don’t get Chang. It’s just not the same when it isn’t Chang. Sure, Choe, an artist, is fun in small doses when he is playing off Chang, but do I need to see him being the de facto host of a food show? Let him do the Crocodile Dundee knife bit at Outback Steakhouse and let that be that.
Also, and it pains me to say this, the first episode of this season is bad. It’s all about Chang having a kid in a way that is self-indulgent. I feel a bit bad denigrating the show because Chang and Grace are having a child. It’s abundantly clear from watching the first episode how much it impacted him mentally and emotionally. I am immensely happy for him and Grace. I was not happy to watch “Kids Menu,” especially to start the season.
It’s just not interesting. Way too much time is spent with Chang dealing with preparing to have a kid. He spends time talking to chefs about being parents. It’s like we’re just sitting there while he gets advice from his friends. Chang and Nick Kroll make baby food and then use some random baby as a prop for a comedy bit. There is a lot of “kid as prop” in the episode. It’s not all bad. There is a Michelin star chef who now has dedicated himself to making school lunches legitimate cuisine. However, I would honestly say you can skip “Kids Menu.”
Don’t skip the other three episodes, though. I am happy to say they are all still really good. They tackle Indian food (which is more varied than you might imagine), steak, and “Middle Eastern” food. I put that in quotes because the episode makes it clear that’s an overly simple term. Even with a relative dearth of Chang, these are what I expect from Ugly Delicious.
The second season is definitely a step down from season one. Perhaps even a significant one. That’s not a condemnation, though. The first season of Ugly Delicious is really good. Three fourths of season two is really good as well. Skip that first episode (unless you are a chef who is about to have a kid) and you’ll be happy.