Thursday, October 29, 2009

Burger Chef

Here's a rough example of the kind of item we'll be including in our book.

Fast food wasn’t as family-friendly in the 1960s and early 1970s as it is today. “Have It Your Way”? Have it our way or the highway, kiddo. Tiny tykes who didn’t care for mustard or onions on their burgers were expected to suck it up -- starving kids in Africa would have given anything to have some raw onion to chew on.

Into that bleak and grease-spattered world stepped Burger Chef, and the “works bar,” where kids and adults alike could gussy up plain burgers with onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard and the chain’s own “scrumptious sauce.” Want to deck your burger with a smiley-face of ketchup and a teetering ladder of pickle slices? Hey, as long as mom didn’t yell.

Burger Chef’s mascots were a portly, bespectacled cook, uber-obviously named Burger Chef, and his freakishly hyperactive … son? Life partner? Stunted-growth employee? Irreparably dense young ward? Well, some short guy named Jeff, anyway, possessor of a giant cowlick and prone to shrieking things like “Burger Chef, you’re incrediBURGible!” The franchise is still missed, but at least Jeff finally shut up.

X-tinction rating: Gone for good.

Replaced by: Although the chain had more than 1,000 stores at one point, a 1981 sale of the company meant most of the franchises became Hardee’s restaurants. Numerous Web sites honor the lost chain, and Burger Chef Memories reports that the final Burger Chef clung to life in Cookeville, Tennessee, until 1996. The chain is gone, but many of its former buildings remain recognizable, despite being disguised as other restaurants or drive-through banks.

Fun fact: It’s rumored that Burger Chef’s Big Shef sandwich lives on at certain southern and Midwestern Hardee’s locations. But to find that out would require actually setting foot in a Hardee’s.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I remember that I won a Burger Chef & Jeff coloring contest back in Dayton, Ohio, in 1976. I was so excited! I can still feel the way the plastic chef hat I got as part of my swag bag fit onto my head. No one else that I've ever talked to remembers Jeff, so thank you for proving that I'm not crazy.