Chef (South Park)
|Jerome "Chef" McElroy|
|South Park character|
|First appearance||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Last appearance||South Park: The Stick of Truth|
|Created by||Trey Parker
|Voiced by||Isaac Hayes
Peter Serafinowicz (Darth Chef)
|Occupation||Former elementary school cafeteria worker|
|Family||Nellie McElroy (mother)
Thomas McElroy (father)
|Residence||South Park, Colorado|
Jerome "Chef" McElroy is a cartoon character on the Comedy Central series South Park who was voiced by soul singer Isaac Hayes. A cafeteria worker (as his nickname implies) at the local elementary school in the town of South Park, Colorado, Chef was generally portrayed as more level-headed than the other adult residents of the town and sympathetic to the kids. His guidance was often sought by the show's core group of child protagonists – Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, and Kenny McCormick – as he was usually the only adult whom they consistently trusted. To an inadvertent fault, he would frequently give inappropriate advice, usually in the non sequitur form of a lascivious soul song.
Chef was inspired by Hayes and other popular soul singers of the 1970s, as well as an actual dining hall worker encountered by series co-creator Trey Parker while he attended the University of Colorado. Chef played a less prominent role as the series progressed beyond its earlier seasons, and the character was killed off at the beginning of the tenth season in "The Return of Chef" following the controversial departure of Hayes.
In tradition with the show's animation style, Chef was composed of simple geometrical shapes, and was animated with use of a computer, though he was given the impression of being a construction paper cutout composition animated through the use of stop motion, which was the technique used to animate the "Spirit of Christmas" shorts and the show's first episode. Chef was an overweight African American with a beard who usually wore blue pants and a red shirt. He frequently donned a traditional chef's hat and white apron on which the word "CHEF" was printed in black, even when he was not at work.
Until Token Black and his family were given a more notable role starting in the show's fourth season, Chef was portrayed as the only black resident in all of South Park. Parker and co-creator Matt Stone initially planned to have one of themselves voice the character, fearing that their ideal candidates of Hayes, Lou Rawls, and Barry White would never agree to voice the character because the duo had admittedly and purposefully created him as a "stereotype" to reflect what they felt was the perception most inhabitants of less-diverse mountainous Colorado towns had of black people. However, Hayes agreed to voice the character due in part to the audacity of some of the show's early scripts. Chef (usually kindheartedly, though not always) referred to most people in town with the pejorative "crackers", including the children.
Chef, after abandoning his musical aspirations, moved to South Park with plans to open his own restaurant. Before this, he had befriended several famous recording artists in the music industry, including Elton John and Meat Loaf, helping them to launch their successful careers. Despite failing at yet another dream, Chef made his way onto the South Park City Council, representing Public Safety. In addition to dispensing advice to the children and a few of the adult townsfolk, Chef spoke out against what he felt were outrageous ideas. For example, he opposed the rampant prescription of Ritalin, and he objected to the town's acceptance of Mr. Garrison committing purposefully flamboyant sadomasochistic acts in front of schoolchildren. Chef once briefly converted to Islam and adopted the name "Abdul Mohammed Jabar Rauf Kareem Ali" when he demanded that South Park change its official flag because it depicted the town's racist past. On several other occasions, Chef helped save South Park (and in a few other instances, the entire world) from potential disasters.
Chef was also known for frequently engaging in casual sex, of which he often expressed his habit through song. He drove a 1980s woodie station wagon with a vanity plate that read "LUV CHEF". He was often seen accompanied by numerous young women when at home or on vacation, and was even revealed to have had a one-night stand with Kathie Lee Gifford. He once resorted to male prostitution in an effort to raise money to pay legal fees, and had sex with nearly every woman in South Park before having to stop due to exhaustion. Chef briefly became an office worker and took up monogamy after meeting a woman named Veronica. The two were engaged to be married until it was revealed that Veronica was actually a succubus. In the South Park video game, the children can seek Chef's advice at one of the many buildings labelled "Chef's Shack O' Love", which is implied to be a brothel, complete with a naked woman in Chef's bed.
Chef's parents, Nellie and Thomas McElroy, live in Scotland. The couple have made two major appearances in the episodes "The Succubus" and "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", and made a brief cameo in a town Christmas celebration in "Red Sleigh Down". They were not seen at Chef's funeral in "The Return of Chef".
Relationship with the children
Chef endearingly called the boys "the children" or just "children" (even when referring to one individually), and, unless he was preoccupied with a female companion, was usually willing to assist them with whatever help they needed. He was consistently the only adult in town who the boys held in high regard, and they viewed him as their friend. They were also visibly saddened when having to confront the possibility of not having Chef in their lives. In addition to being fans of his food (especially his trademark Salisbury steak), the boys would often heartily anticipate encountering Chef where he would serve them in the school lunch-line, so that they could explain whatever dilemma was affecting them, usually after their traditional greeting:
Chef: Hello there, children!
The boys [in unison]: Hey Chef!
Chef: How's it goin'?
The boys [one or in unison]: Bad.
Chef: Why "bad"?
The boys would sometimes take it upon themselves to travel to Chef's house individually to seek his advice on all manners of their problems, specifically relationships. He would agree to give the boys explanations or advice in the form of a soul song, which usually wound up being solely about sex, whether or not sex was relevant to the topic at hand. Hearing the songs would often leave the boys even more confused and with no further understanding of what they were initially inquiring about. In earlier seasons, Chef was often approached by the children when they were unfamiliar with a sexual term or practice. This happened so often that it eventually aggravated Chef, who pleaded with them to stop asking questions he felt were not appropriate for him to answer. Despite this, the children continued asking these questions, much to his chagrin. An absent-minded Chef would sometimes answer anyway, not realizing his lapse until the damage had been done. Chef would later acknowledge that doing this had repeatedly gotten him in trouble with his boss, Principal Victoria.
In addition to singing in an effort to explain something to the children, Chef would also sing about things relevant to what had transpired in the plot. These songs were original compositions written by Parker, and performed by Hayes in the same sexually suggestive R&B style he had utilized during his own music career. Within the show, Chef was the original composer of these songs, including "Stinky Britches", which was depicted as having been covered by Alanis Morissette without proper credit being given to Chef. When Chef was left with legal debt after losing a court case to have himself credited as the song's original writer, several bands and artists (guest starring as themselves) held a concert dubbed "Chef Aid", a parody of Live Aid, to raise the funds. The episode inspired a real-life album, Chef Aid: The South Park Album, released in 1998, which featured guest stars from the episode such as Elton John and Ozzy Osbourne. The album includes many of the full-length versions of the songs Chef had performed in the show's first two seasons; "Chocolate Salty Balls" was released as a single, and reached #1 in both the record charts of Ireland and the United Kingdom. As the series progressed and Chef's role became more intermittent, his spontaneous outbursts into song became less of a show standard.
Parker and Stone originally planned to have Chef sing a song in every single episode but abandoned the idea after finding it too challenging and fearing writing too many songs would make them less funny, similar to the logic they used when they stopped writing a death for Kenny in every episode.
Departure of Isaac Hayes
|Wikinews has related news: Isaac Hayes quits South Park over Scientology episode|
On January 4, 2006, Hayes defended South Park's style of controversial humor to The A.V. Club and XM's Opie and Anthony show, going so far as to note that although he was not pleased with the show's depiction of the Church of Scientology, of which he was a member, he "understood what Matt and Trey are doing." However, on March 13, 2006, nearly two months after suffering a stroke, Hayes was reported to have quit South Park over objections to the show's attitudes toward and depiction of various religions, claiming that the show had crossed the line from satire into intolerance.
Despite the content of the official press release, there remains considerable speculation about the motivations behind his departure. Parker and Stone assert that he quit due to the controversial episode "Trapped in the Closet", and its treatment of Scientology. Stone commented in a manner that suggested that Hayes practiced a double standard regarding the treatment of religion on South Park: "[We] never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we [lampooned] Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin." Fox News reporter Roger Friedman suggested that, because he was still suffering from the effects of his stroke, Hayes was hospitalized and not in a position to make a rational decision to leave the show. Friedman also reported that Hayes left the show because of the external pressure forced by his fellow Scientologists, the decision was not voluntary, and the original press release announcing his departure was put out by someone who was not authorized to represent him.
Retirement and death
Nine days after Hayes' departure from production, the controversy was satirized in the show's Season 10 premiere "The Return of Chef". For the episode, voice clips of Chef are taken from previous episodes and linked together to form new dialogue to support the plot, which involves Chef's leaving South Park to join the "Super Adventure Club", which eventually brainwashes Chef until he had the mindset of a child molester. The organization combines outdoor activities with child molestation, an act they perceive as justified because of their beliefs.
After the boys are unable to convince Chef to come back to South Park, a rope bridge Chef is walking across is struck by lightning. He falls to a violent death, culminating with his mutilation at the hands of a grizzly bear and a mountain lion and finally discharged fecal matter (a reference to the episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes", in which Cartman claims that the relaxation of the bowel muscles confirms that a person is really dead).
South Park holds a memorial service for him (Canadian comedians Terrance and Phillip even attend, despite having never met the man themselves), in which Kyle gives a eulogy stating, "We shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us, we should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains", a deliberate parallel with Hayes' departure from the show in favor of Scientology.
Mimicking a scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Chef's body is secretly collected by the Super Adventure Club, who managed to revive him as a cyborg — identified on the show's official website as "Darth Chef" (a parody of Star Wars' Darth Vader). He is fitted with a suit and mask like those of Vader, except with the helmet taking on the appearance of Chef's trademark hat, and wields a red, glowing spatula, parodying Vader's red lightsaber. Darth Chef's voice was provided by British comedian and filmmaker Peter Serafinowicz, who voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Darth Chef has not made an appearance in subsequent episodes, but has appeared with other characters in the background of the South Park opening sequence, and was mention in the episode "Stunning and Brave", when the new principal says the kids drove him to kill himself, which is not true.
Chef is alluded to after his death in the season 10 episode "Hell on Earth 2006" where, during Satan's party, there are multiple scenes in which a Caucasian male dressed as Chef can be seen in the background. He is also referenced in the season 14 episode "Crème Fraiche" when Randy becomes the new chef at school and greets the kids with Chef's trademark lines. Isaac Hayes himself died on August 10, 2008, two years after his departure from South Park.
Chef makes an appearance in the 2014 video game South Park: The Stick of Truth as the reanimated Nazi Zombie penultimate boss later in the game. Once again, voice clips of Isaac Hayes as Chef are recycled from past episodes with the exception of recorded speech clips from Adolf Hitler. During his battle with the player and the other boys, Chef will express remorse by saying things like "I'm sorry, boys" and "what have I done?". While there were vague references to the Super Adventure Club and his death, there were no references to the Darth Chef suit.
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