Ugly Delicious is back on Netflix for its second season, after what feels like the wait of a lifetime.
The cooking-cum-travel series sees David Chang return for more adventures around the world with celebrity pals and star chefs joining him on the ride. From curries (or ‘not curries’ as we should now call them) to kebabs, the second season takes David and friends to some of the best places to eat around the world, from Michelin-starred restaurants to local hotspots.
However, the episode which has really got viewers talking is episode 3: the steak episode. Here are five things we learnt from the steak episode of Ugly Delicious.
Ugly Delicious on steak
Taking one particular food item and dissecting it is what the Ugly Delicious team do best. We saw them do this brilliantly in season 1 with the taco and BBQ; this time around, steak was the sole focus on the series with the other episodes exploring larger topics and food areas.
Joining David on this steak journey are three core players: food writers Lolis Elie and Helen Rosner, and The Beatrice Inn owner Angie Mar.
Lolis Elie is a 53-year-old writer, filmmaker and food historian who has worked on HBO’s Treme. Helen Rosner is originally from Chicago and works as The New Yorker’s food correspondent. She also worked as editor for Eater. And who else but Angie could join them? Angie is the owner and executive chef of The Beatrice Inn, an exclusive chophouse in New York.
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Rare, medium, well-done: the snobbery of steak
You can tell a lot about a person from the way they act, what they wear, how they present themselves to the world. With food it is no different. This is where their journey into steak begins.
David was the first to bring this point up. He said: “As a cook, when someone puts an order in, it tells you so much about a person.” With steak orders, they all argued that those choices are so much more revealing.
Whether you choose to go with the chef’s choice, a medium-rare steak, or stick to a more conservative well-done, many grapple with the politics of their steak choice. Some restaurants won’t even serve you a well-done steak as the chefs reveal in the episode!
Lolis Elie brought up Helen Rosner’s Eater article that people who ate well-done steak are “more risk averse.” Helen explains that she doesn’t just judge people by how they order their steak but by which steak they order.
Finding the best steak – fast food or fine dining?
Issues surrounding this sense of class and ‘what is right’ when ordering steak is then further explored through where people order their steaks.
Actor Danny McBride told David Chang that his favourite place to eat steak – despite the fact it is likely the actor can get into top restaurants – is at Macelleria in Sydney, Australia. As is the way with Ugly Delicious, the team then pop up at the location within a split second, globetrotting like its nobody’s business.
To no surprise, David and two of the chefs from Momofuku (his restaurant) thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Macelleria. In fact, all the trips to steakhouses in the episode were a great success, proving that good steak doesn’t need to come from the top suppliers or be the fanciest wagyu you can find.
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Steak and gender
Discussions of class lead on to discussions of gender and how misogyny and masculinity is played out through what we eat.
David went to speak with Emily Contois, who is the assistant professor of media studies at the University of Tulsa. Emily said:
Obviously steak unto itself isn’t a gendered thing, it’s a food. But in culture it comes to be understood as masculine and that eating meat is how you prove your manliness. It’s such a powerful signifier.
Emily explains that it is generally acknowledged that “steak is masculine, salad is feminine.”
From the restaurants we eat at, the adverts we see on TV, down to the way it is played out over table politics, this tends to be the given attitude and assumption.
— Scary Belafonte (@TheQuail4) March 7, 2020
Do as the Spaniards do
There’s no way that they could have made this episode without bringing in environmental concerns revolving beef farming and production.
Lolis Elie headed to León in Spain where he visited José Gordon, who raises all of his bulls for years before they are slaughtered and consumed at his restaurant, Bodega El Capricho.
José’s relationship with the animals offers an alternative to the way beef farming is handled in countries such as the US. Instead of slaughtering cows and bulls young – hoping that this makes their meat more tender – they raise them to an older age and treat them with respect.
When Lolis eventually tried the meat at Bodega El Capricho, he was clearly blown away by the tenderness of the meat, considering the bull’s age. José revealed that it is not the age of the bull but the ageing and drying process for the meat which attains this tenderness.
WATCH UGLY DELICIOUS SEASON 2 ON NETFLIX NOW