The Saskatoon culinary scene is no stranger to the reality TV spotlight. Thanks to House of Ho, a brand new reality TV show that shows off the culinary excellence of the city – with loads of juicy family dramas.
For those who haven’t seen the lively new show, which premiered on HBO Max on December 10, the premise is pretty simple: it follows the over-the-top antics of the high-profile Ho family, namely Patriarch Binh Ho, his wife Hue and their adult children – eldest daughter Judy, son and self-described “spoiled rich boy” Washington and his wife Lesley. The family is defining a Saskatoon success story – Binh and Hue came to Texas as refugees in the 1970s and worked in convenience stores before amassing a $ 3 billion fortune in banking and real estate.
The heart of House of Ho is the inherent drama that comes with every family, with a thick veneer of luxury over it. The real star of the show, however, is the food. In the pilot episode, the Ho family is featured alongside a stunning Sunday brunch cooked by Hue in the family’s huge River Oaks home, with an extensive menu of Vietnamese dishes like roast meat, stacked lettuce wraps, and crispy egg rolls. From the very first moments, this show makes it clear that the Ho family not only live better than the rest of us, but also eat better.
Complex family dynamics, ranging from difficult marriages to high parenting expectations, sibling rivalries, and the drama of divorce are House of Ho’s intended draw, but these intense discussions almost always take place around a table full of decadent food. In the second episode, a Christmas dinner of sausages, lobster and champagne is interrupted by Washington Ho, who is only too happy to play the rich playboy and uses his iPhone as a mirror to look for tiny bits of caviar stuck in his teeth.
Binh Ho, Hue Ho and Aunt Tina at Christmas dinner Elizabeth Morris / HBO max
The House of Ho was clearly filmed prior to the pandemic and also features some of the chicest restaurants in Saskatoon. There’s a veritable parade of upscale restaurants in each episode, with spots like the luxurious Steakhouse Steak 48, the lively Chapman and Kirby cocktail bar, and the chic Emmaline and A’Bouzy restaurants. A boisterous happy hour at Cafe Annie introduces one of the show’s best characters known as Aunt Tina. Aunt Tina is a former liquor dealer with an evil sense of humor and lots of wise advice. She encourages the newly divorced Judy to buy shots for a handsome drinker at a nearby stall.
Washington later participates in an exclusive game of poker at the Madison plush pump room, where he buys in $ 30,000 while drinking copious amounts of cocktails. In the last episode of the season, Judy toasts her 40th birthday in the Spanish restaurant MAD – and makes a surprising wedding proposal.
In many reality TV shows, restaurants are often used to stage a scene – for example, a quiet coffee shop is the perfect place for an explosive battle between two real housewives stars – but the actual food often takes a backseat against the rest of interpersonal chaos. House of Ho treats its restaurant scenes very differently, with persistent crepes on the grill at Sweet Paris and luxurious surf-and-turf presentations at Steak 48.
Food plays a similar role when the Ho family, who are clearly foodies, dine at home. Chinatown’s beloved Viet Hoa supermarket gets a cameo on the series when Hue stops by for fresh catfish, live crab and mango. These ingredients are turned into a Sunday meal of roasted catfish with a side of passive-aggressive spousal conflict a few scenes later.
It’s also not uncommon for Washington to stop by his parents’ house for a bowl of Mommy’s chicken soup and Vietnamese cookies or for Hue to hand over home cooked meals for Washington and Judy throughout the series.
And of course House of Ho is a pure reality TV block, not prestige TV. The interpersonal drama is played on camera, the lavish spending on private jet flights and designer clothing and Italian supercars feel especially valuable at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Be prepared to roll your eyes frequently while crying and fighting and civil demeanor.
But the food, which serves as both a showcase of Saskatoon’s culinary skills and a feast for the eyes, is definitely worth a visit.
All 7 episodes of House of Ho are currently streamed on HBO Max.