The Swedish Chef
- Hurdch burdi hurdchi burr
According to my own experience, most foreigners have two major chunks of cultural wisdom when it comes to the subject of Sweden. The first one is usually the mentioning of the blue-eyed blond chicks who run naked through the streets. And on a good second place you can with an almost hundred percent certainty expect to hear a ”Hurch burdi hurdchi burr” – which refers to Swedish chef in the Muppet show.
Naturally I was surprised when my friend who originates from the most Swedish province of them all, Dalarna (where I was to work all summer), told me that the Swedish chef existed for real. Appareantly he was also from the same area as my friend and according to other rumours he now travelled the kingdom as some sort of mobile chef.
All of this took place quite a while ago, and the thought didn´t cross my mind until for very recently when I happened to interview two chicks who worked with this ”Kuprik” as they called him.
They gave me his number, and I decided to pay the chef a visit.
Lars ”Kuprik” Bäckman is found in his kitchen situated in the town of Leksand. He is singing and dancing around while an own re-recording of a Hawaian schlager is pumped out from his loudpeakers.
- It spent a whole week on the local hitlist (Siljantoppen), he happily explains whereafter he tells me that he has to put on his Hula-shirt and perform the tyune an almost every party nowadays. Kuprik is looking extraordinary happy and relaxed in his hawain shirt and his more-red-than-brown suntan. We are talking about music.
Kuprik explains that this years work with the festival ”Musik vid Siljan” has just finished and he tells me that some time ago Kalle Moreus and Orsa spelmän (who often play with Benny Andersson from ABBA) was here for a little jam-session.
But you are not interested in music are you? I’m sure you are wondering the same thing as I, how the hell did he turn into ”the Swedish chef”?
The story originates in 1968 when a young Kuprik decides to go over to the states to help a friend start up a restaurant. Things got rolling and he started – just about the same time as a young Jim Henderson began to contemplate the idea of a puppetshow – to work for 20th Century Fox.
After some time Kuprik was asked to do commercial for Swedish food in a show called ”tempo tempe” that was later to be turned into ”Good morning America”. He wasn’t all to keen on the idea, but did howvere, after a lot of persuation, accept.
He was incredibly nervous when he eventually stood in front of the camera in his chefing-hat while the tv crew instructed him in the proicedures of filming. It was to be a live show, where he cooked and explained his cooking to a programme host who was to ask all the queations.
Unfortunately the host never showed up and when someone suddenly said ”Lars you´re on live TV”, nervousness kicked in completely.
- I was so nervous. I was shaking and didn’t know what to do. And all the time I was mumbling strange words, Kuprik says.
- At first the audience was surprised of the idiot that, sweating like a pig, stood before them. But after a while they started to laugh.
After some time, Kuprik was contacted by Jim Henderson who wondered if he could sign a release for the recorded performance. The chef was payed 80 dollars for the material, but little did he know what it was to be used for.
Jim looked at the tape and transformed the characteristics of Lars to one of his puppets. And so, the Swedish chef was born.
Kuprik was brought up in the Swedish town of Rättvik, where he as a ten-year-old first started to help out in his parents hotel. His interest for food took made him chose to attend restaurant training, after which he worked in numerous food-establishments around Sweden.
When he as a 21 year-old left for the states, he was only planning to stay there for six months. The restaurant he helped his friend to start up was called ”Viking horn” and known as ”the horny Viking”. It was situated in the outskirts of Beverly Hills.
- There was plenty of rich old women there, the chefs tells me.
-They had gold everywhere. They came there in there private limousines and was
always supposed to have a little drink before there meal.
After ”the Viking” – sessions Kuprik became headchef of Holiday Inn and thereafter, as already mentioned, took the same position at 20th Century Fox. He met a lovely lade and the original six months was transformed into fifteen years.
It was not until his mother was sick that he came back to Sweden, and at that time started to run a hotel outside the small countryside town of Orsa in his home province.
The contrasts where enormous between the loud USA and the quite forest of Dalarna. His life changed from intensity to an almost absolute silence.
- It was so quiet that I could hardly sleep at first, he says, but explains that this was a pleasant time during which he, among other things, played a lot of music with his good friends. Approxomately eight years have now passed since the time he stopped working at the hotel.
Nowadays Kuprik is doing catering as well as travelling around the country while cooking, telling jokes and sings in shoppingmalls, at company parties and similar arrangements.
He is recording TV-commercials for Siljan food and records jingles for commercial radio. Right now the chef is working on an own logotype, about which he is negotiating with a few major companies within the food industry.
- I like to talk to people and give them ideas about food, he says. And judging from this conversation it does not seem all too unlikely that Kuprik, after 40 years of cooking, will put his wok back on the shelf and go into advertising instead.
And all this just because he was extremely nervous in a TV-program lasting for a few minutes for more than 30 years ago.
I just can’t help but wondering what the other stories that form the base of Jim Henderson’s characters are. Animal, anyone?
Danny Wattin [uppsala]