If you’re queer and food-obsessed like me, Hulu’s newest reality show, Drag Me to Dinner, might just be made for you. The new show, which debuts on May 31, checks all of my gay little boxes: It’s a kitschy cooking competition (check) produced by Hollywood husbands Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka (check!), starring renowned drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, and more (CHECK!). Hosted by New York City drag king and Somebody Somewhere star Murray Hill, each fast-paced, 45-minute episode of DMTD follows two pairs of queens as they go heel-to-heel, competing to throw the most over-the-top drag dinner party ever. If this all sounds like a glitzy gay fever dream, that’s exactly the point.
Here’s how the madness unfolds: Each episode, iconic drag duos must use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and taste to pull together a fabulous dinner party, as they might say on Drag Race. Contestants are familiar names, like House of Avalon sisters Symone and Gigi Goode, drag mother and daughter Alexis Mateo and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, and Drag Race All Stars season one teammates Latrice Royale and Manila Luzon. With a little guidance from Burtka as the show’s resident food and drinks expert, the teams are given 90 minutes to create a dinner menu, mix festive cocktails, and redecorate a living room set (with the assistance of a couple of handsome boy-next-door type handy helpers, of course). Their speedy soirees also have to fit an eclectic, tongue-in-cheek theme like “Big Bottom, Big Top” or “The Whoring 20s.”
Much like the art form of drag itself, the food and drinks served at the parties range from classy to creepy—in one episode, a team makes oysters Rockefeller and French 75s for their guests, while in another, witch finger breadsticks and “feetloaf” (you guessed it: foot-shaped meatloaf) are on the menu. Once their time is up (and the production team has a chance to make most of the actual food off-camera), the queens open up their fake homes to impress the illustrious panel of judges: actress and comedian Haneefa Wood, drag superstar Bianca Del Rio, and, of course, NPH himself. The queens must also create one-night-only entertainment that delights and dazzles their party guests, such as an original song and dance number or a wacky skit. At the end, the hostesses with the mostesses get to take home the grand prize: the Golden Grater. “Because one team is great,” Harris says in each episode, “but the other is grater.”
For drag fans, DMTD is an intentionally ludicrous foil to every other drag competition we’ve seen on TV. If Drag Race is considered by fans to be the Super Bowl of Drag, then DMTD is akin to the Puppy Bowl–endearingly anarchic and a downright joy to watch. In one episode, Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat daringly pair a burbling cheese fondue volcano with boxed Chardonnay (served in a pineapple, to make it tropical), while BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon serenade the judges with a ukulele ballad about cannibalism. Another episode gifts the audience a slapstick scene in which Sue Chef (Burtka’s cantankerous elderly drag persona) wreaks havoc in Trinity the Tuck and Bebe Zahara Benet’s kitchen, as well as a highly memeable visual of Kiki Ball-Change and Thorgy Thor serving the judgers heavy pours of bathtub gin out of a cheap pleather pump. And that’s just the tip of the insanity iceberg.
A friendly disclaimer for my nitpicky food people: Don’t expect to see Michelin-level cooking from these contestants. You may be imagining DMTD as a marriage between Drag Race and Chopped. The reality is more along the lines of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos (the cult movie in which a drag queen competes to be “the filthiest person alive”) meets *Kitchen Nightmares—*campy, crass, and deliciously dysfunctional. After all, we’re not talking about professional chefs or even skilled home cooks here. We’re talking about queer stage performers in press-on nails and giant wigs.
But what DMTD lacks in professionalism and polish (aside from that on the contestants’ nails), it more than makes up for in comedic charm, with episodes delivering on exactly the kind of sidesplitting, unhinged showmanship we’ve come to expect from our favorite queens. Every minute of DMTD is playful queer absurdity at its finest. It’s clear to me that Harris and Burtka created DMTD with only one objective in mind: pure, unadulterated gay-os (that’s “gay chaos” for the heterosexuals among us). And considering the fact that we live in a country that is politicizing and criminalizing drag performers more and more, it feels freeing to sit down and watch a show that reminds us all what drag is really about: making an absolute fool of yourself, and looking fabulous while doing it.