The animated Fox series Bob's Burgers centers on the Belcher family, who is trying to run a halfway successful restaurant. A cult favorite, the show is full of pathos and humor — including the daily burger specials with chuckle-inducing names featured in each episode.
There's the "Blue Is The Warmest Cheese Burger" — a reference to the extremely racy 2013 art house French film — and the "Bruschetta-bout-it Burger." There's the "Blondes Have More Fun-Gus Burger," which comes with mushrooms, and the "Free To Brie You And Me Burger" (presumably, for cheese-loving Marlo Thomas admirers). For many fans, spotting the latest burger pun, written on the chalkboard behind the burger joint's counter, is a highlight of the viewing ritual.
But what would "A Good Manchego Is Hard To Find" or a "Kales From The Crypt" burger taste like? Cole Bowden, an engineer for Honda, couldn't help wondering. So like any good engineer, he started tinkering — in the kitchen, turning the show writers' culinary jokes into real recipes. Those efforts became The Bob's Burger Experiment, a blog in which Bowden cooks up recipes for each Bob's burger of the day.
Now, after nearly two years of creative burger concoctions, Bowden and his recipes are about to star in their own cookbook.
That's a pretty funny turn of events when you consider that, when Bowden started the project during his senior year of college, he barely knew his way around the kitchen. "I mean, I knew my way around a frying pan," he says, "but pretty much just how to put things into it and heat it up."
That was then. These days, he's comfortable whipping up dishes like "The Foot Feta-ish Burger (aka the Never Been Feta Burger)," a hunk of ground beef stuffed with fresh goat feta and topped with arugula.
But not every burger is a winner. The "I Know Why The Cajun Burger Sings," topped with a heaping serving of gumbo, was better in theory than practice.
"The shrimp gumbo was good," Bowden says. "Stuffing it into a burger was a terrible idea."
Still, Bowden's burgers have fans. Including, it turns out, Loren Bouchard, the creator of Bob's Burgers.
"I loved [the blog] ever since I heard of it, which was at its inception several years ago," Bouchard tells The Salt. "It was maybe the best example of how doing a show in the age of the Internet can be such a satisfying experience."
Bouchard says fan forums are a great way for creators like him to eavesdrop on what viewers think of the show. But Bowden's fandom took things to a whole new level.
At first, Bouchard didn't want to reach out to Bowden because he was worried that he would disrupt Bowden's creative process.
"It's like the Prime Directive," says Bouchard, citing the Star Trek principle that forbids characters to get involved in alien civilizations. "I didn't want to interfere."
Then one day, he received an email from Bowden, asking for advance burger notice. If he knew what the burger of the day would be ahead of time, Bowden wrote, he could post each week's recipe immediately after the show aired. Bouchard responded with enthusiasm and screen shots.
Turns out, Bowden wasn't the only one wondering what Bob's burgers taste like. Bouchard says fans have been clamoring for recipes. So much so that he and Bowden have recently signed on to put out a cookbook — Bowden will supply the recipes; Bouchard, the illustrations. The project is still in the early stages, but Rizzoli has signed on as publisher, Bouchard says.
"The work he has done deserves to be printed and bound and put up on a shelf somewhere," says Bouchard. "He's done so much culinary heavy lifting, we wouldn't do it without Cole."
Funny enough, Bouchard says he hasn't tried any of the recipes himself. He's married to a vegetarian, he says, which means his two kids are basically vegetarians, too. "If I made burgers, it would be for myself, and that sounds selfish," he says.