Professional kitchens are full of interesting characters. I think it’s a basic prerequisite of the job to have a few screws loose. Perhaps it is due to working long hours, in close quarters, with fire, knives, and copious amounts of ego.
My favorite chef steryotype has got to be Jim Henson’s Swedish Chef. I’ve never worked with a Chef from Sweden personally, but I have worked with enough hyperactive culinarians from other parts of the world to know that Mr. Henson may have been on to something.
John Bull is a very good real life example of what I mean by “unique character”. His laid back approach to his cooking and his sense of fun are exactly what I love to see in a kitchen. Oddly enough, he is based out of Stockholm, Sweden. You can watch all of his videos here: http://www.dayrobber.com/content/category/1/15/6/
Of course, the master biographer of unique kitchen personalities, Anthony Bourdain, is himself just such a character. I love how he is able to cut through the Bulls***, straight to the heart of the matter. Even with the punk-rock attitude, you can still see that laid back approach and sense of fun I mentioned earlier.
His book Kitchen Confidential has almost become a sacred work among professional cooks. It rings true to working conditions and day-to-day life in restaurant kitchens. No one can work in the industry for very long without stockpiling their own list of horror stories. Perhaps I’ll share some of my own in the future.