Gilmore Girls, the beloved comedy-drama that ended its initial seven-season run in 2007, is back with a four-part reboot on Netflix. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has always been fond of pop-culture references, and it seems she hasn’t missed the celebrity chef movement that exploded in the intervening years between the Gilmore Girls series finale and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. In the new 90-minute episodes, famous culinary pros are name-dropped, and a couple even show up in Stars Hollow (spoilers ahead).
In “Winter,” the first installment of A Year in the Life, viewers learn the Dragonfly Inn is trying to replace executive chef Sookie St. James, who has abandoned partners Lorelai Gilmore and Michel Gerard for a research mission with Dan Barber at Blue Hill Farm. “She is helping him develop food-growing techniques and cultivating the evolution of fruits and vegetables, which helps the people who eat them, and — I don’t know, they’re saving the world,” Lorelai explains to Michel. “No, she's squatting in a cabin with no phone service, trying to grow a pineapple out of a coat rack!” Michel rebuffs.
The kitchen vacancy leads to a slew of big, big names who attempt to fill the post, including Anthony Bourdain, who was fired for having the nerve to take Sookie’s old parking spot. Roy Choi is launching a pop-up when we first return to the Dragonfly, which leads to this delightful exchange:
Lorelai: What's this new chef guy's name again?
Michel: Oh, come on.
Lorelai: I can't remember. It's like a million syllables long.
Michel: Roy Choi.
Lorelai: The food truck guy.
Michel: He's not a food truck guy.
Lorelai: He's a guy with a food truck.
Michel: A fleet of food trucks, three restaurants, and a massive online following.
Lorelai: Oh, so he tweets? He's a tweeter? "Hey, kids. Come grab some rad food at the Dragonfly."
Michel: Do you even know how Twitter works?
Lorelai: Oh, he's cool, right?
Michel: Yes, he seems cool.
Lorelai: I hate cool. Makes me feel so uncool. I don't need some cool guy tweeting, making me feel uncool in my own inn.
Michel: Why on earth aren't you on Xanax? It was invented for you.
Lorelai: What's that "Kogi" tattoo on his arm about?
Michel: Kogi is the name of his business. So the tattoo, while not as clever as "Wino Forever," is at least thematically correct.
Sadly, Choi’s cuisine — “I'm doing a green pea congee with fried shallots, spring onions, cilantro, chili oil, and abalone” — and desire to make the dining room “less granny” lead to his swift dismissal. Lorelai has also determined neither April Bloomfield (“too much pork”) nor Alice Waters (“too flighty”) nor David Chang (“Al’s [Pancake World] does the same thing”) are fit to fill Sookie’s shoes.
In “Spring,” the Dragonfly kitchen is helmed by a chef who had the name recognition to garner a reference in the original series. Rachael Ray is turning out a menu of “soup and sammies for days,” but like those would-be Sookie replacements who came before her, she isn’t getting the job done. “The pop-up’s not working out,” Lorelai says. “No one’s eating anything.” Ouch.
Meanwhile, young Rory Gilmore is trying to salvage her flagging career as a journalist — Mitchum Huntzberger was right — and she’s working on a story documenting New York City’s “line culture.” New Yorkers love to line up for stuff, and Rory’s going to find out why. The first crowd she comes across is waiting patiently for cronuts outside Dominique Ansel Bakery. Except they’re not. They’re waiting for something called a “cro-dough-cake,” and signage indicates the business is actually “Monique Aswell Bakery.” Did Dominique Ansel refuse to allow his shop to be featured in the show? Does he hate Gilmore Girls? Intrigue.
A Year in the Life’s finale, “Fall,” is jam-packed with melodrama, so there’s no time for any celebrity chef mentions or jokes. Thus “Summer” is the last episode that allows food-obsessed Gilmore fans to exclaim, “Hey, I know that person!” Luke Danes, partner to Lorelai and owner of Stars Hollow’s favorite (only?) diner, volunteers for a lunchtime burger pop-up at the Dragonfly. Unlike the famous cooks who come to town, he isn’t interested in his ingredients’ provenance.
Terrified food runner: The couple from New York at table six wants to know if the meat in the hamburger is Pat LaFrieda?
Food runner: Is it Pat LaFrieda?
Luke: The couple from New York at table six wants to know if I ground up some guy named Pat LaFrieda and served him in my burgers? You know what, tell them yeah. And give them this; they'll like it. I put part of Pat's pancreas in there.
Lorelai’s refusal to accept the abilities of great culinary talents has apparently left poor Luke as the only person who can run the Dragonfly’s kitchen. With tempers flaring during an argument between the couple, he reveals dump-and-stir queen Sandra Lee has backed out of the gig, “because she talked to Ina Garten, who said, ‘Don't go to the Dragonfly Inn because it's awful!’”
Critics of Gilmore Girls have long claimed the show’s fast-paced, witty dialogue is unrealistic. But the idea of Ina Garten giving Sandra Lee advice may be the least-believable plot device of all.