Korean variety show Chef & My Fridge, which hit Netflix this week, has everything and the kitchen sink. It has celebrity chefs, idol guest judges, and the aspirational optimism of every good cooking TV program: the idea that anyone can make restaurant-grade food at home with the humble, rapidly expiring ingredients waiting inside their refrigerator.
The show has aired in Korea since 2014, masterfully blending celebrity voyeurism with Iron Chef-esque intensity. Each episode, hosts raid a celebrity’s fridge, which is literally lugged into the studio. A squad of chefs dutifully take notes on what’s excavated from the fridge, mentally planning what meal they’ll create from the haul. A pair of chefs are then chosen from the group to go head-to-head, creating a 15-minute meal they hope will appease the guest judges.
The first half of each episode plays like a talk show, with the hosts interviewing the two celebrity guests. If you’re more interested in the cooking than the lives of Korean TV personalities, you might be inclined to skip ahead to the second half of the show, where the real competition starts.
The limited and common ingredients force chefs to flex their creativity, cooking up a meal in a pinch that encourages viewers to follow along at home if they’re feeling particularly creative and adventurous. For example, in the first episode, a package of cinnamon biscuits is pulverized in a food processor to create cinnamon powder, the outer dusting for a churro-like fried tofu snack.
Because the chefs have to make do with the ingredients from another person’s fridge, the amount of available food varies between episodes. One fridge will be filled with tons of fresh produce and meat; another fridge will offer nothing but frozen foods and some canned tuna. American viewers might not be familiar with the guests, but the fridges do a surprisingly solid job of capturing their character. In what has to be the absolute best-case scenario, we learn that K-pop idol G-Dragon’s fridge is obscenely well-stocked with whole truffles from Paris and abalone the size of a Frisbee.
With releases like Chef & My Fridge, Netflix is making it way easier (and legal) to stay up to date on shows outside the US. It’s especially been on top of adding international shows to its roster, bringing shows like Terrace House to wider audiences. The new wave of international content marks an escalation in competition between mainstream streaming services and niche streaming platforms like DramaFever and Crunchyroll.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s always been pretty easy to watch Korean shows on streaming websites, and even YouTube has full, subtitled episodes of “Please take care of my refrigerator” (the clunky, direct translation of its Korean title). But you have to know exactly where to look to find these streams, most of which illegal. Seeing Chef & My Fridge pop up on Netflix means that it’s now easier to share TV recs than ever, and I don’t have to direct my friends to shady, hard-to-navigate sites to get them to watch.
I’m also happy to report that my fridge has never been cleaner.