For weeks now, the Colorado Springs Independent has been running Chef Life, a comic written by local sous chef and artist Andrew “Shaggy” Warren.  He picked up the nickname from mentor chefs Jeff Knight and Francis Schott.

“I was working at the Craftwood Inn (2007-2013),” Warren says in an email. “And Francis was bad with names, so he said, ‘Hey kid! Hey boy! Hey … Sh-sh-SHAGGY!’ I turned around and Jeff laughed and said ‘That’s going on the schedule.”

The 38-year-old has been cooking for almost 20 years, he says, and currently works in food service at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We corresponded about life as an artist, in the kitchen and out, including his recent caricatures of local chefs like Brother Luck (pictured).

The responses have been edited for clarity.

Food Report: Where were you born? How long have you lived in the Springs?

Warren: I was born in Rome, GA but I moved around a lot (Kentucky, Florida, Ohio, Colorado). I have been in the Springs for a little over 10 years now.

Can you talk about your interest in comics? Have you always been an artistic person?

My interest in comics started at a very early age for me: about five years old when I started to draw. I really loved the old Tex Avery and Fred Quimby cartoons — Droopy the dog, the Red Squirrel, Tom and Jerry, etc. I also loved Cracked magazine and Mad magazine.  My mother bought me a “how to draw” book and it had Alfred E. Neuman’s face on it. I remember drawing it over and over.

But as I got older, my absolute FAVORITE comic artist of all time is Robert Crumb! He was famous for Fritz the Cat, the “Keep on Truckin'” logo, some psychedelic comics, etc. And like Robert, I have drawn and created art every day of my life; not just comics, but I paint murals, and I make clay sculptures (little gnomes and fairytale stuff).

How has Chef Life been received locally?

Life blew up pretty quickly! The locals that know me really love it. I was surprised. I was always making little drawings and hanging them up in the Craftwood Inn to make the guys/gals laugh. My best friend Ethan, and Francis, always told me to do something with my art. I never thought anything of it at the time: I was too busy being a “line dog” and living that crazy Hunter S. Thompson life that most of us chefs usually live on the daily. However, I got into doing a lot of chef competitions and events — Fiddles, Vittles & Vino, Chef’s Gala, Glass Slipper Ball, March of Dimes —and that opened up a whole new world for me.

I met Matthew Schniper from the Independent, and he told me to try my comics out in the Independent. … Then when the first comic went up and online — before I went to bed it had 50 likes on Facebook within the first 20 minutes. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and it was 300! I was blown away.

From your caricatures, it looks like you know the locals well. Is the Springs’ food scene pretty supportive? How many have you drawn and who’s next?

Ah yes, the caricatures I have just now started doing. I wanted to “surprise” people with them. It’s kind of a way to honor some great chefs I know. I was just goofing around and doing them the other day, and now I am getting a TON of requests from other chefs and regular people to be turned into a cartoon.

The Springs food scene knows me pretty well and I have done a lot of work with other chefs and other restaurants. Brother Luck and I hit it off pretty great. We worked together at the Craftwood when he was the executive chef, and I still go by and help him from time to time. Katie Fisco, the other caricature I did, is a wonderful person I also worked with at the Craftwood, who is now a pretty amazing chef at Vestige in New Orleans  Ocean Springs.

I am going to do a lot more of them. Up next I will draw Supansa Banker, the chef at 2South Food+Wine Bar, and [then] my best buddy Bobby D. Couch, owner/chef of the Green Line Grill! (And funny story about Green Line: I drew that logo, the big bird flying the bi-plane. Not many people know that.)

As for the future, I want to branch out to many more papers, and I am currently looking for someone to help me make an actual Chef Life cartoon. So, any animators out there, get in touch! There will, of course, be merchandise, such as T-shirts, hats and cool little plush toys coming up soon, too. And I eventually want to make a coffee-table book on “how to be a chef” survival guide, almost like a humorous illustrated book of what to expect in the restaurant world.


[Images courtesy Andrew Warren]