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ID Check: Louis Scheele

Ghetto chef
By CAMILLE DODERO  |  January 14, 2006

Screw the Food Network. I’d rather eat chocolate-covered ramen-noodle bars whipped up by the host of white-trash Internet cooking show Starvin’ With Louis. The low-rent creation of Mike Pecci and Louis Scheele, two penniless filmmakers who share a Brighton apartment, Starvin’ With Louis is Viva la Bam overthrowing The Naked Chef, a comic masterpiece for anyone who’s ever had to scrape together a meal out of leftovers and whatever else is lurking in near-bare kitchen cabinets. Louis Scheele (left) and director Mike Pecci

“We were sitting around on a Tuesday, like really bored,” recalls director/producer/editor Pecci. “Lou came in and made ramen-hot-dog chop suey. I was like, ‘That is the most repugnant shit I’ve ever seen.’ Lou ... sat down and ate it, and was like, ‘It’s pretty good.’ And so I said, ‘Well, the next time you do that, I want to film you doing it.’”

Pecci uploaded the edited footage to his personal site and sent the address to friends. The hot-dog-and-ramen video lit up enough in-boxes last May that then posted a link and the video got 70,000 hits in three days. That one-off became the first of three and a half episodes of Starvin’ With Louis (and led to projects like producing/filming the Unseen video for “You Can Never Go Home.”)

A burly “hardcore kid” (Pecci’s words) with a parched wit, braided beard, and deep-abiding love for PBR, Scheele is actually something of an amateur chef, having once worked in the kitchen of a steak restaurant — a job he credits with teaching him “what flavors go together.” But Scheele’s cooking style is entirely his own. Tablespoons are trumped by instinct. A wok is his hearth. Booze and hot sauce are his culinary cure-alls. White speckles of indeterminate origin found on the cutting board are “flavor.”

But that’s the point of Starvin’ With Louis, inasmuch as there is one: Scheele prepares dishes that sound completely gross, but actually taste pretty good — and for cheap. On the show, he invents trailer-trash delicacies like ramen Chex Mix and ranch-flavored French-toast fries. In one episode, Scheele invites a Suicide Girl named Sid over to hang out with him and his roommate Aaron, drink “poor-man mimosas” (Steel Reserve 40s mixed with OJ), and help Scheele bake Spam cupcakes with instant-mashed-potato frosting. In another, he goes fishing in the Atlantic Ocean with a two-person crew, catches no fish, and feeds his boatmates a prepared “lunch-fast” of egg salad and ramen party mix. The only one on the trip who gets seasick is Pecci — also the only one who doesn’t eat Scheele’s food.

The afternoon I’m at the apartment to interview Scheele (and guest-star on his show), he’s spent $16 on ingredients for a four-person-plus-leftovers meal christened the “Luau Extravaganza Burrito with Lava Tortillas.” It’s a Hawaiian-style brown-rice-filled sundried-tomato wrap of canned pineapple chunks, pepper-jack cheese, ginger-flavored sweet-and-sour sauce, sprouts, carrots (none for me), cilantro, and Treet (Armour Star’s 99-cent version of Spam). (There will be no more Spam on Starvin’ With Louis: Scheele says Hormel saw him use rival-product Treet for sandwich meat and sent him a free case of Spam, but once the Spam-cupcake episode went online, the company saw how hammered Louis and his co-stars got and reneged on their sponsorship.)

Today, roommate Aaron and I are the burrito guinea pigs, so we plop down at the kitchen table, underneath a poster of toilet-cam stills. On the show, cameraman Pecci is an invisible voice, but here he can be a puppeteer. Like when he challenges Scheele to eat a stray pineapple lump that’s fallen on the floor. Or when he, ah, baits me into saying on camera that I was molested by an onion. Don’t ask.

At one point during a cooking lapse, I ask Scheele about his four months working as a strip-club bouncer in New York State; he tells a story about how he was once jumped by guys he’d kicked out and who later recognized him — at the supermarket in the toilet-paper aisle. I also discover that the online-cooking-show star doesn’t have a strong sense of taste — a childhood prank left him with chemical burns in his nostrils and he has no sense of smell. The show hits a minor catastrophe that involves paper towels sticking to most of the tortillas (mine luckily escape unscathed), so when Scheele sits down to eat, there’s actually paper-towel skin clinging to his burrito. He eats it anyway.

“I actually have some trouble coming up with some recipes because I want them to appear horrible and then turn out to be good,” admits Scheele, having already explained that he’d originally wanted to make Treet-filled lasagna with sauerkraut today, but Pecci told him no.

“Lou’s biggest problem is that he’s a really good cook,” Pecci adds, pacing around the kitchen, the camera finally at rest. “He’s stuck now in a show where he has to make food that sounds fuckin’ terrible. He wants to make these fancy things. And I’m like, ‘Dude, sounds too good. Gotta be crappier.’”


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