Chef! (1993–1996)
8.3/10
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Personnel 

Gareth Blackstock, chef of Le Château Anglais, has to cut the kitchen budget. He refuses, forcing his wife Janice to think of a plan.

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
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Caroline Lee-Johnson ...
Janice (as Caroline Lee Johnson)
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Roger Griffiths ...
Gary Parker ...
Erkan Mustafa ...
William Ivory ...
Greg
Peter Tilbury ...
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Storyline

Gareth Blackstock is chef of the prestigious restaurant Le Château Anglais. He is notorious for trying to motivate his personnel by insulting them and making witty remarks. The manager of the Château has a shocking announcement. The budget for the kitchen has to be reduced by 15 percent. He suggests firing one of the commis and tells Blackstock there will be no new sous-chef hired. Angrily Gareth refuses to cooperate and decides to sell his expensive house. To avoid moving, his wife Janice has a idea: hire somebody who will work for free. Then an old classmate suddenly shows up in the restaurant. It's Everton Stonehead and he thinks he has a proposal Gareth can't refuse. Written by Arnoud Tiele (imdb@tiele.nl)

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Comedy

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28 January 1993 (UK)  »

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Quotes

Gareth: Steve, what I'm doing here is putting out bad vibes. What can be discerned from my social behavior, body language and general demeanor is that I have very little interest in prolonging this encounter. Should there be a point, I'd like to get to it quickly in order to terminate this interview as soon as possible. Most people with a full set of frontal lobes would have clocked this by now.
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User Reviews

 
Show #1 (Format: Online)
8 May 2011 | by (Region 1) – See all my reviews

To bask in this show's brilliance (which I do like it's a beam of light shining down from the sky), you don't really have to know anything about how it came to be. Though you still have to wonder. Is someone on the writing team a lot like Gareth Blackstock- an imposing, intimidating, raving, angry, shouting perfectionist? Or is this based on another, real-life, Chef, for example- the way Fawlty Towers' Basil character was based on an actual person (God help those who actually know him)? Either way, the character here is (from what I can tell) fairly ground-breaking and original and several other Professional Psychos (usually doctor characters) to follow in his wake are only pale imitations when you strip them of their differences (the guy Hugh Laurie plays on House being the best example).

What I like best about the show is that it's a real shock to the system after the ultimate blandness that is The Cosby Show. Cliff and Clair Huxtable were probably fine for their time (and how would I have known? I was about 2 when their show first debuted and barely ever watched it, I was so bored stiff by it). They were wise old types in verbally sturdy forms, and of course their scheming, running-amok kids had a lot to be taught and so, each lesson (of course, why the audience was continually being put in a child's position again and again - as though they hadn't learned anything already - is anyone's guess) had to be handled with such care that it required a lengthy series of discussions. The dialogue in Chef! is just as long-winded, so how could Cosby be so boring and this show not be? It could be the fact that Gareth and Janice don't have kids... But Cosby devoted a great deal of time showing us what the parents were like as a couple without the kids around and they damn well treated each other as though they were kids often enough.

To put it bluntly- these two don't have time to mess around like that. They, in fact, treat you like an adult who had better not make a child's mistake in dealing with them or you're going to be absolutely squashed by a storm of heated, perhaps abusive, insults in the form of a kind of lesson: don't waste their time! As the episodes go on and Janice gets very hands-on with running Le Cheateau Anglais, they act as a perfect kind of team and we see from the start that she's every bit as sharp and unyielding as he can be (as you can tell, I mean that as a compliment). In short- she would flatten Clair Huxtable, and even though Louise Jefferson always says she's part of George's business, Janice actually works at it.

As for the other characters, I can't help but smile there. I'm not black but watching sous-chef Lucinda toast white boys like the cute "American" Piers (Gary Parker; bad accent- and yes, it sounds like he's doing an accent) and the stunning beating she heaps on Gregory, this only a taste of what she would continue to do throughout the rest of the season (call it a series if you want to, but how long did these first 7 episodes really stretch out to? 2-3 months of airings), is marvelous. I mean, even though Piers was cute, I missed her the most when the second series started the following year (without her and, to an extent, without a replacement). And... all I can ever say about Everton is, "poor Everton." (Well, actually there is more but let's see if I don't save that for another time.)

The show is so immaculately made in every aspect and respect, it's simply dazzling to watch. It's almost in poor taste to compare the way the show is done with the way the Chef! would probably be cooking the food, but it's perfection. As I sat and watched the first 6 episodes, I was practically blown away by how highly artistic the show always was. My favorite scenes are of Gareth and Janice in the kitchen. The last of which here (where they discuss the shocking fact that he's never fired anyone before) is where it occurred to me that there might have been a moment, as he sat down at the breakfast table while she stood, that they were playing with the husband and wife dynamics. No food on the table but she's standing- will they actually talk about cooking something? If this were The Jeffersons, you could bet money on the fact that he would have been expecting Louise or Florence to at least be taking orders from him. What do you think the first question she asks him is?


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