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The Swedish Chef is a Muppet that appeared on The Muppet Show. He was operated by Jim Henson and Frank Oz simultaneously and is now puppeteered by Bill Barretta.

Contents

Character

A parody of television chefs, the Swedish Chef wears a toque blanche and has bushy eyebrows that completely obscure his eyes. He was one of the few Muppets to employ an actual puppeteer's hands, originally Oz's, in the designs – that is, they were visible to the audience through his sleeves and facilitated handling food and utensils.

Nearly all Swedish Chef sketches begin with him in a kitchen, waving some utensils while singing his signature song in his typical mock Swedish – a semi-comprehensible gibberish mimicking Swedish phonology and prosody. The song's lyrics vary slightly from one episode to the next, but always end with "Börk, börk, börk!" as the Chef throws the utensils aside with a clatter that seems to startle him.

After this introduction, the Chef begins to prepare a recipe while giving a gibberish explanation of what he is doing. His commentary is spiced with the occasional English word to clue in the viewer to what he is attempting; for example, "Aweenda shmure da froog's legs." These hints are necessary as he frequently uses unorthodox culinary equipment (firearms, tennis racquets, etc.) to prepare his dishes. The sketch typically degenerates into a slapstick finale where the ingredients or equipment get the better of him.

In one sketch, a misaimed explosive charge slightly damaged the face of the puppet. The Chef's face remained scarred through the rest of the season.

The Chef is referred to by name in one episode, in which Danny Kaye plays his uncle. Kaye reels off a very long name but adds, "But we call him Tom" – much to the Chef's amusement.[1]

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Computer translations

The Chef's gibberish gained a life of its own with the creation of a Unix lex filter capable of converting standard English to "chefspeak" in 1992. The filter quickly became a staple of hacker culture and eventually spread to the mainstream with "Swedish Chef" translators on several websites, most notably the Dialectizer ; there is a popular Mozilla Firefox add-on called "Börk Börk Börk!", which allows the selective "translation" of text from web pages of the user's choice. In 2003, Opera Software -- a Norwegian company—published a special "Börk" version of its internet browser, which turned the MSN website into "Swedish."[2] Google offers "Börk, börk, börk!" as one among its choices for user interface language[3] and Meebo and Guild Wars both offer "Börk!" as one of its language preferences. There also appeared a plethora of USENET newsgroups named after the chef's speech, the first being "alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork", after which the repeated ending was incorporated into groups like "alt.french.captain.borg.borg.borg", "alt.ensign-wesley.die.die.die", and "alt.fan.tonya-harding.whack.whack.whack." This "börk filter" was used in the Darkwind MUD as a curse, of sorts, when characters could be transformed into "little vikings" (to stay somewhat in theme) for a short duration.

The Norwegian company Trolltech, who develop the Qt Development Frameworks, used this "encheferization" for a more serious purpose – although the friendly rivalry between Norwegians and Swedes perhaps was its inspiration.[citation needed] They encouraged software development testing departments to use an "encheferizer" as a plug-in for the part of their product that provided internationalization and localization. Whereas it could not be expected that a test team would know every language to which a product might be aimed, by translating the parts that were supposed to be internationalized through the encheferizer to produce a localized version for Swedish Chef speakers, testers could immediately spot mistakes in the internationalization – parts that had been missed – as anything that had not been localized (encheferized) would show up in the language of the original author of the text. All the same, a tester would be able to test the product functionally, as it takes little language skill, and no software, to be able to decheferize the text: its meaning is clear even when encheferized.

The generally longer encheferized text could also help with graphics testing because it could might show up errors where, for example, not enough space had been left for languages that morphologically tend to use more characters than most, such as German. While not perfect, and not intended to be, it stands as a good first stage to check an internationalization effort.[citation needed]

Inspiration

Some claim that the Swedish Chef was inspired by a real life chef. One example is Friedman Paul Erhardt, a German American television chef known as "Chef Tell".[4][5] Another example is Lars "Kuprik" Bäckman, a real life Swedish chef. Bäckman claims that his rather unsuccessful appearance on an early edition of Good Morning America caught the attention of Jim Henson, who later bought the rights to the recording and created Bäckman's Muppet alter ego. Bäckman's Dalecarlian accent would explain the chef's strange pronunciation. Muppet writer Jerry Juhl denied Bäckman's story and insisted the character had no real-world counterpart: "I wrote, rehearsed, rewrote, brainstormed, and giggled uncontrollably a thousand times with Jim Henson as we dealt with the Swedish Chef, and I never once heard him mention an actual Swedish chef..."[6]

Another cook that he could have been based on is Julia Child. She had a highly successful cooking show called The French Chef, where she would use some uncommon ingredients, cook foods in unorthodox ways not recognized by other chefs, as well as change the pitch/tone of her voice and talk to her food for comedic purposes; so as to keep the audience engaged. In her autobiography, she stated that she believed that the Swedish Chef was based on her and found him hilarious.[citation needed]

Merchandising

The first Swedish Chef merchandise item was a ceramic coffee mug produced by Kilncraft in the UK in 1978. It was part of a series of 12 featuring various Muppet Show characters, and featured coloured line drawings on either a white or beige ceramic cup.

In 1980, Jones New York offered a small collection of blue and yellow Swedish Chef kitchen linens including an apron, pot holders, and toaster cover. Miss Piggy linens in pink were also available.

From 1988 to 1989, the Swedish Chef had his own short-lived breakfast cereal for sale in grocery stores, called "Cröonchy Stars." Cröonchy Stars brought with it a small variety of Swedish Chef items, most notably a stuffed Chef doll complete with non-removable wooden rolling pin and spoon. There was also a coffee mug bearing a picture of the Chef and the logos of Post Cereal and Cröonchy Stars.

In 2000, German company Igel released a large (35 cm) plush Swedish Chef as part of the second wave of its stuffed Muppets line. In addition, there was a life-sized version available measuring nearly five feet tall. Though expensive, the huge Chef proved popular enough with collectors that the line was expanded the following year with five-foot plush versions of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Statler and Waldorf.

Also in 2000, UK food chain Little Chef released a small toy car called Swedish Chef's Sporty Sponge (the Chef riding a cake on wheels) as part of line of promotional Muppet Corgi cars.

2002 was celebrated as the 25th anniversary of The Muppet Show, which brought a flurry of new Muppet toys and collectables. Included in this was a line of action figures from Palisades Toys, which would run through 2005 and grow to include many dozens of figures. Palisades' Swedish Chef items include:

  • A large and very detailed Swedish Kitchen playset, with a very realistic miniature kitchen and over 40 accessories including many cooking tools and odd items such as a saw and tennis racket.
  • The first Swedish Chef action figure, included with the Swedish Kitchen playset, has a blue striped shirt and plaid pants.
  • "Culinary Catastrophe" Chef, an exclusive figure sold at the 2003 San Diego comic Convention, includes the lobster banditos from the show and their guns. The body of the Chef has a different paint job so it appears to be splattered with food, and his clothing colours are different.
  • Classic Swedish Chef has plainer clothing colours than the earlier Kitchen version and comes with several accessories including his gun and a basketball hoop.
  • Santa Swedish Chef, an eBay exclusive item for the 2004 Christmas season, is dressed as Santa Claus and includes a holiday wreath and lights.
  • A small non-articulated PVC figure featuring Chef holding a spoon and a live chicken in a pot.

In 2003, Sideshow Collectables offered a Swedish Chef bust statue as part of the third wave of its line of Muppet busts. Other modern Swedish Chef items include yet another plush doll (this time a smaller 18" one), a Disney metal lapel pin, and a small tin of mints.

Stamp

The United States Postal Service released a souvenir sheet featuring Jim Henson and ten Muppets including the Swedish Chef in 2005.[7]

Video game

A Muppets game for Nintendo Game Boy Advance was released and one of the levels featured the Swedish Chef. The goal of the level was for the Swedish Chef to hit Rizzo and his rat friends with a frying pan because they were trying to steal food. An obstacle to avoid was chickens throwing eggs at the Swedish Chef.

Appearances

  • Chocolate Mousse
The Chef announces he will be making chocolate mousse, for which he first prepares some liquid chocolate ("Yom-yom-yommm, mit de chocolad!" [jʌm jʌm 'jʌm: mɪt də tʃɑkola:d] ), then proceeds to acquire the other ingredient: a moose named Mickey (Mickey Moose). Kermit rushes in to stop the skit as the Chef starts to spread chocolate on the moose's snout.
  • Salad ala Boom-Boom
While making a salad, the Chef demonstrates his unique technique for shredding: an antique blunderbuss called the "Boom-Boom," with which he shoots vegetables after throwing them into the air. The whole process is observed by Statler and Waldorf, who comment on the rather unorthodox cooking style. Curiously, the Chef shoots a cabbage, which is "chopped" into Brussels sprouts.
  • Flap Jacks
The Chef flips some pancakes, after announcing "Flappen-jacken," but they land on the ceiling. He then takes out the Boom-Boom and shoots overhead, causing over a dozen pancakes to fall on him.
  • Lobster-Bandidos
The Chef's attempt to cook a lobster is ambushed by a gang of pistol-wielding moustachioed lobsters wearing sombreros and muttering in a quasi-Mexican dialect. They manage to free the victim from the pot, and intimidate the Chef by shooting the cleaver out of his hand. This was also re-screened at The Muppet Show Live.
  • Donuts
Once again the Boom-Boom (here called the "boome") is in action, this time used to create donuts from English muffins. ("See de moofin? Und here mit de boome shooten!")
  • Eggs
The Chef attempts to make eggs by persuading a chicken to lay some. The chicken resists until he threatens her with a cleaver. At this point, the chicken lays something. The Chef picks it out from under her, only to realize that it is a bomb ("un sphere-de-boom!") which promptly goes off.
  • Eggs/Running Gag
Again the Chef tries to get his chicken to lay eggs, but all he gets for his trouble are ping-pong balls. He grabs his frying pan, intending to cook her now, and the chicken runs for her life. The resulting chase ranges all over the kitchen and becomes a recurring joke throughout the rest of the show, interrupting other skits from time to time.
  • Pressed Duck
When the Chef tries to prepare this dish using a live duck, it steals the iron he was going to use for the pressing and drops it on his head.
  • Swedish Meatballs
The Chef attempts to cook meatballs. He accidentally drops one from the skillet and it bounces offstage; confused, the Chef refers to his attempted dish as "beency-bouncy burgers." He then proceeds to demonstrate how to "serve" such a meal (in the tennis sense) by hitting a few of the meatballs with a tennis racket. Statler returns a volley making it up into the balcony with Waldorf commenting afterward, "15-Love."
  • Turkey
The Chef is planning to cook turkey during Muppet Family Christmas, but the smooth-talking turkey points out Big Bird in another room. Exclaiming "gobbla-gobbla-humunga!" [sic], the Chef invites Big Bird into the kitchen and gets ready to cook him up. However, he loses his nerve after Big Bird gives him a present and the two sing The Christmas Song. He instead decides to prepare "shreeper veet und crannenbungschus," meaning shredded wheat and cranberry sauce.
  • Turkey Part 2
The Chef and his uncle (played by Danny Kaye) prepare an international dish (which involves taking a Swiss turkey, stuffing him with Chinese ingredients, and turning him into a Yugoslavian chicken). When the Chef brings in a live turkey, his uncle has to explain the work they would have to do, which traumatizes the turkey so much that it flies away. The Chef brings out the Boom-Boom and shoots in the air, causing feathers to rain down on his uncle. The uncle takes the Boom-Boom and shoots in the air, and a fully cooked turkey on a tray drops into his hands.
  • Chicken in a Basket
The Chef plays with a chicken as if it was a basketball, bouncing it and shooting it into a basketball hoop, scoring "two points." The name is a reference to the cooking preparation known as In a basket.
  • Fish Chowder
The Chef attempts to cook a live fish, which steals his pepper shaker and also bites his nose.
  • Frog Legs
The Chef is rushed onstage without having time to prepare. He attempts to cut off a leg of Kermit's nephew Robin while Robin screams for his uncle, who rescues him.
  • Hot Dogs
The Chef demonstrates how to cook hot dogs (the right way, for once). After a misunderstanding about the whereabouts of Miss Piggy's beloved dog Fou Fou, she and the Chef get into a fight. Miss Piggy attempts to karate chop him, but hits the metal pot cover that Chef defends himself with.
  • Percolator
The Chef demonstrates the use of a coffee percolator, but is interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Bob and Nurses Piggy and Janice from the "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketch. Removing his hat, they find part of a second percolator protruding from his head and diagnose him with a severe case of "ingrown coffeepot."
  • Popcorn
This skit occurs during an episode in which the pigs have commandeered the show, kidnapping everyone else and taking over their roles. The "Swedish Pig" throws an ear of corn toward the ceiling and fires the Boom-Boom at it, causing popcorn to rain down on the kitchen.
  • Spaghetti
The Chef makes spaghetti, which comes to life and tries to run away, until he puts it back on the plate. The spaghetti tries to run away again, but he brings it back a second time. The spaghetti then attacks the Chef by strangling him.
  • Dough
The Chef kneads a mass of bread dough that slowly comes to life and begins to fight back. He then goes for his rolling pin, only to have the dough snatch it away and knock him out with it.
  • Japanese Cake
As the Chef decorates a chocolate cake and prepares to cut it, it starts cursing at him in mock Japanese. After checking his phrasebook, he delivers a comeback, gets insulted again, then ends the argument by deploying his "Cakensmooscher" (a baseball bat). However it is odd that he needed a phrasebook because in an episode with Jean Stapleton it is revealed his native language is, in fact, mock Japanese.
  • Turtle Soup
The Chef is trying to prepare a live turtle to go into this dish. Every time he tries to chop off the head, though, it retreats into the shell and peeks out the other side. He grabs the Boom-Boom only to find that the turtle has turned its shell into a gun turret, which promptly shoots him down.
  • Meat Loafers
The Chef stuffs a handful of meat into a shoe, whose owner shows up and demands to have it back. He puts the shoe on (still full of meat) and walks off, but is soon chased around the kitchen by a pack of hungry dogs.
  • Soup
As the Chef tries to make soup, he finds Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in the cooking pot, hiding from several clones of Beaker who were created by accident in an earlier "Muppet Labs" skit.
  • Soufflé
The Chef unveils his latest creation, a soufflé so light that it literally floats out of the pan. He tries to bring it down without success, then shoots it with a bow and arrow and throws the deflated concoction like a Frisbee.
  • Home-Cooked Meal
The Chef plans a home-cooked meal, but the turkey refuses to be skewered, the pig hits him in the face, and the "beef" (a herd of cattle) stampedes over him. Even the vegetable stew is unsuccessful. Eventually, the Chef unveils his dinner -- vitamin pills.
  • Hot Sauce
The Chef concocts a batch of pepper sauce that is spicy enough to send steam pouring out of his ears. His next attempt packs so much heat that his hat is blown off--taking the top of his head with it.
  • Shredding a Coconut
The Chef throws a whole coconut toward the ceiling and fires the Boom-Boom, intending to shred it in midair. The first thing to come down is a rubber chicken, followed by the undamaged coconut, which knocks him silly.
  • Breaking a Coconut
The Chef tries unsuccessfully to split a coconut with a knife and a saw. He finally gets it open by hitting it with a mallet, but a bomb inside immediately explodes in his face.
  • Banana Split
The Chef attempts to split a banana with an axe, but every time he gets ready to, a conga line interrupts him by dancing along the screen in front of him accompanied by the Mexican Hat Dance song. This happens twice, resulting in him getting a pot on his head, and chopping open a bag of flour. He decides to use the banana peel and goads the dancers to come back. They then dance in front of him, slipping on the banana peel, much to the Chef's delight, as now he can continue his banana split. However, when he attempts to split the banana again, he accidentally throws the axe up into the air, causing it to chop into the pot on his head, but not into his skull. The Chef, now defeated, splits the banana with his hands.
  • Squirrel Stew
This episode takes place in the forest instead of the Chef's kitchen. Finding himself short of squirrels for the stewpot, he first tries asking them nicely to come down from their tree, then shakes it to dislodge them. The squirrels gang up on him, whereupon he goes after them with his cleaver only to lose it to an angry bear.
The Chef is the projectionist. Halfway through the film the projector malfunctions and the Chef says "Er, der film go flip-flip-flip-flip-flip!" After fixing the snapped film he pronounces, "Der flim is hokey dokey!"
At the Happiness Hotel, after Beauregard crashes his taxi right into the hotel, an enraged Swedish Chef emerges from the kitchen, yelling in his trademark way. In his hands is a soup pot with spaghetti peeking out the top along with a steering wheel from the taxi. As he walks by, Pops, who plays the part of the hotel receptionist, appears to translate the Swedish rant by the Chef and announces to all the Muppets who are going about their business in the lobby of the hotel at the time what food the Swedish Chef has prepared for there dinner, "well, it looks like steering wheel souffle for dinner.", to which Janice, the Electric Mayhem's guitarist, who is busy under a sun lamp, replies "Again?!".
When Kermit reads the letter from Scooter, the chef is seen with 3-D glasses throwing handfuls of popcorn and saying "Get your poppin' corn in 3-D; The corn is poppin' in your face in 3-D!", then Scooter tries to explain that's not how 3-D works, but to no avail. He is then seen messing around with the popcorn cups as the scene ends.
The Chef 'operates' the projector above and behind the audience. Muppet Vision 3D is an attraction at several Walt Disney Parks.
The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) his young adulthood. The two witness one of Fozziwig's (Fozzie Bear) annual Christmas parties, catered by the Swedish Chef. The Chef sings a "Swedish" version of "Deck the Halls" which ends with two bunches of grapes singing "Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la." Rizzo the Rat remarks "My mother always told me never to eat singing food."
The Chef appears on an island where the natives, a tribe of boars, practice cannibalism. He wears a pig snout mask to resemble members of the tribe. After his initial appearance speaking gibberish and the traditional "börk börk börk", a tomato on his ingredient table says directly to the camera, "Well, how else did you think we were going to get him into this movie?" before the Chef hits him on the head with a mallet.
At the beginning of the movie, the Chef explains that the raspberry flopovers went "Kaboof!" as green stuff shoots out of a faulty oven.
When Kermit announces that there will be some deductions on paychecks the Swedish chef is seen surprised. A few minutes later when Ms. Piggy leaves he is seen arguing with Beaker how the show will go on with out her. Finally after Kermit convinced some of the muppets to deduct paychecks he agrees saying "Oim een!"
  • Studio DC: Almost Live (2008)
The Swedish Chef reworte a sketch for the cast of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and also appeared in another episode with Hannah Montana star Jason Earles and Good Luck Charlie 's Jason Dolly when the two Jasons want to get club sandwiches from The Swedish Chef.

In popular culture

The Swedish Chef and Scandinavian Languages

  • A guide to learning Swedish by Urban Sikeborg states that special care should be given to pronunciation, otherwise "...you might end up sounding disquietingly like the Swedish Chef in The Muppet Show."[9]
  • In Germany the Swedish Chef is Danish and his song is "Smørrebrød, Smørrebrød røm, pøm, pøm, pøm". However, in Sweden he is still Swedish.
  • During a meeting with members of the Danish Football Association, the English association football player Paul Gascoigne claimed to speak Danish and proceeded to impersonate the Swedish Chef.

See also

References

External links


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