How A Summer Job Inspired SpongeBob SquarePants' Creation

A young man wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock, jumping up out of bed with a toothy grin that spreads across his freckled cheeks. He eats breakfast, showers, feeds his beloved pet Gary, and leaves his pineapple house to start his job at the "finest eating establishment ever established for eating" — better known as the Krusty Krab.

For more than two decades, the undersea adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants and his aquatic neighbors have been a household name in the world of animation. Since debuting in 1999, the stories of the porous yellow fellow doing everything from trying to pass a driving exam to jellyfishing with his best friend Patrick Star and, of course, working as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab have charmed generations. According to the Television Academy Foundation, SpongeBob SquarePants has won everything from eight Golden Reel Awards to six Annie Awards, with dozens of nominations for many more awards in between.

Strangely, the late creator Stephen Hillenburg didn't start out as a world-famous animator. Instead, NPR reports, Hillenburg held a deep interest in aquatic biology (alongside nursing love of animation and drawing) and actually worked as a professor in marine biology at California's Orange County Marine Institute. Hillenburg would later pursue his interest in animation by working at Nickelodeon, where his dual love of undersea life and drawing combined to create SpongeBob SquarePants. But if Hillenburg's interest in marine life influenced Bikini Bottom and its undersea inhabitants, why exactly did he make SpongeBob a fry cook?

Stephen Hillenburg actually worked as a fry cook

According to the subreddit r/TodayILearned, many Redditors were surprised to learn that Stephen Hillenburg had a high school job working as a fast-food fry cook at a seafood restaurant in Maine. It was this job of manning frying stations that laid the foundation of SpongeBob SquarePants' occupation as a fry cook. There is some debate, however, as to whether the restaurant Hillenburg worked at, the Isleford Dock (via WCYY), provided the inspiration for the Krusty Krab itself or if the fictional restaurant was based on another real-life restaurant known as Star Hamburgers in California. 

Hillenburg's summer job wasn't the only supposed inspiration for certain elements of SpongeBob, though. Far Out reports that American alt-rock band Ween provided inspiration through their nautical-themed album, "The Mollusk." In fact, the album's best-known song "Ocean Man" was used at the end credits of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in 2004. Ween even wrote an original song for the series' second season.

While Hillenburg died in 2018 from complications with ALS (via Variety), his legacy lives on through the mark SpongeBob has left on animation and fans alike. The show's fanbase remains so dedicated, in fact, that there have been attempts to make some of the show's famous foods, from the legendary Krabby Patty to the purposefully vile "Nasty Patty" — something which, fortunately, hasn't been fed to any health inspectors.