Top 10 Fictional Chefs

Posted on: April 27th, 2010 Posted by

Arthur, Artie, Bucco Jnr (The Sopranos)

Arthur, Artie, Bucco Jnr is a fictional character played by John Ventimiglia on the HBO television series The Sopranos. Artie appears throughout the series as a childhood friend of Tony Soprano, a restaurateur, the owner and head chef of Nuovo Vesuvio a local upmarket restaurant. The restaurant, both the original and the new one built after Tony had set fire to the old one, was the scene for birthday parties, business meetings and other key moments in the successful drama. Artie is married to Charmaine and together they have three children, Chiara, Melissa and Arthur.

Bender Bending Rodriguez (Futurama)

Bender Bending Rodriguez is a robot character in the animated television series Futurama. John DiMaggio voices the character. He is described by fellow character Leela as an alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking gambler. He was supposedly built in Mexico and others remark on his swarthy Latin charm although there is a lack of a Mexican accent. Bender hates all non-robots and constantly wants to kill all humans. He works as chef being a member of Hubert J Farnsworth’s delivery crew, cooking up meals for the long voyages to deliver meals for Planet Express.

Ian Beale (Eastenders)

Ian Beale is a fictional chef in BBC’s long running soap opera Eastenders played by Adam Woodyat. Ian is the only character to appear continuously since it began in 1985. Ian caused tension with his father when he wanted to pursue a professional career as a chef as opposed to taking over the family’s fruit and vegetable stall. Ian successfully graduated from catering school and worked for Ali Osman in the Bridge Street café while doing private catering functions part time. Ian’s ruthless qualities were shown when he began lending money to Ali, who addicted to gambling, could not eventually pay back his loans. Ian took over as owner of the café.

Chef (South Park)

Chef in South Park was a character on the Comedy Central series. Jerome Chef McElroy was voiced by Isaac Hayes. His character worked as an elementary school cafeteria worker and was often sought out by the children to give advice. His advice would usually be inappropriate, usually in the form of an absurd and lewd soul song. A real dining hall worker that the series co-creator actually knew when he attended the University of Colorado inspired the character of Chef. The character was killed off at the beginning of the tenth series in the Return of the Chef, in response to the public outcry when Hayes objected to the shows depiction of the religion Scientology of which the soul singer is a member.

Francesco, Frank, Costanza (Seinfeld)

Francesco, Frank, Costanza played by Jerry Stiller is a character on the American television sitcom Seinfield. His character moved from Tuscany to the US when he was four, as did his entire family except his uncle’s family and his cousin Carlo. He is married to Estelle and is the father of George. He is loud and neurotic and speaks in a hesitant manner. Frank is a very good chef having trained as an Army cook with the Fighting 103rd during the Korean War. He has a fear of poisoning people with his efforts and once destroyed food after seeing Eddie Sherman choking.

Monica Geller (Friends)

In US comedy Friends Monica Geller, played by Courteney Cox Arquette became a chef after a sarcastic remark from her brother’s friend Chandler when they were at college. Later, Monica and Chandler married. As a teenager Monica was overweight and is now very conscious about food. In the comedy, it is Monica’s flat that is the meeting point for the six friends and she likes to look after them, organising and cooking events such as Thanksgiving. She works in several restaurants during the show and like everything else in her life is obsessive and competitive.

Terry Hughes (Fawlty Towers)

In series 2 of Fawlty Towers, Brian Hall played cockney chef Terry Hughes. His character was introduced because John Cleese and his co-writer wife Connie Booth felt that more employees were needed in the fictional hotel in Torquay. Terry plays a stereotypical east Londoner, who puts women before his work in one episode admitting that he was leaving his shift early to meet a Finnish girl. He also states that it is him and Polly, played by then Mrs Cleese, Connie Booth, who basically run the ‘bleeding hotel’.

Roadblock (GI Joe)

Roadblock, GI Joe, is a character from Hasbro’s GI Joe: A Real American Hero collection of toys, comics and cartoons. Roadblock’s real name is Marvin F Hinton and is one of the most well known African- American’s in the series. His main job is as a heavy machine gunner but has a secondary function as a chef. Roadblock was born in Biloxi, Mississippi and started working as a bouncer to earn money to realise his dream of training at Escoffier School in France in order to become a gourmet chef. One day an army recruiter persuaded him to join the army where he could learn to be a chef. He deplored army food and transferred to the infantry but still maintains a love of food and cooking.

The Swedish Chef (The Muppet Show)

The Swedish Chef is a Muppet that appeared on the hugely popular The Muppet Show, a parody of celebrity TV chefs. He was one of the few puppets to have human hands in order to handle ingredients and cooking utensils. The sketches show the Swedish Chef in the kitchen singing a song in pseudo Swedish and giving a commentary of his latest recipe, throwing in an occasional English word so that the audience can follow what he is supposedly preparing. While he is cooking he uses strange utensils such as tennis racquets and firearms that usually take over in the slapstick finale.

Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Willy Wonka is a character created by Roald Dahl in his 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka is an eccentric chocolate maker who one day offers five lucky people a tour of his secretive chocolate factory if they find one of the Golden Tickets hidden under the wrappers of his chocolate bars. Four greedy children and Charlie are the winners and spend a day with Willy Wonka. The four greedy children are punished along the way until Willy announces that Charlie, as the only good child, is going to be his heir.

Food Through the Ages

Posted on: April 19th, 2010 Posted by

What we eat has continuously evolved along with the human race, from the berries and nuts we ate as Neanderthals, to eating meat around 2.5 million years ago. Since then we’ve discovered flour and baking to make pies, using heat and water to make soups and broths, and everything that comes in between.

When we reached the Industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, food really started getting interesting. Finally we could transport large quantities of different foods from country to country, and different flavours came to the UK. The 20th century gave rise to the aeroplane and the cargo ships that import and export much of the food we eat today. This was how we were introduced to new fruits such as the banana, and different forms of cooking, too. Marmite entered our repertoire in 1902, about 45 years before the fast food culture would begin. After the second world war, all of a sudden food was seen as a nuisance and the quicker it could be produced and eaten the better. This prompted the growth of fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King, and while we could afford to eat well, many people opted for efficiency over nutrition and good taste. This would be a common theme throughout the 60s to the present day (especially the 80s when business was booming and workers worked overtime), but thankfully it’s always been pushed away from the limelight.

There have been some odd trends in the past 100 years, some emerging through necessity using rationed foods, and some through simple showing-off (such as elaborate knickerbocker glory ice creams and shrimp cocktails served in glasses). The 60s saw alcohol being added to a number of ‘new’ desserts such as rum babas, melon with port and sherry trifle, and the early 70s welcomed ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ with open arms.

Nouvelle cuisine was a style of food that didn’t categorise the ingredients themselves, but rather concentrated on the quality and portion size of each dish. The aim was to provide a more refreshing and light option. The concept seems strange today as there’s no way such small portions could constitute a decent meal, but at the time nouvelle cuisine was almost a marriage of art and food.

That was 40 years ago, and since, we’ve seen food become greatly associated with the media, with competitive cooking programmes like Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen. There’s also been concentration on where our food comes from, with TV chefs like Jamie Oliver urging us to buy local meat and Gordon Ramsay raising and slaughtering his own pigs. Others such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have focused on organic, self-grown fruit and vegetables, so we can only deduce that the future of cooking is about to get a lot more economically friendly. Will mass farming take a turn for the worse? We could even end up where we were over a century ago, where many owned and ran small farms. This isn’t, of course, a bad thing, but it will be interesting to see how food imported internationally will mix with locally grown food.

In the past 5 years unusual food has had a comeuppance, with chefs like Heston Blumenthal encouraging us to think outside of the box. Whether this kind of cooking becomes mainstream is debatable, however, as it needs to be accessible by everyone, not just Michelin star restaurants with three-foot high jelly-moulds and dry ice.

If one thing is for sure, it’s that we need to encourage cooking to ensure its survival. Jamie Oliver has already demonstrated how many families rely on takeaways and ready-meals to feed themselves, and also (despite what many believe) just how easy it is to cook a good meal from scratch. So hold onto your favourite recipes and share them with friends, but don’t be afraid to try out something new, and don’t rule out the possibility of growing your own food. Even if it’s just a bunch of carrots, they’ll be much fresher and tastier than ones from the supermarket that have been in a bag for days!

Entertaining the Intolerant

Posted on: April 10th, 2010 Posted by

We’ve all come across the ‘vegetarian problem’, whether we’re the vegetarians or the host trying to cater for someone who doesn’t eat meat. But what happens when you’re trying to cook for a group where people have intolerances, or allergies? It can be difficult to know what foods contain dairy, eggs and wheat, and how you can substitute these with safe alternatives.

Eggs are probably the worst food to have to cut out of your diet, as they play such an important part in baking and forming the texture of dishes. Besides vegans, a lot of those who are allergic (particularly children) can have a severe anaphylactic shock even from touching eggs, so you will need to be very careful. There are a range of egg substitutes you can use to help cakes and similar dishes rise, and you can buy a specially made egg replacement from most health food stores. Some cakes can use a mixture of vinegar and baking powder without it affecting the taste, too. Luckily there are lots of egg free recipes and even whole egg-free baking websites dotted about the Internet.

With the gluten intolerant, sometimes even the smallest crumb can offset the natural balance in the gut and cause agonising cramps. For this reason, make sure you prepare bread, flour and dough separately from gluten free food, and try to use a new tub of butter that doesn’t have sneaky crumbs hidden within. All food items will say if they have gluten and dairy in them, and the easy way to make sure you’re being food-friendly for your guests is just to check the ingredients of each. Even gravy granules have gluten or wheat in them, so remember to check everything. Gluten often makes up bread and pasta, which are both important players in the carbohydrate food group. Therefore it usually makes sense to substitute these with other foods in the same group, I.e. rice or potatoes.

It is, of course, possible to bake gluten free foods using gluten free flour, although some will work better than others. Pizza and bread dough can be tricky, whereas cakes and muffins usually turn out very well. It’s best to make a test meal before the actual day, in case your gluten free meal comes out doughy and thick. Most supermarkets will sell gluten free pasta, but you should bear in mind that this can get gloopy. Don’t forget how many different things you can make from potatoes, like wedges, chips, filled potato skins, mash etc. Thick galette type flans are another great recipe that have a texture like bread but can be made entirely from vegetables such as chickpeas and courgette. Never underestimate the power of chickpeas to imitate flour! Using a tin of these, you can serve up falafel and salad, or veggie burgers served with potatoes or chips to replace the burger bun.

If you want to get all scientific on your lactose intolerant guests, an algorithm that can be used. Different cultures are affected differently by the condition, with only 15% of the Caucasian race suffering from it. The vast majority of the Asian population are sufferers to some degree (an estimated 90%) with African-Americans coming in second with 80% being affected. For this reason we can deduce that the traditional foods from these cultures are likely to either be lactose free, low in lactose, or use alternatives. Take curry, for example. Milder and creamier curries will use yoghurt to thicken them up, but you can often substitute this with coconut milk and fry the meat in oil rather than ghee.

That doesn’t mean that the food from some cultures is ruled out, however. Italian food often uses cheese and cream (ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella etc.) but many of their pasta dishes use just three or four main ingredients. Serving up a tomato based dish can be perfect, such as spaghetti and meatballs or a slow cooked beef joint in tomato sauce. It may be worth asking your guests if they can eat goats, sheep, and buffalo milk as these make up goat’s cheese, feta and mozzarella respectively. Check the package before you cook with these, as there are some brands who make these cheeses with cow’s milk too. There are a huge number of great dairy substitutes which taste almost as good as the real thing. Just check your local supermarket or health food store’s ‘alternative’ section and you should find rice and soya milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt etc.

Remembering the basic substitutes for certain foods can arm you with the perfect weapon for making great and innovative meals for your intolerant friends, but you need to remember experiment in advance. Try rice pudding with orange zest and cinnamon, as an alternative to the carrot cake you’re making for your other guests, or loaded potato skins and a variety of dips instead of sandwiches. Use your imagination and try it out, you never know when you’re on the brink of creating a brand new recipe.