Selena Gomez is taking the heat in the kitchen.
The singer-actress slices and dices in “Selena + Chef,” debuting Aug. 13 on the new HBO Max streaming service. The 10-episode series was shot in the kitchen of Gomez’s new Los Angeles-area house. Her grandparents and two friends, who have been quarantining with her, serve as taste testers.
“I really thought this would be something lighthearted because I was getting definitely down,” she said in a video conference Wednesday. “Of course, there’s more important things going on but this was an opportunity to make something that could make people smile.”
Guiding Gomez remotely are chefs Nyesha Arrington, Roy Choi, Tonya Holland, Daniel Holzman, Jon & Vinny, Candice Kumai, Ludo Lefebvre, Antonia Lofaso, Nancy Silverton and Angelo Sosa. They coach her through making such dishes as Korean breakfast tacos, matcha chocolate chip cookies, spicy miso ramen, seafood tostada and cheese souffle.
There was no one off-camera perfectly prepping the ingredients and Gomez didn’t glam up her clothing or makeup while chopping and stirring. Remote cameras set up in her kitchen captured Gomez’s mishaps that include flames in the oven and squirting juices. She wields sharp knives while struggling with a slimy octopus and pulls organs out of a raw chicken.
“I hope you’re going to laugh because I look like a fool,” she said. “I love cooking, I just don’t know how to do it all the time.”
Her go-to recipe? “I make a killer PB&J,” she said, laughing.
Gomez learned to use a wet towel to adjust the shape and position on the plate of a classic French omelette.
“I’ve never cared more about presentation than I do now,” she said.
Cooking at home has skyrocketed during the global pandemic, with people using it to alleviate boredom and anxiety.
“It’s not easy for anyone to be walking through what we’re walking through. It’s affecting people, specifically with mental health,” Gomez said. “It’s just confusing. It was hard but I tried to find what I needed to get me through it. I have great friends, I see a therapist. Just try to keep my mind positive. I’ve learned more about my country than I ever have from school or anything.”
Each episode highlights a food-related charity and invites viewers to follow along at home with lists of ingredients and tools needed.
“You don’t have to be a great cook to enjoy this show,” co-executive producer Aaron Saidman said.
Since filming ended, Gomez said she’s made the chocolate chip cookies and French omelette again.
“I didn’t burn my house down,” she said.