Greatest Fictional Chefs Of All Time Ranked

It's utterly impossible to quantify the impact of the Food Network on culinary-based pop culture. Not to say the long-running television channel (and its many competitors) have completely satiated the public's appetite for stories revolving around food service professionals. In fact, the bevy of beloved celebrity chefs populating the public sphere hasn't even remained solely relegated to the real world, with some of the most well-known names belonging to fictional chefs rather than those made from flesh and blood.

We'd love nothing more than to compile a complete and thorough ranking of every single fictional chef in existence. Unfortunately, that task presented a number of logistical impossibilities. So we instead strove to concoct a diverse and concise list — one split evenly between (fictional) hoity-toity masters of haute cuisine and just-as-talented culinary professionals employed in less-heralded venues.

For this article, we focused exclusively on characters professionally employed as chefs (sorry, Hannibal Lector), and avoided any thinly-veiled versions of real people — in other words, don't expect to see the Anthony Bourdain-like Jack (Bradley Cooper) from "Kitchen Confidential" in this article. Still, with no shortage of titans to choose from within the faux cooking arena (including several proprietors of iconic fictional restaurants), we'd put these 14 chefs against any others who have (not really) existed throughout history. Without further ado, here's our list of the greatest fictional chefs of all time, ranked.

14. Swedish Chef (The Muppets)

Has the Swedish Chef ever cooked, or even attempted to cook, anything besides a batch of also-puppeteered chickens? Of course he has (though we doubt the famous Muppet ever prepared any iconic Swedish foods on "The Muppet Show"). Either way, we simply couldn't skip over Jim Henson's mustachioed maestro when assembling this list — even if the purported Scandinavian comes in last place in our ranking of fictional chefs.

We're sure some will object to the Swedish Chef (originally performed by Henson and Frank Oz) being placed at the very bottom of this list. But perhaps the human-handed puppet would rank higher if he was more authentically Swedish. After all, the gibberish-spewing chef lacks many characteristics of a true Swede — and, according to actual, real-life Swedes, appears more representative of a Norwegian culinary artisan than one from Sweden.

Not that a lack of authenticity is enough to override the Swedish Chef's long-running credentials. And while we may not be able to place him higher than the last spot, with countless other fake chefs left off this list entirely, we'd say earning any spot at all is a worthy honor.

13. Chef (South Park)

There may be no more honorable position in the culinary world than that of a school cafeteria chef. Those unsung heroes have rarely received the respect they so deserve since school lunch programs began during the Great Depression. And since we were determined to correct that travesty, we placed Chef (Isaac Hayes), the once-prominent cafeteria worker seen on "South Park," as the 13th greatest fictional chef of all time.

If you're eager to complain about Chef's second-to-last place ranking, remember that just making this list is an acknowledgment of fictional culinary greatness. Plus, let's be honest: The available menu options at the South Park Elementary cafeteria — including "Cream Cheese Surprise" and "Beef Jerky a la Hercules" — weren't always enticing.

Then again, the fact that Chef appeared to be the sole chef (hey, that's his name!) for the entire elementary school helped boost his stock in the grand scheme. His occasionally unappetizing-sounding entrees undoubtedly keep him from rising higher, but with so many uber-talented fictional chefs remaining, it's clear Chef perfectly slots in where he does.

12. Gene Jenkinsen (Wet Hot American Summer)

To be perfectly honest, while we often see Gene Jenkinson (Christopher Meloni) in the kitchen during "Wet Hot American Summer" (and its Netflix-based prequel), we're not sure we ever see the man actually cooking. Yet with hundreds of hungry, growing campers to feed over a two-month span, Gene's clearly capable of more than just idle chit-chat with a sentient can of vegetables (H. Jon Benjamin). Quite frankly, then, we feel the character's more than deserving of the 12th-place spot on this list.

Of course, it's entirely possible we're giving too much credit to Meloni's pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud performance as Camp Firewood's sweater-fondling head chef in our rankings. After all, the actor's never been better than in his turn as a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran desperately trying to move forward with his life as a camp chef. But the fact that no one dies of starvation or ever seems to complain about Gene's food, indicates the man has talent.

As Meloni told Time in 2015, the fictional chef is "a nut," but "people seem to enjoy him." And since the cult classic's characters seem to enjoy Gene's food, as well, it's clear he belongs among the greatest fictional chefs — even if he can't quite top the 11 chefs ranked higher.

11. Julian Slowik (The Menu)

Is Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) more technically talented than some of the fictional chefs ranked above him on this list? Absolutely. But while there's no denying the mentally strained mad genius on display by chef Julian in "The Menu," well ... that simply wasn't enough to crack our top 10. And seeing as how chef Julian's dinner (spoiler alert!) quite literally goes up in flames by the end of the meal , as well, we felt we had to slot him at number 11 on our list as a result.

As "The Menu" makes clear, the 14 dishes served by chef Julian deliberately vary between impeccable and off-putting — to both the restaurant's diners and viewers at home. Yet that very fact forced us to penalize Chef Julian during our rankings process, because who wants to pay top dollar to feel publicly humiliated (or never make it home after a meal)?

While we couldn't leave Chef Julian off this list entirely, we simply couldn't rank the only fictional chef to kill his diners any higher on the list. Hence, he just misses out on the top 10.

10. Lunch Lady (Saturday Night Live)

We really miss Chris Farley. Thankfully, the late, great comedian left a bounty of legendary characters and moments to help us remember him. If he and Adam Sandler recognized they were creating one of the most iconic (and talented) fictional chefs of all time with their 1995 "Lunch Lady Land" sketch, we'd be exceptionally impressed. Either way, Farley's Lunch Lady deserves a mention among all-time great fictional chefs and kicks off the top 10 in our rankings as a result.

Not unlike Chef from "South Park," the fact that the Lunch Lady appears to work alone only boosts her stock in our estimation. Additionally, the ability to simultaneously concoct filling meals — even a repurposed one, like "yesterday's meatloaf (becoming) today's sloppy Joes" — while keeping rowdy, hungry kids in line is nothing short of a miracle.

Given the rebellion staged by various cafeteria foods in the sketch's latter half, we can't bring ourselves to place SNL's Lunch Lady any higher than tenth place. But we'll always have a soft spot in our heart for this undeniably talented fictional chef — and hope she, Sloppy Joe, and their six kids are still doing just fine.

9. Red Reznikov (Orange is the New Black)

There was no shortage of tragic character arcs on "Orange is the New Black" over its seven seasons, including the former head chef of Litchfield's cafeteria, Red Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew). Of course, while the wily, tough-as-nails Russian inmate may not appear to be a classic chef to unfamiliar readers — given she's cooking at a prison cafeteria while being an inmate at said prison — anyone who's seen Red in action understands her culinary credentials were more than enough to merit a ninth place ranking on this list.

For starters, the fact that she ran a successful family corner store and restaurant before entering prison illustrates Red was no amateur in the kitchen. From crafting a top-notch Thanksgiving feast at the exceptionally low cost of $1.05 per inmate in a Season 1 episode to making a delectable fresh corn-based quiche in Season 3, Red's (fictional) culinary talents are often on full display throughout the series.

Quite frankly, if she wasn't a prison chef, she'd likely rank much higher on this list — and we can only imagine the treats Red could've crafted outside the restricted confines of a federal prison.

8. Tom Solomon (The Five-Year Engagement)

Each fictional chef from this point forward could make a legitimate claim to the top spot. With that in mind, the gap between Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) — the eighth-best fictional chef of all-time from the romantic comedy "The Five-Year Engagement" — and our number-one ranked chef (patience, dear reader) is fairly narrow. And while Tom's professional track record ranged from haute cuisine to artisanal deli sandwiches, his stagnant career path throughout the film means we can't place him any higher than eighth.

In all fairness, no one could blame the character for choosing to leave his flourishing San Francisco, California-based culinary career to move to Michigan with his fiancé Violet (Emily Blunt) in support of her academic pursuits. And while he eventually finds some semblance of contentment working at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan (and makes some bomb sandwiches in the process), there's no way to overlook Tom's clear regression as a chef (and a person) throughout the story.

Of course, since the seven fictional chefs ranked higher are each all-time greats, an eighth-place ranking is no knock on Tom Solomon's fictional skills.

7. Monica Gellar (Friends)

We've always wondered whether the creators of "Friends" chose to make Monica Gellar (Courtney Cox) a chef solely because it meshed well with the character's (unnecessarily cruel) background as a formerly overweight person. But that potential rationale notwithstanding, it's nigh impossible to deny the professional credentials brandished by Monica during the classic sitcom's 10 seasons. More than that, it's clear the character is an all-time great in the fictional cooking world; hence, she checks in as our seventh-best fictional chef.

It wasn't always smooth sailing for Monica's culinary career, as the undoubtedly talented chef struggled to get her foot in the door of the immensely-competitive New York City food service industry. But once she settled into her head chef role at an upscale Manhattan restaurant (run by "Allesandro ... from Allesandro's") in Season 4, Monica spent most of the remaining series in her dream-come-true role.

Being able to witness so many mouth-watering meals made by Monica throughout the series only helped illustrate the character's culinary capabilities. She may not rank higher than seventh, but considering how fond the character was of the number seven, we'd imagine she'd have no complaints.

6. Artie Bucco (The Sopranos)

If we were ranking the least-likable characters to appear on "The Sopranos" as opposed to the greatest fictional chefs, Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia) would certainly rank higher than sixth. But since we aren't here to judge the grating personality of Tony's (James Gandolfini) mob-adjacent childhood friend, we'd be remiss if we neglected to rank Artie relatively high on this list — meaning he comes in just outside the top five at number six.

While we often rolled our eyes whenever sad sack Artie appeared on-screen, it's tough to deny that the chef was supremely talented when he was able to focus on his work. He may have had an up-and-down career in regards to his restaurant's success over time, but no one ever questioned whether Artie Bucco was a dynamo in the kitchen.

Despite the often cringe-inducing ways Artie attempted to finagle his way into the New Jersey organized crime racket throughout the series, the character's cooking skills were never in doubt. He may just miss our top five, but it's obvious Artie Bucco is one of the best fictional chefs to ever pick up a set of (fictional) knives.

5. Bob Belcher (Bob's Burgers)

A wise man once described Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) — the titular chef from "Bob's Burgers" — as a "beef artist." We don't disagree, of course, but we do think it sells the burger-pun-crazed fictional cook a bit short. After all, anyone who's watched the Fox comedy over its 13 seasons (and counting) knows Bob Belcher isn't beholden to one area of culinary craftsmanship. In other words, there's no denying the humble burger restaurant owner belongs among the top-five greatest fictional chefs of all time.

It's not just the various ways Bob is able to elevate the burger for customers (or what the show gets right about being a chef) that makes him great. The character's unrelenting passion for producing quality burgers at an affordable price is admirable and endearing (even from a cartoon). Additionally, as evidenced in the series' many Thanksgiving-themed episodes, the man is capable of cooking restaurant-quality cuisine of any kind when needed — not just burgers.

Could we make the case that Bob Belcher is a better chef than the four fictional characters ranked above him? We almost certainly could. But with less professional fine-dining experience than the four remaining fictional chefs, the patriarch of the Belcher clan fits perfectly as the fifth-greatest fictional chef of all time.

4. Hassan Kadam (The Hundred-Foot Journey)

Even if the culinary talents displayed by Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) in "The Hundred-Foot Journey" had been less-than-stellar, the film's ability to resonate with viewers would be tough to dismiss. Of course, the fact that Hassan is, indeed, incredibly gifted in the film — pushing himself outside his family's well-known South Asian culinary style by learning classic French cooking techniques — demonstrates the fictional chef's exceptional talents. So we're slotting him at number four on this list.

Hassan's talents in the kitchen are never in doubt during the film (including his ability to eventually fuse South Asian and French cooking styles). But the fact that the food shown in the film was authentically prepared by famed chef Floyd Cardoz (as opposed to inedible, stylized food that photographs well), helped us visualize the world-class capabilities of Hassan.

In other words, with Hassan's talents being replicated by a real-life famous chef, we feel we can claim the delicious-looking food prepared by the fictional chef would be just as tasty as the real thing.

3. Carmen Berzatto (The Bear)

In a different world, we may have felt inclined to place Carmen Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) from "The Bear" at the top of this list. After all, the buzz surrounding "The Bear" Season 2 premiere could've caused a case of recency bias. Still, while Carmen could have easily ranked number one (and there's no shame with a third-place ranking amongst such fierce competition), we simply couldn't place him above the top two chefs on our list.

It's obvious why the fictional proprietor of the formerly-named Original Beef of Chicagoland belongs among rarified air. Possessing a fine-dining background and a James Beard award, the chef's culinary capabilities are well-known within the series' world. In fact, that's essentially what drives his sous chef Sydney (played by the incomparably talented Boston, Massachusetts-raised Ayo Edebiri) to join his restaurant in the first place.

Carmen's difficulties upon returning to Chicago in the wake of his brother's death — while attempting to impose a thoroughly professional system of labor in his restaurant — were evident throughout the first season. But his ability to create mouth-watering dishes was never in question, and he undoubtedly belongs among the three greatest fictional chefs of all time.

2. Remy (Ratatouille)

While we never really wavered on which two fictional chefs would take the top two spots in these rankings, we did go back and forth over which not-real culinary artist deserved to be number one. Eventually, though, we realized we couldn't dismiss the sheer fact that Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt) from "Ratatouille" is, well, a rat. So while we won't even pretend to knock the Parisian rodent's classic French skills — or deny he's one of the two best fictional cooks we've ever seen — we simply couldn't proclaim the greatest fictional chef of all time to be a rat, either.

Again, if it's unclear, we don't mean to diminish the cerebral culinary creative process displayed by Remy, or to downplay his ability to melt the frozen-solid heart of famed food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) with a plate of ratatouille. But there's just something so inherently nauseating about potentially consuming food prepared by a rat — even one who's keen to take a trip through the dishwasher to disinfect before cooking.

Remy may be the perfect embodiment of the film's message that anyone can cook and an all-time great fictional chef. But with unavoidable rat-like features, he could only climb to number two on our list — a not-too-shabby accomplishment that's worth celebrating.

1. Sean Turner (Servant)

Any number of fictional chefs could have taken this spot. But only one is a fictional (and famous-in-their-series) celebrity chef known for demonstrating gastronomic wizardry in both personal and professional settings. Consequently, it's no wonder why we chose Sean Turner (Toby Kennell) from "Servant" — the long-beleaguered husband to Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and father to his repeatedly revived son, Jericho — as the greatest fictional chef of all time.

Quite frankly, a brief scroll through some of the most chef's-kiss worthy foods ever concocted on "Servant" throughout the Apple TV+'s four-season run reveals some truly drool-inducing meals — including some made from eyebrow-raising ingredients, like his son's placenta. But Sean's talents weren't solely reserved for complex, technically-advanced culinary creations. In fact, the most delicious meal this fictional chef ever made might have been a simple plate of blueberry pancakes.

As we noted several times throughout this article, you may feel a different chef belongs atop the fictional mountain. But even if you'd choose a different culinary artist as number one, no one can deny the world-class fictional talents of Sean Turner.