What You Need To Know Before Watching Selena + Chef

Here's a chance to cook alongside Selena Gomez. Together, but apart — she, in her $4.9 million California home, and you in yours. In the new HBO Max series, Selena + Chef, Gomez will learn to cook the perfect omelet and the most appetizing souffle, among other dishes, from the world's most influential chefs. Here's the best part: Gomez is not a good cook. So enjoy that illusory ego boost when you get your souffle right and she doesn't. Or, for better karma, humbly watch and learn, as the "Sober" singer plays with fire and knives in her kitchen.

The COVID-19 lockdown gave birth to the series. Like the rest of us, Gomez found herself spending longer-than-usual time in the kitchen, experimenting with dishes. But unlike the rest of us, she decided to contact 10 master chefs for some tips and tricks. The idea, she said at a press tour, was to bring some lightheartedness to the whole gloomy lockdown situation. So if viewers laugh at Gomez fumbling with her vegetables, it's a win for her.

The show is set to release on August 13 and while you gear up for it — clad in an apron, armed with knives — here is what you should know about the quarantine project that will re-cement your belief in a meal well done.

Selena + Chef came into being because of the COVID-19 lockdown

The new HBO Max series is a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, and Gomez said that the lockdown period has been hard on her mental health — an honest statement that echoes what the masses feel. Thanks to her friends and therapist, she has been able to keep a positive mind. And Selena + Chef is her way to bring some cheer amid the gloom, for the rest of us. "I really thought this would be something lighthearted because I was getting, definitely, down," the "Fetish" singer said at WarnerMedia's virtual Television Critics Association press tour.

She's not wrong either and cooking is indeed a big stress reliever. In fact, therapists use cooking to treat a range of psychological problems including depression and anxiety, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A press release by WarnerMedia stated that since social distancing has been in practice, Gomez has been spending a lot of time in the kitchen — and she's not the only one by any means. Food and beverage communications firm Hunter surveyed over a thousand Americans to find that 54 percent of them are cooking more in the time of lockdown, and 75 percent of those who are cooking more have become more confident in the kitchen (via Food Navigator). The master chefs would probably help Gomez be part of this 75 percent. 

Selena Gomez learns to cook from world-renowned chefs

Watching food shows, taking down notes, and then trying them out in the privacy of your kitchen is one thing. But getting schooled by the top chefs in the industry in front of the whole world is another. Especially if you are a novice like Selena Gomez, when it comes to cooking.

In the series, she takes video lessons from the top names in the food industry like Bravo Network's Top Chef finalist Angelo Sosa, James Beard award-winning chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, and soul food expert and host of Food Network's Melting Pot, Tanya Holland.

Then there is Roy Choi, co-host on Netflix's The Chef Show; Nyesha Arrington, an advocate of responsibly sourced ingredients; Nancy Silverton of Chef's Table fame and one of Los Angeles' most influential chefs, and Ludo Lefebvre; the force behind Meatball Shop restaurants in NYC. Daniel Holzman of Iron Chef America, Beat Bobby Flay judge Candice Kumai, and Food Network personality Antonia Lofaso of Guys Grocery Games round out the lineup.

So how did Selena Gomez like cooking with them? Gomez confessed that the process was much more intimidating compared to casually cooking with friends. The good-kind of intimidation, though. The singer said it was "super fun" and added, "Everybody was so great. I enjoy connecting with people this way." (via Seventeen).

She's not the best cook

Gomez says in the Selena + Chef trailer: "I really love to eat, but I'm not the best cook". There is a lot of truth in it. In the short 1:44 minute video clip, we see her spill slightly-beaten egg on the cutting board, under-cook a cheese souffle, but the scariest of all — burn some food in the oven. Gomez is quick to apologize (she never borrows from her own song title and says "It ain't me").

She is aware that baking a mouth-watering matcha chocolate chip cookie is not as easy as tango dancing at a masquerade ball. "(I am) getting nervous, but then again, I did sign up to look like a fool on HBO Max," she admits, in the trailer. What really cracks one up is the response from her grandfather: "She would be good at that".

A day before the official trailer of Selena + Chef was released, Gomez tweeted a behind-the-scenes video clip of the show to her 61.8 million followers on Twitter. The video showed Gomez incorrectly telling chef Ludo Lefebvre that her brick-wall gas range stovetop was electric. The error becomes very apparent when Gomez shouts "Oh no! Mine's fire!" (via People).

All mistakes are, of course, forgiven for the celebrity star is no actual chef, and doesn't attempt to be one. Though being a chef has always been her alternative career choice. Aren't we glad that she makes music?

She found the octopus dish especially challenging to cook

There is a visible sigh from Gomez when chef Antonia Lofaso — executive chef and owner of popular restaurants such as Black Market Liquor Bar and DAMA in California — says "It's octopus time, lady!". The next shot is of Gomez gagging while cutting the octopus' head off. The revulsion is quite obvious.

Gomez confirmed her extreme uneasiness with handling octopus in the kitchen. "I really, really didn't like that. It's a whole process. Never doing (it) again in my life," Gomez confessed at HBO's Television Critics' Association session (via Deadline).

In the 10-episode series, Gomez will be guided by the chefs to make a "perfect omelet, spicy miso ramen, Korean breakfast tacos, seafood tostada, Hawaiian donuts, matcha chocolate chip cookies, tomato bruschetta, and cheese souffle" (via Billboard). While the octopus is a clear no, there are some other dishes that she has embraced as staples. One such is the spicy miso ramen.

Gomez's love for Asian food is not news. In a 2016 interview with Bon Appétit, she mentioned Thai food as one of her favorites (the list also included hot Cheetos and chocolate). Her diet, planned by coach Amy Rosoff Davis, includes an Asian cuisine-inspired dinner. "Gomez might have sushi or a teriyaki bowl with salmon and more avocado over rice for her evening meal," according to Fitness Clone.

Her grandparents and friends are her food tasters

Selena Gomez has been quarantining with her maternal grandparents and a few friends. Maternal grandparents Debbie and David Cornett live with the pop singer, while her friends had been staying at her place before the lockdown began (via Cheatsheet)

"They are going to be my tasters," she says in the trailer. Friends and family are then seen biting into a cheese souffle and giving her an honest reply. "That's not done," says one of her friends. Gomez knows that some bites taste good and some bites don't, as she says in the trailer. But since they are all in this together, she will keep cooking, and they will have to keep eating. Talk about "Kill Em With Kindness."

Despite the quarantine company, Gomez is left to figure things out all by herself in the show. And figure out she does, only after some mishaps — like the fire in the oven — that the chefs helplessly watch on video. "During our cook(ing session), I was generally concerned that there was going to be an oil fire," chef Antonia Lofaso commented (via ET).

The 10-episode series is filmed remotely

Though it is probably the most natural version of Selena Gomez that we have seen on television, Gomez says shooting Selena + Chef was a strange experience. Mostly because she was just by herself — while the chefs that she was interacting with were faces on the screen, the camera crew was altogether absent. They did not come in contact with either Gomez, or her grandparents and friends, but operated the cameras from outside the living room and kitchen — the main locations for the cooking show. Naturally, the necessary safety precautions against COVID exposure were taken. For example, everyone in the camera crew had to wear overalls and undergo a check for sickness with daily temperature checks.

So if the crew wasn't inside the kitchen, who was handling the camera? As it turns out, cameras were fixed in different corners and areas of the living room and kitchen. "There was no one in my house but here are these cameras everywhere," she told Deadline. Gomez was surprised seeing the final product: "That's so crazy it comes out so well. It comes out like a normal cooking show but also very odd because everyone is outside everywhere," she said.

Selena + Chef is not the only project that the singer did while social distancing

Gomez and singer Trevor Daniel launched a music video entitled "Past Life" in July 2020 while practicing social distancing. Grammy-nominated film-making team Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia used a set-up called "scan truck" to, as the name suggests, scan the entire body of both the singers individually. The scan truck, a photo of which Gomez posted on Twitter, looks like a spaceship with hundreds of cameras jutting out from its surface. "I stepped into it on my own and it scanned my face up close, which is why the music video looks so real!" tweeted Gomez.

In an interview on Apple Music (via People) in April 2020, Gomez said that she was building a studio at her home. She said: "I'm creating a little station where I'm going to be able to FaceTime with my engineer and some of my producer friends and we're going to try to make some music, which I'm so excited about." In May, she posted a photo of herself in front of the makeshift studio. It has "a professional microphone, mic stand, and insulated walls," reported Daily Mail.

Gomez is also gearing up for the launch of her beauty products line, which is set to hit all Sephora stores on September 3, 2020. It's called Rare, which is also the name of the solo album that she released earlier this year.

Selena + Chef will highlight food-related charities

Each episode of Selena + Chef will feature one food-related charity that you can help out. Gomez has always been philanthropic and lent her voice to social causes. Even her new beauty product line Rare is aiming to raise $100 million in the next 10 years through the Rare Impact Fund to help make mental health resources more accessible. Gomez has been open about her own mental health challenges that she's faced and overcome. She told Vogue in a 2017 interview that she was seeing a therapist five times a week to get Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to increase mindfulness and focus on regulating emotions and improving communication.

Gomez is UNICEF's youngest-ever goodwill ambassador, and has used her voice to bring awareness to the plight of children in Ghana, as well as join Kermit the frog to talk about endangered amphibians. Besides helping to raise money for charitable causes such as St Jude's Children Research Hospital, Gomez has also adopted six rescue dogs. One among them is a dog she adopted while shooting for The Wizards of Waverly Place in Puerto Rico. According to People, Gomez was moved after seeing the abandoned dogs along the beach and took the initiative to raise funds for their care through an organization called Island Dog.

She's one of the executive producers of Selena + Chef

Gomez is not just the star of Selena + Chef, she is also shelling out money for the project's budget. The "Boyfriend"  singer will executive produce the cooking show through her production company July Moon Productions. Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman of Industrial Media's The Intellectual Property Corporation will be the co-executive producers (via Billboard).

The trio is reuniting after their previous project together: Living Undocumented. The six-part series was launched on Netflix in September 2019, and shed light on the lives of eight undocumented immigrant families in the United States. "I watched footage outlining their deeply personal journeys and I cried. It captured the shame, uncertainty, and fear I saw my own family struggle with," she wrote, in an essay for Time. Gomez's aunt hid in the back of a truck to escape from Mexico to the United States, before her grandparents followed, she revealed in the essay.

Gomez was also the executive producer of 13 Reasons Why — a Netflix series that aimed to create a platform to better discuss mental health, and has on its website an extensive list of resources and advocacy organizations dealing with a range of psychological issues. That apart, the singer also lent financial support to the making of director Natalie Krinsky's unreleased debut movie, The Broken Hearts Gallery (via Deadline).

The show's name was unknown prior to the trailer release

WarnerMedia, which in addition to HBO Max, comprises CNN and Cartoon Network among others, first announced that they had a project coming up with Selena Gomez in May 2020. At that time, though they had the format figured out, the series lacked a title. In the press statement that was released at the time, it was simply called Untitled Cooking Project.

The name remained so for close to three months until August 5, when the network released the official trailer and a new statement announcing the name Selena + Chef. Understandably, some media outlets were doubtful HBO Max and Gomez were really going to put out a show with the name Untitled Cooking Project.

The cooking show, said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, is part of the first wave of programming on the network, which launched on May 27, 2020. Gomez's cooking show will share space with some widely popular series such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones, besides a collection of Warner Bros Studio movies (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Selena + Chef is the singer's first unscripted series

While Selena Gomez is no stranger to the world of television (think The Wizards of Waverly Place, Barney and Friends, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Hannah Montana), this is her first foray into a series that is unscripted. What this means is that when Gomez speaks in the show, it's her words. There is no scripted storyline.

Going by the statistics, there couldn't be a better time for Selena + Chef to come out. From March 2020 to June 2020, Google Trends Analysis showed that the most popular show in America was an unscripted one – Tiger King. "Since stay-at-home orders were implemented in March, there's been a massive surge in popularity for the unscripted genre," reports Observer. What this shows is an increasing appetite for shows that are real (though plenty was left out of Tiger King).

Selena + Chef delivers that. The show throws open her private living space to the naked gaze of the audience. Cameras cover generous views of the kitchen and living room of her new house in Encino, California (previously owned by singer Tom Petty). While one previously only got glimpses of the singer's home: like a short peek inside her fridge or the corner of a top-floor room where she practices guitar, the show, for the first time, takes it beyond the Instagram tiles.

Viewers can try cooking the dishes along with Selena Gomez

The show is directed in such a way that viewers can cook along with Selena Gomez in their respective homes. Aaron Saidman, one of the executive producers of the series, said at the CTAM Press Tour 2020 that all the ingredients will be listed out, and the recipes are easy to follow along. Gomez's chef-led cooking class could also become our own if we want it to. Except for maybe a fancier kitchen, Gomez doesn't have that much of a cooking advantage over her audience. "The incredible part of the instructional element of this show is a lot of times when I'm teaching someone how to cook, I'm right next to them...and I'm taking over the dish. In this format, everyone who is watching is getting the same type of information that Gomez is getting," said chef Antonia Lofaso (via Seventeen).

And if you are someone who cooks with music in the background, there is a custom-made Spotify playlist called "Cooking Together: Selena Gomez," which we know Gomez will be listening to as she makes her matcha chocolate chip muffins.