She tried them out so we didn’t have to.
Nothing spoke to the beginning of quarantine quite like home cooking. With ample time on our hands and restaurants around the world temporarily closing their doors, we were—whether or not we wanted to—spending a lot of our time in the kitchen.
New recipes were tested and Instagram saw its fair share of baked goods. Jumping on the trend, HBO Max launched its very own quarantine-cooking show. Locking down singer, actor, general super-star Selena Gomez, the new streaming service launched Selena + Chef, where Gomez sits down—over Zoom—with some of the world’s best chefs. Connecting virtually, the chefs walk the home cook through some of their signature recipes—and those of us at home get to kick back and watch someone else frantically search for a misplaced ingredient. With Selena + Chef providing step-by-step guides to some of the world’s finest dishes, we’re letting you know what to try your hand at (and which ones you can continue to order in).
Top Picks for You
10. Selena + Ludo Lefebvre
The very first episode of the very first season introduces viewers to Selena, her home kitchen, and world-renowned chef and Petit Trois owner Ludo Lefebvre. With a French upbringing and training that inspires much of his menu, it was only appropriate that he teach Gomez and crew how to make a delicious (and oh so buttery) French omelet. It’s perfectly simple yet utterly decadent, upgrading your $2 carton of eggs into something worthy of a Michelin star. The other half of the episode focuses on how to create the perfect souffle and, after watching Selena receive one-on-one tutoring and still struggle, we’re going to stick to ordering—chefs, we’ll let you do your thing.
9. Selena + Marcus Samuelsson
You might have recognized season two, episode four’s guest chef from his time judging concoctions on Food Network’s Chopped or from his signature restaurant, the Red Rooster Harlem. But when joining Gomez on HBO, Chef Samuelsson left the appraisals and signature chicken sandwich behind for salmon and an anything-but-simple salad. For pescatarians, fish-inclined, and those looking for something lighter—though no chef will shy away from butter—this is the meal. Samuelsson walks host and viewers through everything from cutting and prepping the salmon fillets to the best glaze.
8. Selena + Jon and Vinny
Jon and Vinny have become notorious in Los Angeles, a city run on green juice and kale salads, for their rich pastas and (yes, actually good!) homemade pizzas. And though they might be known for their hefty Italian dishes, the two joined Gomez for episode five of season one to walk her through a classic roasted chicken dinner. It’s the perfect meal for entertaining or meal-prepping and, though simple in theory, unbelievably intimidating. Having two professionals take viewers through the chicken roasting process, from tips on flavoring to the more specific things like cook time and temperatures, gave home-chefs (me) the confidence to take on the bird. Money saved, meals prepped.
7. Selena + Curtis Stone
Australian chef Curtis Stone pivoted due to the pandemic, opening a restaurant that he saw as offering the perfect takeout: premade picnic baskets. Chef Stone brought the concept of easy, on-the-go food to Gomez’s kitchen and, if willing to put in the effort, your’s and my kitchen, too. The two cooked up steak sandwiches, created Mason jar key lime pie parfaits, and even homemade potato chips—though, between you and me, Lays will continue to be my potato chip chef. The meal the two create is what it advertises: elevated simplicity. There’s nothing too complicated about what you’re creating, but small things—like a special aioli—bring it to another level. This packed lunch packs flavors.
6. Selena + Kelis Rogers
Aside from the fire…things go pretty fine. While once known for her hit single Milkshake, Kelis Rogers has now taken to the simple life, growing and harvesting food for recipe development. And when she joined Selena for an afternoon in the kitchen, she did what all home cooks could ever hope for in a recipe—she pulled out the pressure cooker. While oxtail might not be something we’re all familiar with cooking, Kelis makes it look simple and Gomez and company’s reaction make it seem well worth the attempt at cooking something new. Yucca is turned into a fry and then drowned in oxtail stew and shredded cheese, looking like something I’ll be having a few servings of.
5. Selena + Antonio Lofaso
In the show’s second episode, home chef Selena is joined by celebrity chef Antonio Lofaso to create DAMA’s, Lofaso’s Los Angeles Latin American restaurant, signature seafood tostada. This recipe is perhaps not for the squeamish—step five is “cut the octopus’s head off”—but if your stomach can handle a little food handling, it’s worth the process. The chef creates a ceviche of octopus, calamari, and shrimp to top crisp, homemade tortilla chips. It’s salty from the seafood, acidic from the citrus and vinegar, and made perfectly fresh by seasonal vegetables—every taste bud is activated (obviously in the best way possible).
4. Selena + Marcela Valladolid
If nothing else, this episode is a great watch as Selena reconnects with her Mexican roots to create mole and enchiladas. But, it also happens to be an incredible recipe executed by none other than Marcela Valladolid, chef and host of Food Network’s Mexican Made Easy. The two work to whip up a simple mole (or as simple as mole can get), something good for any home chef wanting to create an authentic Mexican meal to learn. And while the shredded chicken mole tacos trigger the “drooling because I’m now so hungry” reflex in viewers, it’s the cinnamon sugar buñuelos that really take it home. The dessert is unbelievably simple in both ingredients and practice and end up tasting otherworldly—that is to say I’ll be indulging in more than one—it’s a win-win.
3. Selena + JJ Johnson
There is much to love about this episode, like the charismatic chef and aromas we can only imagine coming from the stove. But, really, it’s the meal that makes the episode incredible. JJ Johnson is the founder of NYC’s FIELDTRIP and author of Between Harlem and Heaven, and when he joins Selena in her kitchen, he whips out his signature seafood gumbo recipe. Gumbo is a favorite of the South, and now perhaps a favorite in Selena’s home. The great thing about this gumbo recipe, and most gumbo recipes, is that it can all be made in one pot. It’s bursting with flavor—with a list of 23 ingredients—but something even beginner home cooks can make. There are no fancy chopping techniques, no specialty cookware; it’s just you, your pot, and a whole lot of flavor.
2. Selena + Roy Choi
After grabbing lunch from your local taco truck you’ve likely thought to yourself, mouth full of freshly-chopped cilantro and onions, “If only I could make something this good.” With Roy Choi’s assistance, you can. Chef Roy Choi is famous for his Korean-Mexican taco truck Kogi, which travels Los Angeles serving up things like kimchi quesadillas and calamari tacos. And, in season one, episode four, he steps out of his taco truck and into his kitchen to help Selena create his Korean BBQ short rib breakfast taco. The marinade we begin this episode with is a punch of salt, sweet, and garlicky bite, which imparts serious flavor into the beef short rib. Add something that good to a warm tortilla with eggs, tater tots, and a homemade sauce and you’ve got a reason to never eat another brunch out again.
1. Selena + José Andrés
There is something both delightful and delicious to come out of just about every Selena + Chef episode, and José Andrés’ appearance just takes that and multiplies it by five. José Andrés, the Spanish-American chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, takes home the first-place prize because he doesn’t bring us one dish, he presents us with a slew of wonderful and oh-so-simple tapas perfect for sharing (or hoarding, no judgment). There’s gazpacho, a microwaved (you read that right) omelet, mussels a la gallega (potatoes and mussels), gambas al ajillo (garlicky shrimp), and pan con tomate with jamon Iberico (bread covered in tomatoes and olive oil). It’s a presentation of varying difficulty and skill, but all—even the simplest—incredibly delicious. It’s hard to not get first place when the meal involves a microwave and can still be considered five-stars.