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Paris Hilton teaches everyone how to make her 'famous lasagna' in her new YouTube series, Cooking with Paris.YouTube

This column has a lot of respect for Paris Hilton. Tonnes, actually. Met her twice. Hilton shows up on time, is engaging, gracious and polite, and has a hearty laugh. Many less famous than her in the entertainment racket could learn manners from the heiress.

Of course, when she says “thank you,” she actually says “tink yow.” It’s like she can’t stop. Or she’s doing it with a wink. Because in person, she doesn’t use that baffled, breathy, little-girl voice that became so distinctive 16 years ago, when Hilton and Nicole Richie starred on The Simple Life, a reality series on Fox that chronicled the two socialites as they lived with a farm family and attempted farm work.

The series was a sensation and variations of it ran for five seasons. It was era-defining – presenting insufferably self-absorbed, well-off twerps as figures to be embraced or mocked. It was your choice: Be entertained or be horrified. Hilton understood this with impeccable acumen. She was doing a performance.

Cooking with Paris (now on YouTube) is Hilton’s latest adventure into something like reality TV and it is priceless. You are awed by the finely honed persona on display in every one of its roughly 20 minutes. What unfolds is a brilliant bit of trickery. Hilton sets out to make lasagna and you are constantly wondering if she’s actually dumb, mocking herself or mocking the audience.

She breezes into a large kitchen, all skinny jeans, high heels and cool sweater, carrying one of her dogs, Diamond Baby. She says, “As you all know, well, maybe not all of you know, people who do know, know that I’m an amazing cook.” What? It’s implausible and plausible, too. Maybe she loves to cook when she’s not out and about being a highly paid DJ or promoting some cosmetics product.

She tells a story about sitting on a counter watching her mom cook. She doesn’t know what to call a cheese grater, but she waves one around and says, “This is annoying.” On the matter of the cheese choices facing her, she remarks, “There’s like so many types of cheeses now, it’s like not normal, but it’s cool.” There’s a spectacular scene when she tosses a massive amount of salt on the meat she’s cooking. She deals with that disaster with aplomb. Her main point, however, is this: “Be careful if you have long hair, it might catch on fire.”

The finished lasagna, such as it is – lacking onions and garlic – is a thing to behold. You gaze at it, a little baffled. It’s hilarious, actually. And Hilton declares pride in her work: “It’s a lot of steps compared to making toast or something.”

Consider that statement. We are back to the ambience of The Simple Life, but in a much more controlled, wryly provocative way. This is Hilton in full charge of the performance. And at the end of the first episode, she cheerily invites the audience to say what she should cook for the next instalment. That was weeks ago and there has been no Episode 2, as of this writing. That, too, is bewildering. It’s like a sly taunt.

Recently, Hilton and YouTube announced that a documentary coming in May, This is Paris, will be about the “real” Paris Hilton. YouTube says the film aims to “reveal the woman behind the icon and shed new light on our view of celebrity and the insta-fame culture that Paris helped to create.”

Bewilderingly, that documentary is being prefaced by the ultradroll contrivance that is Cooking with Paris. The persona that the documentary claims to reveal as an artifice is being restored with glee.

Years ago, this column declared Hilton the defining American figure of the first decade of the 21st century. It argued that her core values involve creating distracting frivolity and making money. The column brought a “thank you” note from Hilton (not “tink yow”) and she followed this column on Twitter for years after. She’s even more shrewd these days. As a comedy, Cooking with Paris is a work of genius. Who’s laughing now, you must wonder.