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October 2017
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The Biggest Monkey: Chef’Special & the American Dream

It’s a Friday evening, the sky is dark gray and a light drizzle is coming down from the clouds that cover it. It has been this way for 3 days straight but the Dutch city of Haarlem does not seem to mind, as it seems like half of the city’s population is lined up at the Patronaat; Haarlem’s main music venue. Suddenly, a uniquely colored mini van appears from around the corner and drives up to the entrance. Chef’Special is playing a hometown show and everybody knows it: the party is about to start and the “Cheffies” will turn the gray skies into summer, sunshine and good vibes if only for a few hours.

chef van

Chef’Special was founded in 2008, and initially the group of guys was only well known among young people familiar with the independent music scene, mainly in the surroundings of Haarlem. This all changed when they performed the song “Airplaying” on the famous Dutch talk show De Wereld Draait Door, after which they were selected as “Serious Talent’ by radio show 3FM. From 2011 until 2012 Chef’Special were chosen to be the house band of De Wereld Draait Door and played the roof off of the talk show every Friday night. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that the band really broke through: their single “In Your Arms” went double platinum and an impressive tour of shows followed. Recently, their song “Biggest Monkey” was even featured on the US hit show “Workaholics”, which led to an increase in fans across the world.


Despite these successes, it hasn’t always been easy for Joshua, the singer of group. “In Your Arms”, together with more songs off of the latest album “Passing Through”, was inspired by the loss of his father to cancer in 2012. “The death of my father has had a big impact on all of us. It wasn’t until we were recording the new album in New York that I gave it a place and my mindset was on the upswing. After a short depression, I was ready to go.” Joshua stated in an interview with Dutch new site


So, New York it was. After conquering the Netherlands with their infectious mix of funk, pop and hip-hop and playing at every major location possible, it was time to go. The Cheffies recently signed a contract with Fueled By Ramen records and suddenly the laidback boys from my neighborhood were featured among the likes of Gym Class Heroes, Panic! At the Disco, Paramore and more internationally established bands and artists. The band is currently on a coast-to-coast tour through the US, and their first US release is soon to be a reality.


Could this band do to the US what it has done to the small country of the Netherlands? Chef’Special is not the first European band making an attempt to fulfill the American Dream. This year, Belgian pop sensation Stromae embarked on a tour across the US and Canada, concluding the journey by performing to a sold-out crowd at the legendary Madison Square Garden. It is still questionable whether the Cheffies can reach this same amount of success but it sure seems like they are well on their way. Apart from playing headline shows at small and large clubs alike, Chef’Special is also the support act for established English rock star Frank Turner. Furthermore, the Cheffies have been recording music through out the country, from the famous Glenwood Studios in Burbank, California, where artists like Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker and Frank Zappa recorded to various recording studios in New York. They were also featured on local radio stations through out the United States, such as MMM 105.5 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Touring through the United States is a great adventure but comes with a whole bunch of challenges of its own kind. In their homeland, Chef’Special has achieved almost everything that they could have. This comes with a certain level of fame, something that is hard to deal with for the group. “That is why I’m worried about going to the US, they really put famous people on a pedestal there and I don’t know if I could handle that. I think I would have to meditate a lot,” Joshua said in a Dutch tv show called “F*ck Me I’m Famous” a show that focuses on the role of fame in the lives of celebrities. Apart from this mental pressure, the band also has to deal with the practical issues on the road. Recently, bassist Jan’s bass guitar got stolen in Burbank, California after playing show and they encountered some car trouble while driving to their show in Austin, Texas. In the end, however, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Fair point to them, I mean what could possibly beat having dinner with Mike Tyson?

chef mike tyson
Joshua Nolet & Mike Tyson

“We’re just hanging out and doing what we love to do” singer Joshua once told me back in 2011 while we were playing football near the local skate park. It was right before the band’s release of their critically acclaimed debut album and even then I already knew that this city would be too small for these guys. Just hanging out and doing what they love to do; that is what got them the success in the Netherlands and I’m sure this could bring them far in the United States and beyond.

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