Michelle Obama's New Netflix Cooking Show is Perfect for Kids (and Lightly Baked Adults)

Miranda Collinge
·4-min read
Photo credit: ADAM ROSE/NETFLIX
Photo credit: ADAM ROSE/NETFLIX

From Esquire

Michelle Obama’s new kids’ cookery show, Waffles + Mochi, launches tomorrow on Netflix and, in many ways, it’s as wholesome as they come. A mixture of puppetry, animation and documentary, it follows the adventures of two puppets: Waffles, a creature born from an unthinkable act of union between a lady yeti and a male frozen waffle, and her best friend Mochi, a mochi. Waffles and Mochi work at a supermarket owned by Mrs Obama, from which they fly around the world in a magic shopping trolley to find out about different ingredients such as eggs, rice, tomatoes and – this being 2021 – pickles, aided by an impressive roster of celebrity chefs and non-chef celebrities. Produced by the Obamas’ own production company, Higher Ground, Waffles + Mochi aims to broaden children’s awareness of food and take the stress out of mealtimes. But it has also, in the grand tradition of programmes for kids, a little sprinkle of something for adults too.

Of course those adults might well be parents, slumped next to their progeny on the sofa, sleep-deprived and questioning their life choices, who appreciate any nod in their direction where they can get it. But there are also those adults who might seek out kids’ telly for a certain, er, vibe. It’s a surprise to no one that lists celebrating the most stoned moments on Sesame Street exist, and we’ve all heard the theories about what those Magic Roundabout fellas were up to, and though we’re in no way suggesting that was an intention of Waffles + Mochi’s creators, Erika Thormahlen and Jeremy Konner, let’s just call it an added bonus. (For the record, Konner co-created Drunk History, so he’s not unaware of the joys of chemical enhancement.)

There’s no denying it: there are some aspects of Waffles + Mochi that are downright trippy. There’s the way animated shapes burst from Waffles’ mouth when she tries new foods, or the way Mochi’s experience of flavour takes the form of a Friends-style animated sitcom starring his tastebuds (and the very fact that’s quite hard to explain is a case in point). There’s the duo’s Magic Cart, which surely joins the happy band of psychedelic vehicles – from the Beatles’ yellow submarine to Ken Kesey’s customised school bus – that transport their occupants to new realms of experience. There’s the fact that some of the celebrity cameos have a certain stoner appeal (looking at you, Zach Galifiniakis and Jack Black) or the fact that other famouses agree to skits that are clearly more for the grown-ups: Queer Eye’s Tan France giving styling tips to a potato (which actually made me laugh out loud); Sia appearing as an animated tomato singing a song called “I’m a Fruit”. (I mean, come on.)

Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX
Photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

But mostly, there’s the food. Netflix have been clear to align Waffles + Mochi with its other celebrated food programming, from Chef’s Table to David Chang’s Ugly, Delicious and Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (a whole episode of which, incidentally, celebrates the joys of weed-smoking and food-eating and stars, obviously, Seth Rogen) and the quality of the chefs and food on display is… high. Even if you’re not herbally supplemented, it’s impossible not to watch Massimo Bottura stirring a pot of tortellini alla panna or Motokichi Yukimura slicing a quivering omelette over a plate of omurice (a scene inspired, according to Konner, by the decidedly un-child-suitable 1985 movie Tampopo, as I can personally attest having watched it with my parents as a pre-teen, an experience from which I’m still recovering) without letting out an audible groan and finding your thumb hovering over the Uber Eats icon. You have been warned.

But maybe, just maybe, the other unexpected quality of Waffles + Mochi is that it’s about the level of new information that most of us can handle right now. It’s probably not unfair to say that, at this point in our pandemic experience, many of us are feeling, as The Atlantic pointed out recently, a little cognitively impaired. I for one gasped in wonder to discover the difference between a herb and a spice – dude, I never knew! – and swooned at the sight of the purple fractals inside a Peruvian potato, and shed a tear as Chef José Andrés told me that gazpacho “belongs to the place that people gives love to the gazpacho”, which I didn’t really understand, but it sounded so beautiful. The fact is, these days, we’ve got to take our joy when and how we can get it. Waffles, Mochi: you guys are the best.

Waffles + Mochi launches on Netflix on Tuesday 16 March


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