When I heard that the Swedish Chef from “The Muppet Show” was opening a Chelsea location of his celebrated bistro, Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps, I was skeptical. I’m always hesitant to believe the hype surrounding celebrity chefs, especially when they’re made of felt. While the city was abuzz, calling Mr. Muppet the new Jean-Georges Vongerichten, I was certain that this newcomer was nothing more than a passing fad, a Swedish Salt Bae. But, after such a tough year for restaurants, I was curious about how this mustachioed madman’s gimmick had sustained its popularity. Eventually, I decided that I had to go see for myself—could the Swedish Chef’s bites ever live up to his bark, or bork?
Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps has been open for only three months but already has a wait list that extends to the end of the year. I was amazed that anyone could get a reservation at all, considering that the restaurant’s Web site contains no helpful links or information, only a GIF of a turkey being chased by the chef wielding a tennis racquet, captioned, “Birdy gerdy floopin.”
I entered Horganblorps expecting chaos, but the restaurant was pristine. A group of prawns scurried out of the gleaming kitchen, cackling among themselves. A handsome rat in a bow tie placed a starched napkin on my lap. I was seated next to two older gentlemen who sustained a witty repartee, critiquing every dish that they were served. “It’s not half bad,” one said. “Nope, it’s all bad!” replied the other. They laughed. Apparently, they are here every night.
I heard the chef before I saw him. Loud bangs, crashes, and moos peppered the haughty murmurings of the upscale dining room—no doubt contributing to the proprietor’s mystique. A swordfish sailed past my head and smacked clumsily against the wall. “Herdy come da fishy wishy!” Our chef had arrived.
Each night, Horganblorps offers a fixed menu featuring a wide range of items. On the evening that I visited, dishes included Chicky Catchy Turdi, Bork Chops, and a specialty item that is listed on the menu solely as a photograph of the chef, trapped inside a lobster pot. There are no prices, only pictures of the Swede in different funny hats.
I was so distracted by my attempts to decipher the menu that I failed to notice that our chef was clutching an antique hunting rifle, chasing a chicken around the dining room, feathers flying. Before he knew it, the chicken had taken control of the firearm, and our chef sought shelter inside the barrel of what I had presumed to be a purely decorative, eighteenth-century naval cannon. The chicken lit the fuse and our chef exploded onto the hostess stand.
To say that the chicken was delivered to us undercooked would be an understatement. It was alive. In fact, it was pumping its feathered fist in celebration.
This remarkable presentation proved to be only one of the night’s many feats of nouveau sophistication, feats that dismantled the performance of traditional fine dining. This Swedish Chef is willing to lay bare the pretentious charade that New York City’s high-end restaurant scene has become. Every night, he throws the elements of that scene into the air, shoots them with a gun, and then allows himself to be crushed by an enormous cast-iron skillet that is inexplicably hanging over his head.
I can now attest that this restaurant is a culinary achievement, and I never even tasted a bite of food. I didn’t need to—the dishes literally speak for themselves. I’ve never been so acutely aware of where my food comes from, how it got here, and with whom it is angry.
We all have something to learn from this chef with no name and seemingly no eyeballs—a chef so dedicated to his craft that he will often end up face down on a cutting board, or with his entire hand in a vat of boiling water. In a city where the art of cooking feels dead, the Swedish Chef is bringing food back to life. “Bork, bork, bork,” indeed.