Study Guide

Apocalypse Now Chef (Frederic Forrest)

Chef (Frederic Forrest)

Jay "Chef" Hicks is probably the most talkative crewmember on the boat escorting Willard to Cambodia—you can't shut the dude up. He also loves to curse.

Hailing originally from New Orleans, Chef's a simple guy, really. He wants to be a cook and didn't bargain for all these crazy Vietnam War escapades. He must've been a great cook because he was headed to Paris to train at the Escoffier school when he got drafted. He can use the word "saucier" correctly in a sentence. He joined the navy because he heard they had better food. Big mistake, he finds out. Navy cook school turned him into a radio specialist instead.

When Chef and Willard are confronted by a tiger in the jungle, Chef has a breakdown of sorts. He raves:

CHEF: A f***ing tiger, f***ing tiger...I don't wanna take this goddamn s*** man...I didn't come here for this, I don't f***ing need this. I didn't get outta the eighth grade for this, man…. All I wanted to do is f***ing cook, I just wanted to learn to f***ing cook. All right, it's all right, it's gonna be all right...never get outta boat...bye tiger, bye tiger...

Willard thinks Chef's too tightly wound for Vietnam, probably even for New Orleans. Yet Chef is willing to go with Willard all the way to the end, willingly piloting the boat to Kurtz's temple complex after Chief is skewered. That's a courageous move for a young kid who just wants to go home and cook.

When they get there, Chef's not a huge fan of Kurtz. Whereas the photojournalist worships Kurtz and Captain Colby joined his ranks, Chef sees right through Kurtz. He finds him completely evil, saying to Willard:

CHEF: This Colonel guy? He's wacko, man! He's worse than crazy. He's evil. It's f***in' pagan idolatry. Look around you. S***! He's loco...I ain't afraid of all them f***in' skulls and altars and s***. I used to think if I died in an evil place, then my soul wouldn't be able to make it to Heaven. But now? F***! I mean, I don't care where it goes, as long as it ain't here. So whaddya wanna do? I'll kill the f***.

Unfortunately, after Kurtz throws Willard into a cage, Chef tries to follow Willard's orders and call in an airstrike. But before he can successfully complete the call, Kurtz—or one of his followers (it's not clear who)—kills Chef and beheads him. Kurtz, in war paint, throws the severed head into Willard's lap as Willard sits helplessly with his hands tied behind his back.

It's a shocking moment and a sad one, since we've gotten to know the guy through his convo in the jungle with Willard.

And Kurtz just used the poor kid to make a point.