In Netflix’s new children’s series “Waffles + Mochi,” Waffles is a Yeti with a waffle for a father, and her sidekick Mochi is filled with strawberry ice cream. Together with the wise guidance of Michelle Obama, the former first lady, these intrepid puppets traverse the globe, meeting world class chefs, expanding their food and taste vocabularies, and spreading joy in their wake. Jeremy Konner and Erika Thormahlen are the creators of the new series.
As per reports, in Netflix’s latest kids’ show, Waffles + Mochi, two adorable puppets from the Land of Frozen Food are catapulted into the real world to learn about food by traveling the globe. The TV series, which has dashes of Sesame Street, Parts Unknown, Chef’s Table, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse, follows Waffles and Mochi as they find out where ingredients come from, cook and eat tasty dishes, and discover new cultures, all while working at a whimsical grocery store owned by Mrs. Obama—played by none other than Michelle Obama.
The 10-episode series, filmed around the world pre-pandemic, brings together witty dialogue, standout original music, and genuine education to entertain kids and adults alike. It’s also the first children’s show produced by Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas’ production company. Waffles + Mochi features adults and children of various ethnicities and racial and social backgrounds, as well as members of the disabled community as part of the production company’s larger mission of uplifting diverse voices.
“The level of diversity and food that they showcase is incredible,” says Los Angeles–based Bricia Lopez, a James Beard Award–winning chef, who appears in the show’s second episode about salt. “To be able to talk about Oaxaca in a show like this and to see the level of respect they’re giving not just the food but the children—they’re not dumbing anything down.”
Mashama Bailey, chef and owner of The Grey in Savannah, who appears in two episodes, agrees. “It’s really a cool way to talk about how different people can relate to each other, find common ground, enjoy each other’s company, teach each other about their cultures, and not judge each other,” she said.
And with kids mostly home-bound after a year of the pandemic, the show’s release couldn’t have been better timed. “[Waffles and Mochi are] traveling for learning purposes, which I thought was really cool,” says Bailey. “That’s a good way to talk to children about travel. When you travel and eat food, you put a face to the food, you put a culture to the food. Travel helps you recognize the history and the struggle of food and prevents you from trying to take over that narrative and turn it into your own.”
In Waffles + Mochi, the puppets learn how to make mazamorra morada, a sweet purple corn desert, in Lamay, Peru. Each episode is focused around a specific ingredient. In the sixth episode, the puppets are sent on a mission to collect different types of eggs to bring to chef Massimo Bottura in Modena, Italy. They start by going to Long Beach, California, to the Growing Experience, where they meet kids helping to raise chickens and learn how eggs are laid. The duo also travels to Kyoto to eat a Japanese omelet made by chef Motokichi Yukimura. There, Mochi discovers he doesn’t like the texture of eggs, which is explained in its own cartoon skit all about taste buds, set inside the puppet’s mouth. Next, Waffles and Mochi collect fish eggs from Nishiki Market, fly to the Sacred Valley in Peru to find quail eggs at Urubamba Market, and finally meet up with Bottura in Modena, where they discover that one of the eggs broke during the journey.
Bottura reassures them that it’s okay to make mistakes and that that’s how one of his best dishes—the Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart—was invented. “[The show is] for kids, but also for adults,” says Bottura. “They take a simple way to understand a very complicated concept, like the idea of making a mistake—you are allowed to make mistakes, and from that mistake, you’re going to learn something.”
Aside from the former first lady, Bailey, Lopez, and Bottura, adults will be delighted by cameos from José Andrés (who we discover is a fabulous dancer), Tan France, Rashida Jones, and Samin Nosrat, to name just a few.
Still, one of the best parts of the show is observing the genuine joy that the guests get from their interactions with the puppets, which were mostly ad-libbed. “It was so wonderful to speak to this puppet, this character, in real life, and have a conversation and have it talking back to me,” says Lopez. “Obviously there’s a human behind it, but I actually connected with the character in real life.”
Each of the chefs featured were consulted on which ingredient they connected with and which food they wanted to showcase. Bottura decided to showcase his pasta and for Bailey, the choice was obvious. “When they started talking about ingredients that were indigenous, or ingredients that I worked with, for me it was corn and grits,” said Bailey, who can be seen in the corn-focused episode.
You’ll find Lopez in the kitchen in Los Angeles making mole with the puppets in the salt episode. They later eat dinner with her family, including her young son. “The kitchen is a whole new world for children,” said Lopez. “I think children [being] in a kitchen, it can truly empower them.”