Swedish Chef

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The Swedish Chef
The Muppets character
The Swedish Chef.jpg
First appearance The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)
Created by Jim Henson
Performed by Jim Henson / Frank Oz
Bill Barretta (1996—present)
Species Muppet (Human)
Gender Male
Occupation Chef
Nationality Swedish

The Swedish Chef is a Muppet character that appeared on The Muppet Show. He was originally performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz simultaneously; with Henson performing the head and voice and Oz performing the character's live hands. The Swedish Chef is now performed by Bill Barretta.


A parody of television chefs, the Swedish Chef wears a toque blanche and has bushy eyebrows that completely obscure his eyes. He was one of the few Muppets to employ an actual puppeteer's hands, originally Oz's, in the designs – that is, they were visible to the audience through his sleeves and facilitated handling food and utensils.

Nearly all Swedish Chef sketches on The Muppet Show begin with him in a kitchen, waving some utensils while singing his signature yodel-esque song in his typical mock Swedish – a semi-comprehensible gibberish mimicking Swedish phonology and prosody. The song's lyrics vary slightly from one episode to the next, but always end with "Bork, bork, bork!" as the Chef throws the utensils (or whatever else may be in his hands) aside with a clatter that seems to startle him.

After this introduction, the Chef begins to prepare a recipe while giving a gibberish explanation of what he is doing. His commentary is spiced with the occasional English word to clue in the viewer to what he is attempting; for example, "Aweenda shmure da froog's legs" or "Yur puurt thuur chiir-ken airn der bewl". These hints are necessary as he frequently uses unorthodox culinary equipment (firearms, sports equipment, hand tools, etc.) to prepare his dishes. In the pilot episode of The Muppet Show, the Chef's commentary was supplemented by Chinese subtitles, but this was abandoned for all other episodes of the series. The sketch typically degenerates into a slapstick finale where the equipment or ingredients (usually a live chicken/goat/cow etc.) get the better of him.

In one sketch, a misaimed explosive charge slightly damaged the face of the puppet. The Chef's face remained scarred through the rest of the season.

The Chef is referred to by name in one episode, in which Danny Kaye plays his uncle. Kaye reels off a very long name but adds, "But we call him Tom" – much to the Chef's amusement.[1] In 2010, the Chef was seen wearing a wedding ring, implying that the character is married.[2]

Computer translations[edit]

The Chef's gibberish gained a life of its own with the creation of a Unix lex filter capable of converting standard English to "chefspeak" in 1992. The filter quickly became a staple of hacker culture and eventually spread to the mainstream with "Swedish Chef" translators on several websites, most notably the Dialectizer; there is a popular Mozilla Firefox add-on called "Börk Börk Börk!", which allows the selective "translation" of text from web pages of the user's choice. In 2003, Opera Software – a Norwegian company – published a special "Börk" version of its internet browser, which turned the MSN website into "Swedish."[3] Google offers "Bork, bork, bork!" as one among its choices for user interface language[4] and Meebo and Guild Wars both offer "Börk!" as one of their language preferences. There also appeared a plethora of USENET newsgroups named after the chef's speech, the first being "alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork", after which the repeated ending was incorporated into groups such as "alt.french.captain.borg.borg.borg" and other groups following this pattern. This "börk filter" was used in the Darkwind MUD as a curse, of sorts, when characters could be transformed into "little vikings" (to stay somewhat in theme) for a short duration.

The Norwegian company Trolltech, who develop the Qt Development Frameworks, used this "encheferization" for a more serious purpose – although the friendly rivalry between Norwegians and Swedes perhaps was its inspiration.[citation needed] They encouraged software development testing departments to use an "encheferizer" as a plug-in for the part of their product that provided internationalization and localization. Whereas it could not be expected that a test team would know every language to which a product might be aimed, by translating the parts that were supposed to be internationalized through the encheferizer to produce a localized version for Swedish Chef speakers, testers could immediately spot mistakes in the internationalization – parts that had been missed – as anything that had not been localized (encheferized) would show up in the language of the original author of the text. All the same, a tester would be able to test the product functionally, as it takes little language skill, and no software, to be able to decheferize the text: its meaning is clear even when encheferized.

The generally longer encheferized text could also help with graphics testing because it could show up errors where, for example, not enough space had been left for languages that morphologically tend to use more characters than most, such as German. While not perfect, and not intended to be, it stands as a good first stage to check an internationalization effort.[5]


Some claim that the Swedish Chef was inspired by a real life chef. One example is Friedman Paul Erhardt, a German American television chef known as "Chef Tell".[6][7] Another example is Lars "Kuprik" Bäckman, a real life Swedish chef. Bäckman claims that his rather unsuccessful appearance on an early edition of Good Morning America caught the attention of Jim Henson, who later bought the rights to the recording and created Bäckman's Muppet alter ego. Bäckman's Dalecarlian accent would explain the chef's strange pronunciation. Muppet writer Jerry Juhl denied Bäckman's story and insisted the character had no real-world counterpart: "I wrote, rehearsed, rewrote, brainstormed, and giggled uncontrollably a thousand times with Jim Henson as we dealt with the Swedish Chef, and I never once heard him mention an actual Swedish chef..."[8]

According to Brian Henson in one of his introductions for The Muppet Show, "Jim Henson had this tape that he used to play which was 'How to Speak Mock Swedish'. And he used to drive to work and I used to ride with him a lot. And he would drive to work trying to make a chicken sandwich in Mock Swedish or make a turkey casserole in Mock Swedish. It was the most ridiculous thing you had ever seen. And people at traffic lights used to stop and sort of look at him a little crazy. But that was the roots of the character that would eventually become the Swedish Chef."


Besides appearances in The Muppet Show, the chef also appears in The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), ­The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1986), A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), Muppet*Vision 3D (1991) an attraction found at several Disney Parks, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets From Space (1999), It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), Studio DC: Almost Live (2008), a sketch for the cast of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and an episode with Hannah Montana star Jason Earles and Cory in the House's Jason Dolley, the Popcorn (instrumental) (2010), and The Muppets (2011).

In popular culture[edit]

The Swedish Chef and Scandinavian languages[edit]

  • A guide to learning Swedish by Urban Sikeborg states that special care should be given to pronunciation, otherwise "...you might end up sounding disquietingly like the Swedish Chef in The Muppet Show."[16]
  • In the German dubbed version of The Muppet Show, the Swedish Chef is Danish and his song is "Smørrebrød, Smørrebrød røm, pøm, pøm, pøm". However, in the Swedish version, he is still Swedish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Video clip from season 3, episode 16". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  2. ^ "The Muppet Show: The Swedish Chef Gets Lost Spoilers?". TVSeriesFinale.com. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "Opera releases "Börk" edition; The Swedish Chef Goes After Microsoft". Opera.com. 2003-02-14. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  4. ^ "Bork, bork, bork! version of the Google homepage". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  5. ^ "Faked translations". Nedbatchelder.com. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  6. ^ LaBen, Craig (2007-10-29). "'Chef Tell' Erhardt, 63, early TV chef". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  7. ^ "Friedman Paul Erhardt". Legacy.com. Associated Press. 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  8. ^ Chapman, Phillip (2001-07-03). "Will the real Swedish Chef please stand up?". Muppet Central. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  9. ^ "Picking a New Supreme Court Justice - Cliff Sloan | May 5th". ColbertNation.com. 2009-05-05. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  10. ^ Operation Artificial Swedener - The Colbert Report - 2012-12-06 - Video Clip | Comedy Central - 02:08
  11. ^ "Google". Google. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  12. ^ "Bork Bork Bork". Windy City Rollers. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Mikula, Jeremy (15 July 2011). "This DePaul staffer’s on a roll, literally". redeye. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "This Is SportsCenter - Henrik Lundqvist - YouTube". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  15. ^ http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/watch-eurovision-2013-presenter-petra-1897982
  16. ^ "Introduction to Swedish - home". Web.hhs.se. 1998-12-21. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 

External links[edit]