The Mystery Protègè

Several weeks ago on a visit to one of my favorite jaunts, a little restaurant known as Chili John’s in Burbank, California, I doodled a monster on one of their paper placemats. It was just one of those things that happened when a ball point pen met a piece of paper while I was enjoying conversation with the great folks who work there. They liked it, and pinned it up on their wall which in a way is a challenge to anyone else who comes in to do better.


fuzzy wuzzy
You can see that I am a very neat eater – no chili spills on the placemat.


To “do better” is not very hard in this eating establishment, because cartoonists from all the animation studios sit at Chili John’s lunch counter each and every day. They are always doing drawings, most of which go on display in the back room for the amusement of the owners and staff.

Chili John’s is the second oldest restaurant in Burbank (only The Smokehouse is older) established in their current location in the 1940s. The fare is simple – good solid no filler spicy chili in beef, chicken, vegetarian, and here at Thanksgiving – turkey. You can have it served over rice, spaghetti, beans, a chili filled tamale, or a hot dog. That’s it! The food is good, and the clientele from all walks of life come in to dine. It is not unusual to see their share of famous people past and present such as Tom Bosley, “Weird” Al Yankovic, Grant Show, Roseanne Barr, Greg Proops, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Roebuck, and any number of recording artists who inhabit the hidden studios along Burbank Blvd. Just last week the CBS show CSI was taping two doors down at the hobby shop, and cast & crew kept coming in for some of that good ol’ chili! It got to where the Craft Services cook came and got a supply to put on the buffet outside. Even Guy Fieri featured it on his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. But I digress.

So, back to the monster sketch! Someone DID decide to pick up a pen and meet the challenge. In my absence, Delilah – age 8 – came in with her mother, saw my monster sketch, and decided she was going to draw him, too. She studied and concentrated and came up with her own beautiful version of my beast. She also one-upped me by giving him a name – Lumpy!


monster art
Delilah has an eye for monsters, but also a taste for excellent chili!


I LOVE IT Delilah – whoever you are! Well done! Please keep drawing and drawing so that one day I can copy your work, ok? Hopefully sometime we can meet each other there at Chili John’s. We can enjoy a bowl of hot chili together and laugh at each other’s placemat doodles. Then maybe Anne Hathaway will have to follow in OUR footsteps. 😉

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