15 Fictional Chefs We Wish Could Pop Out Of The TV & Cook For Us

People say you get two great loves in life. At the ripe old age of 24, I believe I've already found both of mine and I've managed to maintain lasting, passionate affairs with both of them. My great loves? Food and TV.

For the most part, I enjoy my time with them separately, but on the rare occasions that they converge, sparks really fly. I'm not talking about doing a Netflix binge while simultaneously chowing down on a tureen of pasta or something equally delicious — though that does sound like a romantic way to spend an evening. I'm talking about those times when a top-notch fictional television show features plot lines that revolve around food and characters who have a passion for cooking.

Over the years, these characters have shaped my views on the culinary industry. They've cooked dishes that made me want to reach right into the television screen for a taste. They've made me laugh out loud, bawl my eyes out, and made my stomach growl. Ahead, I've compiled a list of fictional TV chefs who I'll never be able to quit.
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Photo: Photofest.
Sookie St. James, Gilmore Girls
We know those Gilmore girls can eat, but their close friend Sookie, that girl can cook. Though she’s a total klutz — she’s known for having multiple cooking-related emergencies at a time and once even destroyed a Viking Stove — Sookie is also a total perfectionist when it comes to her food. On more than one occasion, we see her freak out at the last minute and completely re-plan the menu for a big event.

Very early on in the series, Sookie’s cooking at the Independence Inn gets a rave review from a food critic, but she’s completely fixated on his use of the word “fine” to describe her risotto. She spends the entire episode obsessing on what went wrong because, according to her, that risotto has magical properties — it apparently healed her mother on her deathbed. At another point in the series, the chef references the fact that Ruth Reichl once said you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Sookie St. James' food.

After working for years as the head chef at the Independence Inn, she and BFF Lorelai join forces to open their own inn, the Dragonfly. Sookie also finds a mate who shares her sometimes over-the-top passion for good food in Jackson Belleville, the inn’s produce supplier. Aside from her role as a chef, she becomes a mother, and Gilmore Girls does a fantastic job depicted the challenges that come with being a working parent. Sookie’s later storylines often revolve around her domestic struggles and her feelings of exhaustion from juggling two kids and her demanding career as a chef and business owner.
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Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/ Getty Images.
Monica Geller, Friends

The show Friends isn’t often cited for its realistic portrayal of twentysomething life in New York City, but one authentic depiction we see is of Monica Geller’s career struggles as a chef. Early on, she goes from a great position as a sous-chef to cooking in a humiliating costume at a 1950s-themed diner called Moondance. After a series of odd jobs, including testing recipes with a chocolate substitute called “mockolate” and catering for family members and friends, Monica finally lands a head chef position at an Italian restaurant called Alessandro’s. In season 9, Mon is offered a job at a high-end Manhattan restaurant known as Javu, where she serves very expensive meals that pal Phoebe claims are a too heavy on the garlic — I would argue, there’s no such thing.

Throughout the 10 seasons, Monica shows her love of food outside of just her restaurants’ kitchens. The audience finds that even as a kid, she loved hosting tea parties and baking with her Easy Bake Oven — remember her pretend cake shop “Easy Monica’s Bakery?" It’s sometimes joked that Monica became a chef just to make people like her, which may have some truth to it as she’s was always cooking up treats for the other five friends, and hosts Thanksgiving every season. Perhaps one of Mon’s most relatable moments of the series is when she enthusiastically declares, “I’d move in tomorrow,” in reference to a house made of cheese, a.k.a. the dream.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Galina "Red" Reznikov, Orange Is The New Black
Though many of the chefs on this list run a tight ship in their kitchen, none are quite as hardcore as Red, which make sense since she’s in prison, possibly for murder. Before being arrested, she ran a Russian market with her husband in Astoria, Queens. In those days, she was less in charge of what went on in her kitchen — due to a series of unfortunate incidents, she was forced to store corpses in her refrigerator for the Russian mob.

Red takes her cooking seriously even with the few resources she’s given in the prison. When Piper, a new and naive inmate makes the mistake of insulting her food, Red takes it very personally and refuses to serve her. In addition to cooking, running a smuggling business, and busting balls all throughout Litchfield Correctional, Red also enjoys spending time in the garden and greenhouse. There she grows vegetables which she uses as supplemental ingredients. When the prison switches to a new food that is almost unbearable, Red puts on special dinners made with just her garden-grown veggies, and the other inmates enter a lottery for chances to partake. As a maternal figure of one the groups, she often expresses love for her fellow inmates by baking cakes to help celebrate special occasions.
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Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
Pacey Witter, Dawson’s Creek
In the early years of Dawson’s Creek, Pacey was a charming jokester and served as the subject of pre-teen sexual awakenings all across the country — no, just mine? I'm okay with that. By the time the Capeside gang graduates high school, though, Pacey has grown from lovable black sheep into an adult ready for adventure. After working on a yacht all summer — the '90s version of Below Deck — Pacey takes a job as a chef at a high-end restaurant in Boston called Civilization. That’s where all my wildest fantasies about the drama of the restaurant world came to life onscreen.

Pacey starts up a relationship with a waitress at the restaurant only to later find out she’s also having an affair with the head chef, whom Pacey considers his mentor. Come to think of it, this Dawson's Creek plot line could easily be turned into a Bravo reality show, too. In the series finale, set five years in the future when most of the characters are 25-years-old, Pacey owns a popular restaurant in Capeside called the Ice House, which only confirmed to me as a seventh grader watching the show for the first time that Pacey Witter is the perfect man.
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Photo: Everett Collection.
Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey
As the head cook at Downton Abbey, Mrs. Patmore also runs a tight ship and holds her dishes to high standards. As with many of the older characters in the show, Mrs. Patmore is reluctant to go along with the changes the 1920s bring. Specifically, she’s suspicious of modern food-related technologies, like refrigerators. She’s very strict with her assistant Daisy and often thinks of her as inexperienced, despite Daisy’s efforts to impress. Through the series, the two form a close bond and push each other to evolve and become better cooks, even if that means using electric mixers.

Early on, Mrs. Patmore is humiliated when she accidentally puts salt in the Crawley family’s pudding due to her failing eyesight. After the incident, she’s sent to London by his lordship to receive cataract surgery and while she’s recovering, another cook, Mrs. Bird, temporarily replaces her. During this time, we see Mrs. Patmore’s insecurities and competitive nature come out, as she’s constantly worried the family will like Mrs. Bird’s food more than hers, a feeling plenty of professionals can relate to. Mrs. Pattmore even tries to convince Daisy to sabotage the new cook’s dishes. I guess Shine Theory wasn’t around in the 1910s.
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Photo: Photofest.
Artie Bucco, The Sopranos
A television show about an Italian-American mobster would most certainly not be complete without an authentic Italian restaurant. And no Italian restaurant is any good without a talented chef at its helm. Artie Bucco is that chef for The Sopranos. He is a childhood friend of the show's main character, Tony. Though Tony conducts some of his mob dealings at his longtime pal's restaurant Nuovo Vesuvio, Bucco often feels envious of Tony's exciting work and wishes he were more involved. Unfortunately, but predictably, when he does play a bigger role in Tony's mob business, things don't go all that well for him or his restaurant.

Good Italian cooking is in Artie's blood. His grandparents came to Newark, N.J., from Italy in the early 1900s and opened their first family restaurant soon after. In addition to his familial ties to the culinary arts, he also attended a cooking school in London. You can re-create some of Bucco's favorite family recipes in your own home thanks to a 2002 Sopranos-inspired cookbook written from the point of view of the fictional chef himself. My mom swears by the baked ziti.
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Photo: Wren Maloney/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/ Getty Images.
Yev Kassem, "The Soup Nazi," Seinfeld
Though he was only in one episode of Seinfeld — with a brief appearance in the series finale — The Soup Nazi has become an important pop culture reference. Chances are even if you’ve never seen a single episode of the sitcom — you should really get on that — you’ve probably heard the phrase, “No soup for you!” In the famous episode, Jerry Seinfeld and his gang discover a renowned soup restaurant run by a harsh chef from Argentina who will banish customers if they don’t follow his strict rules for placing an order. Elaine is the one who fails to meet the chef’s standards and is told she can’t come back to the restaurant for a full year. Through a few plot twists, Elaine seeks revenge and manages to run him out of business.

With a name like Soup Nazi, the character was, of course, controversial, especially when it came out that it was based on a real person. According to Paste Magazine, Al Yeganeh, owner of Soup Kitchen International in New York City, inspired the character and was understandably unhappy with the episode. He even went as far as banning Jerry Seinfeld and others associated with the show from dining at his restaurant. He kind of played into his stereotype, but I totally get it.
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Photo: Photofest.
Jerome "Chef" McElroy, South Park
Most school cafeteria food borders on being inedible, but luckily the kids of South Park Elementary get a side of life advice from their cafeteria worker, who is simply known as “Chef.” In addition to his lessons about sex, love, god, and race, Chef also dishes up some sweet jams that entertain the kids and the larger South Park community.

Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny have a special bond with Chef and look forward to meeting him in the lunch line way more than most kids in real life, and he affectionately refers to them collectively as “children.” Unfortunately for the children and for us as the audience, Chef becomes a less frequent fixture and eventually falls to his death from rope bridge in season 10 (after Isaac Hayes, who voiced the character, took issue with the show's depiction of Scientology). RIP, buddy. Hope you’re enjoying some chocolate salty balls in heaven.
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Photo: Everett Collection.
Jack Tripper, Three’s Company
With help from the GI Bill, Jack Ripper, a Navy vet, got his culinary degree from a technical college in Los Angeles. Upon finishing school, he gets a chef job at a popular restaurant run by Frank Angelino. Angelino becomes a mentor for Ripper, and eventually helps him finance his own restaurant, Jack's Bistro.

A few episode plot lines heavily revolve around Jack's work as a chef. In one, he attempts to host his own cooking show, but with the help of Terri and Janet, it inevitably fails. Another favorite is when Tripper gives someone private cooking classes. Terri overhears the cooking instruction and assumes he's instead offering tips on how to have better sex. You know, just that classic high-brow humor we all came to expect from Three's Company.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
Freddy Hayes, House of Cards
After being released from prison, Freddy Hayes set out to turn his life around by opening a barbecue joint. Frank Underwood, the congressional whip, is Freddy's most loyal customer. Throughout the show, we often see Hayes opening the doors of his restaurant in the wee hours of the morning just for Underwood, or sending ribs to his office. He doesn't just serve the Southern congressman delicious BBQ, Freddy also becomes Frank's closest confidant — although their relationship sees its fair share of ups and downs. Freddy makes what many say are the best ribs in D.C. and eventually becomes bold enough to tell the president of the United States that he's a motherfucker, so yeah, he's kind of the complete package.
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Photo: ITV/REX/Shutterstock.
The Swedish Chef, The Muppet Show
The Swedish Chef is one of the few Muppets that is not an animal or a monster, but a human-type creature and he puts his opposable thumbs to good use in the kitchen. Throughout the Muppet Show’s run, the Chef stars in short cooking show segments where he instructs his audience on how to prepare a variety of dishes. Unlike with the stars of Food Network’s cooking shows, it's hard to take instruction from the Swedish Chef, because he speaks in garbled Swedish with occasional English words thrown in. Luckily, though, he is an adorable puppet and his “Børk! Børk! Børk!” tunes are catchy so viewers like him anyway. Clearly, The Swedish Chef is held to a different standard than, say, Martha Stewart.
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Photo: Courtesy of FOX.
Bob Belcher, Bob's Burgers
Robert Belcher Jr. is a second generation restaurant owner. With the help of his eccentric wife, Linda, and his three oddball kids, he runs a burger joint called Bob's Burgers in an East Coast beach town. Despite his work ethic and culinary skills — his landlord Mr. Fischoeder once referred to him as a "beef artist"— he still struggles with business and frequently misses rent payments. He's often made to feel worse about his shortcomings by his culinary rival Jimmy Pesto, who owns a successful Italian restaurant across the street.

Growing up, Bob worked at his father's burger place but decided not to continue cooking there as an adult because his dad, Big Bob, suppressed his creativity. Now that he has his own place, Bob uses that quirky side to come up with Burger of the Day puns. A few of my personal favorites are his "Gourdon-Hamsey Burger" and the "Chile Relleno-You-Didn't Burger."
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
JJ Lipscomb of JJ's Diner, Parks and Recreation
We don’t know much about JJ, but we do know that his eponymous diner is a staple among the residents of Pawnee, IN. He opened his restaurant back in 1976, and despite a relocation of the place in the final season, it’s still a Pawnee institution. JJ’s favorite customer is the show’s heroine Leslie Knope — obvi — whom he once served $1,000 worth of waffles in one year.

One of JJ’s more divisive dishes is called "The Four Horse-Meals of the Egg-Pork-alypse," which comes with 12 eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hashbrowns, chicken-fried steak, and a large stack of buttermilk pancakes. To the delight of devoted patron Ron Swanson, the dish was officially "condemned" by both the American Heart Association and Doctors Without Borders.
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Photo: Everett Collection.
Spongebob, Spongebob Squarepants
As a fry cook at what seems to be Bikini Bottom’s hottest restaurant, The Krusty Krab, Spongebob keeps his aquatic customers well fed with krabby patties. The sponge has numerous personality quirks, one of which is his obsession with his job. Even for those of us who like what we do for a living, it’s hard to identify with the sadness he feels on his days off. In the first episode when Spongebob applies for his job as a fry cook, he tells his new boss Mr. Krabs that working at his restaurant has been a lifelong dream. Throughout the series we see Mr. Squarepants excel at his job: He’s awarded Employee of the Month almost every month, he can produce the undersea burgers at superhuman — supersponge? — rates, and he even wins a fry cook-off against Neptune himself.

His specialty, of course, is the krabby patty, which he loves to eat as much as he loves to cook. The audience sees his devotion to the food throughout the series. Once, when he found out his coworker, neighbor, and friend(?) Squidward had never before tasted a krabby patty, he handcuffed himself to the squid until he took a bite. We even see him well up when he’s forced to prepare salads instead of the burgers after a menu change at the Krusty Krab. This is understandable, salads kind of suck in comparison.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Janette Desautel, Treme
The character of Jannette Desautel occupies an interesting space between fiction and reality. Throughout Treme's four season run, she cooks alongside real-life world-renowned chefs, like Eric Ripert and David Chang. At the start of the show, Desautel owns her own New Orleans-based restaurant, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she struggles to keep its doors open.

Jannette is a survivor, in part thanks to her fiery personality. That edge drives her to do things like throwing a glass of sazerac in restaurant critic Alan Richman's face after his scathing take-down of New Orleans cuisine is published in GQ. She's also opinionated, and lovers of food and the show often agree with her feelings, however brutally she delivers them. The line, "No fucking frozen crawfish, ever," comes to mind.
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