If you’re not a frequent watcher of preschool TV shows, you may have missed the hubbub surrounding “Waffles + Mochi,” a culinary adventure for tots that features some of the biggest names in the food world, including West County-based chef Preeti Mistry, best known as the chef-owner of the now-closed Juhu Beach Club restaurant in Oakland. And, you know, Michelle Obama.
The 10-episode Netflix series, produced by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, teaches the kindergarten set about fresh food and yummy ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. The stars of the show are a fuzzy blue puppet named Waffles and a squeaky pink sidekick named Mochi, who live in a grocery store owned by the friendly Mrs. O (played by the former first lady).
In each episode, the two friends take off from their rooftop garden in a flying car and travel the world to meet up with restaurant luminaries like José Andrés, Samin Nosrat, Massimo Bottura, Mashama Bailey, Bricia Lopez and Pía León.
Mistry, the author of “The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook,” starred in an episode about herbs and spices. It was just the right topic for the chef, who has made bold Indian flavors their calling card. (Mistry’s chosen pronouns are they/them.)
A previous “Top Chef” contestant, Mistry enjoyed being on the “Waffles + Mochi” show.
“The best part for me was that I’m a big kid in my life. A lot of my friends have young kids, and I feel like I’m the fun uncle,” Mistry said.
Higher Ground contacted Mistry after seeing them on several other shows, including Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” In the Herbs & Spices episode of “Waffles + Mochi,” the grocery store where the puppets live is losing all of its color after the spices and herbs disappear from the shelves. Mistry comes to the rescue.
“That was so sweet and it was a good way to describe herbs and spices … being able to present it like this was exciting, invoking curiosity instead of fear and intimidation,” Mistry said.
Born in London and raised in the United States, Mistry recalled plenty of herbs and spices in their childhood meals. “I didn’t grow up getting upset with cilantro in my daal,” Mistry said. Blue cheese, however, was their kryptonite — their mother hated it. In culinary school, they decided to give it another chance.
“Sometimes you just have to sit with it (the ingredient) and see what other people love about it. Sometimes that unlocks something in your brain. We get these notions based on our childhood. … We all have these notions. I like to make something someone doesn’t like and get them to love it,” Mistry said.
Though Mistry didn’t get to meet Michelle Obama during filming due to the pandemic, the chef hopes to someday chat about food with the former first lady.
Mistry recently launched a podcast called “Loading Dock Talks.” Follow them on @chefpmistry on Twitter.