I am not going to waste your time with an introduction about the growth of TV food programming. I have no plan to talk about the cultural context of 1975, a context that spawned one of the greatest characters of any TV show in history. This is the chase, and we are cutting to it.
The Swedish Chef is the only TV chef worth watching. Yes, the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. Yes, the one with the moustache and the chicken friend. You heard what I said.
There are a lot of TV chefs in the game right now, even if you (rightfully) exclude dirtbags like Mario Batali. If you map out all of the different personalities in the game, it lines up perfectly with the attendees of the Last Supper:
Gordon Ramsay is Peter, denying the hopes and dreams of everyone around him. Rachel Ray is Matthew, keeping exhaustive records of her recipes in roughly eight million different cookbooks. Jamie Oliver is that doubting downer, Thomas. Anthony Bourdain is John, because he too survived being boiled in a giant vat of oil.
Paula Deen is Bartholomew, because she was also torn to shreds after saying something that failed to surprise anyone who had seen a single second of her show. Bobby Flay is James, because James was a fisherman and Flay sounds like the name of McDonald’s most forgettable sandwich, the Filet-O-Fish. Alton Brown is Philip, because I know nothing about either of them. Ming Tsai is Andrew, because Andrew was crucified on a diagonal cross and Tsai received a master’s degree in hotel administration. Those facts are not really related, but I would imagine getting that degree was pretty tough, and Tsai deserves some credit for it.
Emeril is the non-traitor Judas. Did you know there was a second Judas in the disciples? Being the second Judas in the disciples would be like being named Donald Trump before that slimy colon polyp of a man became president. Anyway, to round out the twelve, Wolfgang Puck is Simon; an old jar of Vaseline is the second James and Guy Fieri is the capital-J Judas. Sorry, Guy, but nobody gets to go around wearing bowling shirts and living life as a walking meme without becoming the dude who narced on Jesus.
Do you know who sits at the center of that one-sided table, doling out chill aphorisms and facial hair advice? Of course you do. It is the Swedish Chef himself, our cooking lord and savior. Never before has the world seen a chef single-handedly revolutionize the cooking world with his unique methods until the Swedish Chef made the blunderbuss an instrumental part of the donut making process.
(There is no God in the world of TV chefs. The only deity for those poor souls is the ever-growing appetite of a TV audience, demanding strange dishes and the public humiliation of chefs who bake like old people copulate. Appetite is an angry god and it will never be satisfied.)
Full disclosure: when I was writing the first draft of this article, I got drunk and bought a Swedish Chef mug online. My love for the Muppet knows no bounds, even when my wallet is coughing up dust.
I concede that there are aspects of the Swedish Chef’s show which are far from perfect. According to certain Swedes who have commented on the show, the mock-Swedish gibberish he speaks is much closer to the sound of Norwegian than the Swedish language. Sure. Fine.
If you are unfamiliar with the best Muppet of them all, you might be surprised to learn that the Swedish Chef is 43. His debut on TV was in 1975, the same year that Microsoft was founded. Coincidence? I think not. He is also the same age as Jamie Oliver. Sorry Jamie, but you are not even the best TV chef personality of your own birthyear. Better luck next life.
How successful was the Scandinavian cook’s show? It was more than a smash hit—it was so memorable and successful over the ensuing decade that the Swedish Chef received his own brand of cereal, Cröonchy Stars. Do you really think Gordon Ramsay is going to get his own brand of cereal? (I would list potential names of Gordon Ramsay cereals, but I have not yet defeated the secret goblin beneath the Warch Campus Center that grants permission to use every curse word on the planet in my articles. You just wait, Larry U. Once I take down that censor goblin, these articles are going to be exclusively written in four-letter words.)
But I digress. My own swearing habits are not the subject of this article. Can you guess which TV chef has never sullied his programming with the devil’s jargon?
The Swedish Chef.
Other TV chefs may earn more money and garner more acclaim from food critics, but the Swedish Chef is a chef for us all. His recipes are simple, easy and accessible. We need not live in perpetual fear of a misconduct scandal waiting in the wings. He only uses ingredients that can be made from foam, so he will never use expensive ingredients like Kobe beef, truffles or, worst of all, scallions.
Chefs and TV are good in their own right, but there was, is and will ever be just one true owner of the TV chef throne: the Swedish Chef. Sixth week is upon us, my friends. If the second half of the term gets you down, just close your eyes and remind yourself of the Swedish Chef’s lasting words of wisdom: