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Anime and Manga
- Saati in A.I. Love You, after learning to cook, can only make curry, even when she tries to make something else.
- Both Shirayuki and Obi have a downplayed and discussed version of this in Akagami no Shirayukihime. When they get stuck cooking for the rest of the main group, though it's actually just supposed to be Obi who roped her into helping him, Shirayuki says she can only cook simple food fit for a bar since she was raised at one and all of Obi's dishes are spicy and immediately recognizable as his. They're both cooking multiple dishes but they've each got a limited repertoire of dishes they know how to cook.
- Despite the characters from Anpanman that are themed around prepared foods and meals being the best at whatever they cook, this is the ONLY thing they cook. Compared to characters with a single ingredient theme (like a single vegetable or fruit), this leads to a lot of episodes based on two of these characters battling over whose dish is the best. This is also the driving point of practically every argument the Donburiman Trio has gotten into: which donburi dish is the tastiest.
- Meiling from Cardcaptor Sakura is excellent at making Chinese food, but really bad at making any non-Chinese dishes... specially baking.
- In Gourmet Girl Graffiti, Kirin's mother only cooks fried produce.
- Haruna in Is This a Zombie? can only make fried eggs... but they're really good fried eggs.
- In Kannagi, Tsugumi enjoys cooking. She can make eggs, vegetables, and eggs with vegetables.
- While she starts out as a Lethal Chef, Yui in K-On! once had to take the reins of house-duty when her sister Ui was sick. While Yui couldn't do all that much on her own, she did teach herself to make a mean okayu to help Ui get better. She later used this same knowledge to help Sawako, who was also sick.
- Umi Ryuzaki from Magic Knight Rayearth claims that she is excellent at baking, "but terrible at anything else".
- Ringo Oginome of Mawaru-Penguindrum starts the series only being able to make curry, but learns how to cook more things under Himari, Shouma and Kanba's tutelage. It also serves a metaphor for her Character Development, since curry represents her clinging to her past, and specifically the memory of her dead older sister Momoka, who loved curry to death.
- Nana's mother in Nana to Kaoru can make rice omelette. Just rice omelette. It's still a step up from her daughter.
- Akane Tendo of Ranma ½ is a Lethal Chef, but it's said that when she really tries her curry is bearable, "Maybe... even tasty."
- Ukyou, who is otherwise considered a Supreme Chef, rarely bothers cooking anything that isn't okonomiyaki. To the point that when she tried to give it up, she suffered withdrawal symptoms and ended up cooking Ranma like an okonomiyaki.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena's Anthy sticks to shaved ice. Any other meal she cooks up tend to have very interesting side-effects, which may or may not be intentional.
- Shana of Shakugan no Shana only makes melonpan, and packs her lunchbox full of it. Then again, it's her signature food, so she probably doesn't care, and her guardian, Wilhelmina, was a far worse Lethal Chef.
- One episode of Sailor Moon has Usagi trying to cook and failing badly... until she makes curry, which Mamoru and Chibi-Usa both enjoy, the latter even asking "Can we have this every night?" In the rest of the series she's a Lethal Chef - especially when it comes to curry.
- Rei herself isn't much of a cook either unless it's food that comes prepackaged like curry. In one episode when the girls went on a picnic, Rei teases Usagi's shoddy attempt at home cooking leading to Usagi pointing out that at least she tried while Rei just bought fast food. In a later episode during Rei's little Imagine Spot of the things she can cook, like instant curry, she's shoved all the packages inside a food processor without even opening them.
- Nerine of SHUFFLE! can't cook, but after taking cooking lessons, she is able to make omelets (and only omelets) for lunch, in large quantities. Before she took lessons, her cooking attempts usually resulted in explosions and something worse, so when she finally learned how to cook omelets her dad wanted to create a holiday to celebrate.
- This is practically a plot point of Yakitate!! Japan. Azuma can only make bread, and gets himself into trouble when part of the Pantasia's Newcomer challenge require him to cook yakisoba. Considering the sheer variety of bread Azuma can make, this might also fall under When All You Have Is a Hammer....
- According to his mother, Kotetsu (AKA Wild Tiger) loves fried rice so much that he never learned to cook anything else.
- Hoto Cocoa from Is the Order a Rabbit? can only make bread and related food, but she's really good at it.
- My Monster Secret: Aizawa is, at best, a mediocre cook. Except when it comes to cakes, which she can produce with Supreme Chef level skill. Oddly, she herself doesn't seem to be aware that her cakes are far superior to her other food, even when other characters point it out.
- Daily Life with Monster Girl:
- Miia is usually a Lethal Chef who's cooking represents a threat to anyone who eats it, but she actually can cook eggs pretty well.
- Centorea is a good cook by centaur standards, but since centaurs are herbivores, her food is generally limited to raw vegetables and salads.
- Calvin's Dad in Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin's Dad: Since your mom's sick, I'm making dinner tonight.
Calvin: You can cook?
Calvin's Dad: As you can see, I survived two years of my own cooking when I had an apartment after college.
Calvin: Mom says you ate frozen waffles and canned soup three times a day.
Calvin's Dad: Your mom wasn't there, so she wouldn't know. Get the syrup out, will you?
- Green Arrow is legendary amongst the hero community in The DCU for his chilli recipe. There is zero indication that he knows how to cook anything else.
- Notably, his chilli isn't necessarily regarded as good, just really, really hot.
- The only thing Empowered can cook is blueberry pancakes, although her friends note that they may not be the greatest, they eat them with gusto to cheer Emp up whenever she does cook.
- Catman only ever cooks eggs, though he once claimed he could "also make a mean slab of raw zebra haunch."
- The Lucky Luke album La Diligence had a Running Gag where every one of the cooks at the stagecoach stops only knew how to make (the stagecoach says it's copany's mandate) bacon and beans. Taken Up to 11 during the high-class dinner at the end, where they STILL only serve bacon and beans, with some random extra ingredients added for each dish. To say the characters are sick of bacon and beans at that point is an understatement. The only stop that serves something else has been bribed as part of a bet.
- Despite his love of food, Averell Dalton is an absolutely horrendous cook, the only food he can prepare with any degree of edibility is curried eggs (though in Dalton City, Lucky Luke claims that the dish is inedible, though he might just have been screwing with Averell as part of his plan)
- Zuko in The Stalking Zuko Series can make a very good cup of tea and kebobs but they are the only things he knows how to make.
- Superboy in With This Ring is this trope. He's a kryptonian-human hyrbid clone created by Cadmus Labs who programmed him with a variety of knowledge, but for one reason or another, only bothered to teach him two recipes, beef bourguignon and baked pears. This is actually a comic reference, the Silver Age Supermans favorite food was Beef Bourguignon with ketchup.
- The remake of The Parent Trap has the father offer to make dinner for his ex-wife. She's surprised that he's learned to cook. It turns out he can make "pasta... or pasta... or pasta." She plays along and says "the pasta sounds good."
- The older brother in Zathura can make one thing: water.
- Riggs, according to Lethal Weapon 2, only knows how to make chili.
Riggs: Do you like your chili with or without crushed Oreos?Rika: With, of course!Riggs: Heh heh. Woman after my own heart.
- The ship's (OK, boat's) cook in PT-109 starts out only able to assemble peanut-butter sandwiches. When asked during an inspection if there is any hot food, he answers affirmatively. The boat's CO sarcastically challenges him, to which he brightly responds "Peanut butter on toast!" Later in the film he's seen fishing - with a hand grenade.
- In James Herriot's All Things Wise And Wonderful, kitchen duties are temporarily taken over by Tristan Farnon, who can only cook sausage and mash - and even that not always particularly well.
- Albert, The Grim Reaper's manservant in Discworld novels, can only make fry-ups. He will experiment with porridge or Hogswatch pudding, but only by frying them. Fortunately, Death doesn't need to eat.
- It's not that Albert can't make anything un-fried, it's that he can't wrap his brain around un-fried food, since that's all he ever eats. The fried porridge thing was considered progress.
- If porridge is a mixture of oatmeal, milk and water then by adding yeast, letting it work for an hour and then frying it you get Staffordshire Oatcakes, which are more than respectable food.
- He did manage a mug of cocoa once. Well, he was close. If you turned the mug sideways, it would pour out eventually.
- Lady Sybil Vimes can similarly only do a fry-up, and that's usually frazzled, due to her insistence on using her beloved swamp dragons as her primary heat source. Fortunately, years as a street copper have resulted in Sam Vimes actually preferring greasy, frazzled food.
- Aimsbury in Making Money can actually cook a few things, but they're all fit for a dog to eat (Topsy Lavish, an eccentric old lady, hired him to cook for her Mr. Muffykins) and therefore made of odd meats that most humans would rather avoid. He even asks "Have you seen my book, Cooking with Brains?" He prefers cooking for a dog because he has to stay out of professional kitchens due to an allergy to the word "garlic".
- It's not that Albert can't make anything un-fried, it's that he can't wrap his brain around un-fried food, since that's all he ever eats. The fried porridge thing was considered progress.
- Something of a reversal, rather than only making one dish, the cook in Alice in Wonderland seems to think the only ingredient is pepper. It isn't elaborated whether or not she is actually able to make anything out of this or not, but given that it's Alice in Wonderland it is definitely possible.
- Most of Miss Mush's food in the Wayside School series causes extremely bizarre side effects, so the students avoid it. The exception is milk and nothing. Some students even got seconds of nothing, but then Miss Mush ran out of nothing.
- The Hunting of the Snark:
He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late—
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad—
He could only bake Bridecake—for which, I may state,
No materials were to be had.
- In a variation, Molly Carpenter from the Dresden Files series is totally incapable of cooking food (Harry claims she once burned a boiled egg), but is very good at coffee.
Live Action TV
- In Friends, Rachel can only make good brownies.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Lily tells Marshall how delicious his pancakes are and ask if he would like to make dinner sometime. He responds "Sure... how about pancakes?"
- In the sitcom Alice, Mel's cooking is routinely slammed - even by his regular customers (curious for a diner that's apparently been running for years). Yet, he apparently makes a mean chili. (It sneaks in as a plot point in several episodes.)
- Lois & Clark: "I can only make 4 things, and this is the only one without chocolate..."
- Charlie from Two and a Half Men tries to learn to cook. He asks everyone how they want their eggs, and no matter what the answer is, he responds "Scrambled it is."
- Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond can only cook lemon chicken. Everything else is disgusting. There was an episode titled "Debra Makes Something Good" where she makes braciole. However, she stops making it after that episode.
- Subverted with Luke on Gilmore Girls - supposedly only cooks diner food, but turns out to be into fusion cuisine and high-end Italian cooking.
- When he travels back in time, the grown Hiro Nakamura is mistaken by his father to be the new chef (the Hiro of that time was a young boy). His mother orders eggs... but all Hiro knows how to make is waffles. She isn't mad at him.
- Mistress Ploppy in Blackadder II, who prepares whatever the condemned prisoners want for their final meal...provided they ask for sausages. Otherwise they tend to get a tiny bit disappointed.
- Ren from Engine Sentai Go-onger can only make eggs.
- On Sweet Genius, preparing the same kind of dessert for two rounds will earn chefs a tongue-lashing from the judge. This came up frequently in the first season where the Baked round was followed by the Chocolate round, and chefs tended to make chocolate cakes for both. To be a Sweet Genius, one must be versatile.
- During Top Gear's second road trip to Africa, Hammond rigged up a rather impressive kitchen in the back of his estate car. He then used it to cook nothing but baked beans for the duration of the trip.
- In the opera Paul Bunyan, the cooks Sam Sharkey and Ben Benny specialize (i.e., overspecialize) in soups and beans, respectively.
- Minori in Brass Restoration can make rice, and pure evil.
- Somewhat of an example with Lethal Chef Raine in Tales of Symphonia, gameplay-mechanics-wise. Her cooking skill for almost all of the recipes in the game max out at two stars (for most characters, that only applies to a few recipes they happen to be "bad" at). However, her ability to cook spaghetti is better than that for the other recipes... that one maxes out at three stars. (And she starts out with one star on that recipe, instead of starting with zero stars for all the other recipes.)
- In the same game, Colette will add fruit to a good amount of her recipes (and the recipes she's best at are fruit-based). This is taken to the extreme in a skit in the sequel.
- From the same series but a different game, Repede from Tales of Vesperia takes this trope to its logical conclusion. Repede can be given any of the recipes to cook (of which there are a lot), and he even has a surprisingly low failure rate. Except regardless of if you have him make a sandwich, a sorbet, or hot pot, or anything else, all Repede can make... is dog food.
- Flora of the Harvest Moon series is a Lethal Chef for anything that isn't curry. She knows it, hence it's all she cooks. Unfortunately for her, this has resulted in her boss/love interest Carter being sick to death of the stuff.
- Chef Shimi from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door can cook only with mushrooms, though this isn't much of a handicap in the Super Mario universe as he is stated to be a 5-star chef by the other NPCs.
- Metal Gear Solid: Otacon's adopted daughter, Sunny, is incapable of cooking anything but eggs. Justified in that she also lives in an airplane and presumably subsists entirely on military styled rations and eggs from the three chickens on the plane. At one point, she attempts to cook a block of ramen in the same manner as fried eggs (by plopping it in a frying pan), and ends up setting a fire.
- Atelier Annie has Gillian, who attempts to put herbal health drinks in everything. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, she and Melody are the only people who can even get near said herbal health drinks without gagging. The reason for this is because when Gillian's father died, Gillian wouldn't eat anything until Melody offered a herbal health drink and drank it all down despite how awful it tasted. Gillian makes them because she insist that they'll help fight against sickness.
- Ms. Dungeon from Legasista is capable of making a variety of foodstuffs. The only problem is that the only ingredients to be found in the Ivy Tower are bean sprouts (both sentient and non-sentient), meaning that everything she makes tastes like bean sprouts, much to Alto's disgust.
- In The Sims 2, sims who botch using the ReNuYu Aspiration Changer end up with the "Grilled Cheese" aspiration. All their wants, fears, and dreams revolve around cooking, eating, and serving grilled cheese sandwiches. In addition, grilled cheese sandwiches normally require two skill points in Cooking and can only be cooked for lunch or dinner, but Grilled Cheese sims can prepare them at any time, without any points in Cooking.
- Forte from Rune Factory 4 is fine with salads and sashimi, but can't cook anything else to save her life. Her reasoning is that all her training as a knight has made her skilled with a blade, but attempts involving pots and ovens don't translate so well.
- In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII when a chef asks Lightning for help in preparing one of his recipes, she admits she's only good at grilling Behemoth steak over a campfire. Fortunately for her, it turns out the chef only needs her help to gather ingredients and not actually cook.
- Everyone who cooks in Mordavia in Quest for Glory IV has some kind of compulsion to put garlic in everything. Lots and lots of garlic. It might have something to do with the vampires running around, or that the creature that acts as the Dark One's symbol likes garlic.
- Brewster from the Animal Crossing knows how to make really good coffee...and nothing else.
- The Persona 5 protagonist is a downplayed example; he can learn to make a damn good curry and coffee from his guardian, but that seems to be about it.
- Sunless Sea: The Bandaged Poissonier is a special case; as the name tells, he's a magnificent cook when it comes to fish, especially the weird sorts of fish (and other monstrosities) that dwell in the Unterzee. In terms of other foodstuffs... it's not that he's incapable, as he still begrudgingly manages, the problem's that he's unwilling to cook anything outside of fish, thinking it a waste of his talents. He's insulted kings over it, and preferred to abandon the country entirely rather than continue cooking for someone who'd clearly rather stuff themselves with inferior meals.
- Street Fighter IV gives us El Fuerte, who is apparently very good when cooking Mexican Food. However, when he wants to experiment with any other kind of food, he turns into a Cordon Bleugh Chef. And he'll gladly prepare some food to any opponent he defeats...
- Papyrus from Undertale can only cook spaghetti, and even that is barely edible (although he seems to be steadily, albeit very slowly, improving at it).
- Inverted in RPG Shooter: Starwish. Supreme Chef Johnny can make everything delicious except one thing: Eternal Swamp Gumboo.
- In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Vess is only able to cook a particular type of dumpling, something Team Rex comments on when it's the only thing she serves them when inviting them for a meal. But Team Rex, her Driver Mabon and Mabon's kids all agree that the dumplings are exceptionally tasty, so it's not considered a particular handicap.
- Tohno Shiki from Tsukihime is good at making noodles.
- Inverted in Kanon where Akiko can make everything, except a Special Jam which can file her under Lethal Chef.
- Haruka from Little Busters! can make some quite nice egg dishes if she works hard on them, but is pretty terrible at anything else. This is because her twin sister Kanata told her that she was allergic to eggs when they were little, so Haruka focused on them as the one thing she could do that Kanata couldn't.
- When it's Rin's turn to cook in Fate/stay night, she's careful to stick with the few dishes she's confident at making.
- The company chef in Schlock Mercenary only makes things that involve whisking. Presumably because he has a whisk for a prosthesis.
- Karin-dou 4koma: The only food Meguru can cook without burning to a crisp is karaage, but when she does make karaage it always turns out in massive quantities for some reason.
- Due to her dietary restrictions as a wolf, Florence Ambrose from Freefall can only work with meat or fish and very minimal seasoning. That said, she can prepare a venison dinner from roadkill in a Greasy Spoon diner kitchen.
- In Mickey Tries To Cook, Minnie berates Mickey for only being able to make cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches, and thus that's all they ever eat at picnics. Mickey's attempts to learn how to cook something else ends in disaster.
- Arguably SpongeBob SquarePants. When he trades places with a chef for a fancy restaurant, his attempts at haute cuisine end up turning into Krabby Patties.
First Customer: Hey, he burnt my Krabby Patty.Second Customer: He burnt my fries.Third Customer: (drinks out of burnt milkshake) He burnt my shake.
- An early episode showed him as having no idea what a sa-lad was. When he learned, the concept of tomatoes and lettuce without a bun and patty freaked him out.
- Squidward is even worse. When SpongeBob went on a 10-Minute Retirement due to a trick from Bubble Bass, Squidward can't seem to cook anything right, even things that don't even need cooking. Or things that are even food.
First Customer: P.U.! You call this food?Second Customer: My sandwich tastes like a fried boot.Third Customer: My sandwich is a fried boot! (holds up what appears to be a hiking boot covered in a crispy coating)
- Also in "Hooky" after when SpongeBob goes to the "carnival" with Patrick and Squidward tries to hold the fort:
- In A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown expresses (and demonstrates) an inability to make anything other than cold cereal "and maybe toast". He serves cold cereal again in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, (though apparently no one else even thought to bring food on their river-raft expedition).
- In an episode of The Venture Bros., Sergeant Hatred takes over Hank's greasy spoon diner he's opened on the family compound, but admits that he only knows how to make scrambled eggs with ketchup.
- Doug, and maybe by extension his entire family, has several books on making grilled cheese sandwiches. That suggests Doug can make mean cheese sandwiches.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: After Muriel's Aunt Gertrude confides that vinegar is the secret ingredient to her famous raspberry jam, she begins putting it in every dish she makes thereafter (candy, pancakes, PB&J sandwiches, etcetera, etcetera). Her results vary.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: Eddy often brags at others (especially when he's cooking) on how his omelets are the best and everyone needs to try them. For everything else, he's a mess at the kitchen, if the cooking class at school is any evidence.
- Bob Belcher from Bob's Burgers makes good burgers - Fantastic burgers, when it really matters. And of course, him being a One-Note Cook is justified by the fact that his restaurant is named...well, Bob's Burgers. He's still decently competent at cooking other food, and puts a lot of care and effort into things like Thanksgiving turkey - his excellent turkey has been a plot point in at least two episodes.
- The Loud House: The episode "Fed Up" reveals that Lynn Sr. makes the same seven dishes for dinner each nightnote , which he repeats every single week. However, it's justified in that the Louds are on a budget and have to feed 13 different people, so preparing large enough nutritious meals for everyone can be difficult. But in the end, even Lynn Sr. realizes that they should mix it up once in a while.
- Although not that common in the U.S., many countries with a strong culture of cheap outside dining will have cooks who are extremely good at making things like tacos, pancakes, noodles, etc. These same cooks may also be absolute shit at cooking anything else, sometimes not even being able to cook their own meals aside from their specialty.
- Chef Duff from Ace of Cakes subverted this when he performed on Iron Chef America, and made excellent food. He still lost to Michael Symon, though.
- Bobby Flay gets accusations of this. While he's usually not abysmal at cooking outside of his element, his style heavily leans on usage of hot peppers - you can practically predict how close of a match he'll have in Iron Chef or Throwdown based on how well the secret ingredient/proposed dish would work with spicy peppers thrown in.
- Since professional cooking encompasses such a wide variety, it is inevitable that there are certain cooks/chefs who are specialists. As such, while they may be excellent, even famed, at said specialization, they might not do so well outside of it.
- Certain Japanese sushi cooks are this. Becoming a cook in a sushi restaurant is a long procedure of learning (7 years, to be exact, and the first year of that is literally nothing but learning how to sharpen the knives), if wanting to be one that is allowed to serve blowfish, they need to do a additional apprenticeship of several years. It happens that certain cooks are so specialized at sashimi, that they don't even know how to work a pan or how to cook rice themselves, having sous chefs that do that for them.
- It applies to an extent for many other restaurants in Japan, especially food stalls. Rather than cooking foods with a multitude of techniques, restaurants tend to specialize in one, and then tend to innovate around that. For example, a shop may only make yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) but will have dozens of combinations of different seasonings and cuts of chicken (wing sections, thighs, breast, tenderloin, gizzards, livers, hearts, etc.) with which they make their mark.