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‘The Tiny Chef Show’ Serves up a Second Season Helping of Plant-Based Fun

Creators Rachel Larsen and Ozlem ‘Ozi’ Akturk talk about their Emmy Award-winning stop-motion preschool series where their titular character cooks up delightful, herbivorous ‘weshipees’ and bite-sized meals alongside a lineup of top celebrity guest stars and his enthusiastic robot buddy, Olly; new Season 2 episodes now airing on Nickelodeon.

He’s small, he’s green, and to Rachel Larsen and Ozlem 'Ozi' Akturk, he’s family. He’s the Tiny Chef.  

“It’s a classic stop-motion move to show all the work that goes into making something and that's sometimes more interesting than the movie or project,” said Larsen. “But I didn't want to rely on how interesting the work was to get Chef noticed. So, we never show behind-the-scenes stuff. I just wanted people to focus on him being real. Because he’s real to us.”

Tiny Chef – a 6.5-inch-tall, stop-motion character made of fabric – is the titular star of the veggie-powered, aptly-named hit Nickelodeon cooking show, The Tiny Chef Show, currently airing new Season 2 episodes Mondays through Thursdays through April 18. But the green cooking machine first came on the scene in 2019, when Larsen and Akturk established Tiny Chef Productions and began making Instagram and YouTube videos with this little herbivore chef. The videos showed the unspecified creature not only making delicious dishes like Bottle Cap Apple Pie, but also playing the banjo, attempting self-portraits, watching The Golden Girls, and singing classics like Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”

“Our particular storytelling style is very much intertwined in our life,” explains Larsen, who follows a vegan diet in real life. “This one time we went to Universal Studios because Chef loves Harry Potter. We went on the Harry Potter ride, and all got sick. Like, we immediately threw up. We gave that storyline to Chef and it's so funny. That’s our favorite way to tell stories. From an authentic experience that comes from just doing life with Chef.”

In 2020, Nickelodeon Animation Studio hired the Tiny Chef for what Larsen refers to as “his day job.” The first TV season of The Tiny Chef Show aired on Nickelodeon in 2022. On the show, Chef whips up "weshipees" and tiny plant-based dishes from his tree-stump home, along with a robot named Olly, a snail named Henry, and a caterpillar named Ruby. Produced with Imagine Television and Shadow Machine, Season 2 of The Tiny Chef Show welcomes a delicious lineup of celebrity and influencer guest stars, including: Tony Hawk, Ceci Balagot, Cooper Barnes, Lance Bass, Ryan Blaney, Victory Brinker, Liam, Charles, Jordan Chiles, Auli'i Cravalho, and more. 

The list also includes Matt Hutchinson, who has voiced Tiny Chef since 2018. He’s also Larsen’s brother-in-law.

“We knew we wanted Chef to have his own language and we didn’t want to ruin what we had by giving him the wrong voice,” shares Larsen. “My brother-in-law does these really funny voices that have always made me laugh. One day, he was in the car with my sister singing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen in this wacky voice and my sister sent me the voice memo. Ozi and I were just like, ‘Let's animate this.’ At the time, I was working on a project in New Zealand, and we cleared out this random shed, made a set, Ozi flew out, and we got to work. It all started to unfold very organically.”

The series has won an Annie Award for Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Preschool Children as well as a Children's and Family Emmy Award for Rachel Larsen and Chris Tichborne’s Outstanding Directing for a Preschool Animated Program. 

Ironically enough, though the honors are well-deserved and a show about a fuzzy miniature chef seems a perfect fit for a preschool audience, Akturk and Larsen didn’t originally set out to make a show just for kids. “We hadn’t intended for the show to be only for kids,” Akturk chimes in. “So having both the show and the social media shorts has given us the freedom to explore beyond those limits. We have complete control over what we make for social and YouTube. That was part of our agreement with Nickelodeon. At the end of the day, we just want to make people laugh and bring families together.”

Larsen and Akturk first met on Isle of Dogs in 2016 and afterward, were both looking for project to do on their own. In 2018, Akturk proposed a stop-motion cooking show based on the tiny, obscure green character and tiny treats Larsen had been crafting for years in her free time. You can see these in the earliest posts on the Tiny Chef’s social media Instagram page. 

“I originally wanted to do a live-action cooking show,” remembers Akturk. “But I changed my mind when I saw Rachel creating these miniature foods. They looked so realistic. And she had made this character who I knew people would love. I thought, ‘This is it. This is how we get families cooking together.’”

Larsen adds, “I had sculpted this green creature a long time ago. That's how I got into stop motion. I just hadn't found a place for him yet. I was fine with this just being for me but then Ozi mentioned this cooking show. One night, I made this green creature a hat and he looked really cute. It helped visually balance out his belly and I was like, ‘This could be the right place for this character.’”

It was also the right place for Larsen’s tiny cans of coconut milk, bite-sized rainbow cakes, and petite pizzas. Akturk notes about half of the food used in The Tiny Chef Show is fake, since dealing with real fruits and vegetables means contending with the rotting process, flies and even, occasionally, cockroaches. But still, the creator duo tries to still use real food when they can. 

“It’s best when it's real, honestly,” says Larsen. “It's hard to fake food texture and it's just got its own look to it. It makes that realness we’re trying to achieve with Chef more believable.”

But being able to stretch their wings visually and narratively on Instagram and YouTube – cockroaches and storyboards be damned – doesn’t mean Tiny Chef lives a double life as an Adult Swim-adjacent character. 

According to Larsen, “Our natural sensibility is not adult humor that’s not appropriate. I like to make sure my mom likes our posts. We didn’t necessarily have kids specifically in mind for this show, but the tininess of Chef and his food brings out the kid in all of us, you know. It’s tapping back into that part of you that's innocent and not cynical.”

She continues, “There's something about things that are tiny and fragile that make you want to protect that. It becomes precious. And Chef is precious. Everyone in our studio is like a foster parent to Chef. We’re all helping raise this little creature whose personality is so much bigger than his size.”

Akturk notes that the most important goal for Tiny Chef was always to share messages of kindness, and keeping Chef’s wholesome appeal on both the preschool series and the social shorts was key to accomplishing that goal every day. 

“He might be tiny,” says Akturk. “But he’s got a big heart.”

Sharing control of their baby with a major studio like Nickelodeon, Larsen admits, has not been easy. But it’s been fruitful… pun intended. 

“Nickelodeon has never questioned Chef being plant-based and they always make sure he’s kind in the scripts,” says Larsen. “They've been excellent partners on creativity and holding Chef to being himself. A plant-based cooking show is a risk. But I think it’s one that’s really paid off. And, as far as preschool shows go, it's fucking hilarious. We can’t wait to make more.”

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at