Netflix

Classic children’s television often feels synonymous with education — the dancing characters of “Sesame Street” or the comforting words from “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” ostensibly shaped generations of kid’s understanding of the world around them. Now, though, it seems to be more difficult to recreate these offerings for modern audiences.

For years, critics have lamented the fact that there seemed to be hardly anything to fill the dearth of children’s educational programs on cable. Now, though, “Mochi + Waffles,” offers a delightful new spin on the tried and true genre of children’s television.

Waffles (Michelle Zamora, “Garfunkel and Oates”) and her best friend Mochi (Piotr Michael, debut) are two puppets on a mission to become great chefs. In each episode, they learn about the origins and uses of a unique ingredient that they cook with. But what separates this show from others is how it blends this education with adventure.

“Waffles + Mochi” hops from backyards in Los Angeles to stunning salt mountains in central Peru. The show teaches kids that food isn’t just beautiful — it also has a rich cultural heritage that evolves throughout generations, and that spending time together in the company of different people is a great way to live. 

More broadly, it’s impossible to mistake the massive role that the former First Lady Michelle Obama (called Mrs. O in the show) plays in Waffle and Mochi’s adventures. One of the most consequential programs of her tenure was an initiative to teach children about healthy eating and exercise. Although the approach was criticized for its heavy-handed methods at the time, this new show encourages exercise and healthy moderation while not explicitly forcing kids to frame food as just a matter of health. Mrs. O isn’t even the only star either — other celebrity appearances include Sia and Rashida Jones.

“Waffles + Mochi” fits in at a particularly important moment in our country’s history. At a time when race and gender tensions dominate the political landscape, the show attempts to unify the country by teaching us about the geographic and cultural origins of something that often unites us all: food.

The Netflix series introduces kids to the beauty of different places and cultures, as well as practical life lessons like moderation and tolerance. With “Waffles + Mochi,” there might be another chance for television to educate while it entertains.

Daily Arts writer Josh Thomas can be reached at realjt@umich.edu