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Series / Chef!

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"See, in life, Piers, different people want different things. Some want large fortunes, some want carnal knowledge of vast number of the opposite, or indeed their own sex, and some want to write down the numbers of all the British rail diesel locomotives currently in service. Chacun a son goût. Me, my single aim in life is to send the finest, best presented food through that door there. That's it! And if it's at the cost of a few human lives, well, that's fine by me."
Gareth Blackstock, Chef! (episode 1)
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Chef!, a British comedy TV show that ran from 1993 to 1996, concerns the life of famed English chef de cuisine Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry) as he attempts to maintain the prestigious Château Anglaise, the best French restaurant in England, while dealing with his tumultuous marriage. Gareth's rampaging rants and incessant insults provide much of the comedy for the show.

Only three characters have significant roles throughout the show's three series run:

  • Gareth, the star;
  • Everton, an apprentice chef and frequent target of Gareth's abuse; and
  • Janice, Gareth's wife who has to deal with his issues every day.

Other characters appeared for shorter durations:

  • Gustav (series 2 and 3), a once highly regarded chef who declined due to a drinking problem
  • Lucinda (series 1), the sous chef—directly subordinate to Gareth—who, despite her petite size, is sometimes shown to have a bite whereas Gareth has a bark
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This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Anita Lawrence keeps calling Janice as Janet.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "BBC Bosses Ban Bollocking Blackstock."
  • The Alcoholic: Gustav.
  • Angry Chef: Gareth Blackstock. While talented, Blackstock is arrogant, tyrannical, and is often rude to employees, friends, and family members.
  • Auto Erotica:
    • Averted, much to Janice's dismay.
    • Played straight off-screen for Crispin's dad, caught with another man's wife/girlfriend in the back of the Roller.
  • Berserk Button: For Gareth there are many times. One of the most memorable occurs when he overhears a customer asking for salt before tasting his meal.
    Gareth: I hate you with a passion you can only dream of. Bon appetit.
  • Blatant Lies: Gareth warns his kitchen staff in the first episode that they're all expendable and so they'd better work hard. Five minutes latter his boss suggests staff cuts and Gareth says he couldn't possibly do without any of them.
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  • Bumbling Sidekick: Everton. He does eventually get better. Everton does know how to cook, but it's mostly fast-food cooking.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Gareth isn't technically a villain but he still fits the description nonetheless, as one of his prime running gags is his unabashedness (and even pride) at his own wretchedness. "I am Gareth Blackstock and I am a thoroughly unpleasant person! I am a bastard! My bite is much worse than my bark and my bark is ATROCIOUS!"
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Give me strength!"
    • "Shut up, Everton/Janice!"
    • Everton would also append "sorta thing" onto the end of most sentences. When he didn't, other characters looked at him funny until he did. Sometimes, just to be safe, he'd say "sorta thing sorta thing".
  • Character Filibuster: Gareth repeatedly goes on them.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Gareth's rapid-fire expletives toward Everton are caught on camera, and Lucinda reads a review on the newspaper: "A special BAFTA award for swearing in a documentary should be minted at once!"
  • Cool Car: Gareth and Janice own a classic red Jaguar E-Type roadster, which they have to sell in order to purchase the restaurant. Janice in particular is in tears at losing such a beautiful machine without even "christening" it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gareth, Janice, Lucinda.
    • Gareth tends to yell at his underlings, but when dealing with journalists or authority figures (or his wife) contents himself with snide comments.
    Health Inspector: How long has this cheese been sitting out?
    Gareth: Precisely two hours. Any longer and it would be at risk of achieving its full flavor and texture.
    • An exception to this is bankers; he'll resort to snarky comments for as long as he can, but goes back to his usual self in no time.
  • Dirty Cop: PC Bosworth, the local poacher, is a lighthearted example. Also Gilbert Waterman from the National Rivers Authority, who sold Bosworth the tracking-tagged salmon that he sold on to Gareth.
  • Double Standard: Gareth and his wife separate at the beginning of the third season. She begins dating again... he sees her doing so but does not confront her. After some mental anguish, Gareth goes on a single date with a woman and kisses her... his wife sees it, slaps him, and prepares to not only finally divorce him, but take his unborn child away to another continent in retaliation.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Albert Roux, a celebrity chef who books a table at Le Chateau in the first season and is known for his critical nature. Gareth panics even more when Albert asks him to decide, knowing that whatever Gareth picks is the best he can do.
    • The health inspector in "A River Runs Through It", though by his next appearance he's been downgraded to yet another irritant for Gareth.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Non-military example, though Gareth does run his kitchen like he was preparing an invasion.
  • Eagle Land: Averted with Piers, whose American-ness is never the source of a joke at all, and is mostly written as a perfectly pleasant fellow. Played straight in the third series with Savannah, an obnoxious Californian woman.
  • Fiery Redhead: Lucinda.
  • Flanderization: Gareth's behavior seems to turn towards this in series 3.
  • Food as Bribe: More than a couple of times he's had to bribe police with meals at the restaurant. In one episode, he tries to calm down an irate Janice with a salmon mousse, but she just gets angrier (at least until she tastes it).
  • Food Porn: Don't watch this show if you're hungry.
    • In-Universe, Gareth treats a documentary made of his food this way. He was unconcerned - and even glad - that there was no focus on him, and that his cooking took center stage. He mentions he wanted to watch it agin, and again, and again...
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Invoked by Gustav, who is really a Londoner named Garry Lambston but changed his name because, as he puts it, you had to be French to get a decent cooking job when he started out.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: In a season one episode, Gareth wigs out on Everton in his signature style. After a minute or two, they pause, and Everton slowly looks at the camera. Then Chef does. This is, of course, the camera placed there earlier by a documentary film crew.
  • French Jerk / Cultural Posturing: One of Gareth's rivals during an international cooking competition mocks him simply for being British. He turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, though.
    • In the same episode, the Cultural Posturing is inverted when even most other British people laugh themselves sick at Gareth wanting British wine. Their absolute dread at realizing that they must use British cooking to compete with French chefs using French cooking, for the favour of French judges, is quite a sight.
  • Freudian Excuse: Gareth frequently engages in rants about his childhood, which might explain his Jerkass behaviour. His father - when he shows up - is a worse Jerkass than Gareth himself.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Janice frequently plays this role, although it's typically futile.
  • Gilligan Cut: Done frequently after Gareth's tirades.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: After Savannah develops a crush on Gareth, she starts sending herself bouquets from her imaginary boyfriend to try to make him jealous. It doesn't work.
  • Groin Attack: Janice rather indelicately seizes Gareth's meat-and-two-veg when he's being difficult while the two are lying in bed.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Gareth. Although he's particularly sensitive about food, he's liable to hit the Berserk Button whenever stressed.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the first episode, Gareth takes great delight in telling his staff how useless and replaceable they are. Not five minutes later he's telling his boss that he can't fire any of them because they're the finest staff he's ever had and irreplaceable.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: Gareth has to make the perfect salmon mousse for Albert Roux.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Renee/Reenie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gareth does fill out the Jerk part easily, handily, and even to his own great satisfaction. However, he is also willing to give credit where it's due, praise good work, and even, on one notable occasion, deliver a sincere apology when he discovered he'd wrongfully accused Everton of smoking pot. The very first episode establishes this trait, when he's unable to bring himself to fire an incompetent employee (previous employees having tired of his personality and quit in protest before he had to). After Lucinda fires the guy for him, Gareth bursts into tears and hugs him goodbye.
  • Job Title
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Averted. A Running Gag is that Janice frequently complains about how rarely he's in the mood for it.
  • Missing Mom: Gareth's mother left when he was young, presumably tired of her Jerkass husband. This also explains Gareth's choice of cooking as a career; his father's cooking was so horrendous that he took it up just to stay fed.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Cyril Bryson. "This is the eye of the needle that breaks the camel's back!"
  • Mood Whiplash: Gareth's above-mentioned freakout over a customer asking for salt is followed by him taking a phone call from the boss in the kitchen...notifying him the restaurant is in receivership.
  • New Old Flame: Lucille in the last two episodes.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: How Gareth perceives health and safety inspectors.
  • One-Note Cook: Initially, Everton and Jamaican food. It sends people into bouts of euphoria. Otherwise, he's hopeless. He gets loads better at it once season two rolls around.
  • Oop North: Cyril
  • Perpetual Poverty: In the second episode, the restaurant goes into receivership because of mismanagement, prompting Gareth and Janice to sell everything and run it themselves. They don't have any more luck than the previous owners, partly because, as Gareth himself puts it, "I'm stupid about money". By Season 3 they've had to sell to Cyril to keep the restaurant going.
  • Pregnancy Scare: In Season 2's "Time Flies", driving Gareth and Janice into a panic over how they'll afford to raise a child when the restaurant is losing money.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In "England Expects", mixed with Gratuitous French: "MISE! EN! PLACE!"
  • Rant-Inducing Slight
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Gareth's rants. Everton provides a nice contrast sorta thing.
  • Rich Bitch: Renee. She mellows out a bit as the series progresses, though.
  • Roguish Poacher: Frustrated with the quality of his game meat supply, Gareth resorts to purchasing from a poacher. He then gets a better price from a policeman who pulled him over after making the deal.
  • Running Gag: From season one, Lola, the maître d’hôtel, stealing bites from plates and going into near-orgasmic moans with each one.
  • Second Prize: Subverted in an episode where Gareth begins bemoaning the unfairness of it as he places second in the hors d'ouvres section, which is compounded when he then places second in the entree section. He is barely able to suppress his rage when he goes on to receive third place in the dessert section, only to discover that, as he was the only contestant to place in more than one category (and indeed, every category), he has won the overall first place.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Season 1 finale "A Bird in the Hand". Gareth and Janice jump through hoops to identify a turkey farm after the packaging is accidentally thrown out, Gareth unwilling to settle for anyone else. Upon arriving there, they find that the farm is owned by the spice supplier Gareth has just rudely fired for costing too much. After offering an inflated price for the turkeys and the reinstatement of their spice contract, he finds out the family booked in for Christmas dinner are vegetarians.
  • Springtime for Hitler: By the tail end of the second season, Everton has improved to the point where magazines are doing stories on him, and he starts publicly talking about how Gareth's leadership is holding him back. Gareth decides to knock him down a peg or two by feigning an illness and leaving him to run the kitchen by himself on an important night. By the episode's end, Gareth is devastated at how well everything turned out.
  • The Stoner: Gareth thinks it's Everton, but it's really Piers.
  • Supreme Chef: Gareth, obviously. Surprisingly, Everton when it comes to Caribbean food.
  • That's What She Said:
    Janice: (while eating Gareth's salmon mousse) Mmm. Oh, God.
    Gareth: Could you be critical, please?
    Janice: How could I be critical with this in my mouth?
    Gareth: Well that's what all the girls say to me...
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: In Episode 1, Everton assumes too much familiarity with Gareth by calling him "Stock," his old school nickname (which it turns out he really hates).
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Everton in Season 1's "Rice and Peas", when Gareth puts together a Caribbean night to please his father, because he's the only one in the kitchen with any familiarity with Caribbean food. He does it again in Season 2's "Masterchef", when he is given the title of "Deputy Chef" as part of a scheme by Gareth to teach him a humility lesson (see Springtime for Hitler above).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Gareth and Everton apparently were like this as children, and become something like this again to some extent when reunited as adults (just with a boss/subordinate overlay).
  • Women Are Wiser: Janice. Averted with Renee and Savannah.

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