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It's a tribute to writer/actor Peter Tilbury that he got in early with Chef! The nineties only hinted at the glut and ubiquity of egotistical chefs who would become such a staple on British TV.
In Gareth Blackstock, he created a classic TV monster: an arrogant, bullish perfectionist more at ease dealing with profiteroles than people.
Lenny Henry deftly played against type as the grumpy, temperamental but undoubtedly talented chef who ruled his kitchen with a rod of iron and his own particular brand of withering put downs.
Henry managed to make Blackstock three dimensional and human though, taking the slings and arrows life threw at him as a personal slight, much to the irritation of his calmly professional wife Janice.
His ire wasn't reserved for the staff; he was prone to berating customers at length for daring to ask for salt without having tasted their food.
The series was filmed on location (giving the series a classier look than its studio bound contemporaries) and the setting was Gareth's restaurant Le Chateau Anglais.
Whilst Henry and Caroline Lee Johnson provided a solid if tempestuous nucleus to the series, the supporting cast fared less well: with only Roger Griffiths as harassed and credulous commis chef Everton surviving the whole run.
The staff of series three got the best crack of the whip, notably Dave Hill as new boss Cyril and Jeff Nuttall as the misogynist Gustave.
As the series wound down, Blackstock mellowed (although too late to save his marriage), but he still stands tall as proof that there's more to cheery, smiley Lenny Henry than he is sometimes given credit for.
Chef! itself is unlikely to be remembered as anything other than an efficient and workmanlike sitcom, which didn't break any boundaries, but did what it did perfectly well.
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