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Sheff's Chefs cook up wild support
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06/23/2003  3:29 PM ET 
Sheff's Chefs cook up wild support
Cheering section has expanded across the league
Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
Sheff's Chefs cheered on Darren Bragg when he started in place of the resting Gary Sheffield. (M. Spencer Green/AP)
ATLANTA -- As the Braves continue their quest toward a 12th consecutive division title, there are a few young individuals, otherwise known as Sheff's Chefs, who are creating a sense of excitement at Turner Field and seeing themselves cloned at other parks around the league.

From the core group of nine Chefs who first dropped the oversized homemade banner and home run counter on April 22, the Chefs have spread all throughout Section 435 and the Braves front office has begun supplying paper chef's hats for the group to pass out to other fans in their area.

"The popularity of this cheering section was not in the recipe," Josh Chodnovsky said. "I really thought we were going to be on TV just once."

Chodnovsky said he began thinking about creating a cheering section clad in aprons and chef's hats in honor of Braves right fielder Gary Sheffield last season. While he was in between jobs this spring, he was able to see his idea come to fruition.

While the group continues to grow, it is still the core members who provide the most vocal support for the Braves. Their throats are sore and voices haggard but they still cheer on during games, even those such as Sunday's when Sheffield wasn't even in the lineup.

The original idea for this group came to Chodnovsky and co-founder Chris Geihsler while they were regular inhabitants of the lively and loud Georgia Tech student section during home football games.

"This is a good way to be weird and people like it," Chodnovsky said.

Chodnovsky said that while the Chefs are in honor of Sheffield, they support every Braves player.

    Jung Bong   /   P
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 175
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
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Splits
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One of the Chefs' favorite newcomers is relief pitcher Jung Bong. The rookie left-hander said he hears the Chefs every time he exits the bullpen located in right-center field.

"It is pretty exciting hearing them chant my name," Bong said. "It helps; it gets me pumped up."

During Sunday's game, the Chefs became bakers in support of reserve outfielder Darren Bragg, who was playing right field in place of the resting Sheffield. Instead of Sheffield's career home run count, the Chefs hung the number 42, in reference to Bragg's career homer total.

The change in his honor did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by Bragg, who motioned up to the Chefs during warmup throws before an inning.


"The popularity of this cheering section was not in the recipe. I really thought we were going to be on TV just once."
-- Josh Chodnovsky, co-founder of Sheff's Chefs

"I just wish I could have made it 43 for them," Bragg said.

Turner Field has not been the only kitchen for Sheff's Chefs as there have been chef sightings in four cities in which the Braves have played. Geihsler said that those sightings did not have to do with any prior planning by the Atlanta chefs. Of those dressed as Sheff's Chefs in Los Angeles, Houston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, only the LA chef had any contact with the Atlanta group.

"I didn't do this to get popular," Chodnovsky said.

This has all turned out much better and bigger than Chodnovsky had planned. The group toyed with a couple of names, players to support and gimmicks including: Chipper's Skippers, in which the group would all wear sailors outfits. They also proposed Castilla's Tortillas in which one person would wear a tortilla costume and be joined in dance by others in mariachi costumes each time Vinny would hit a homer.

After contemplating those ideas, Chodnovsky said the Chefs seemed to be the logical choice.

"It all worked out," Chodnovsky said. "This is where the seats are [right behind where Sheffield plays in the field]. His name is privy to a rhyme and he is a good person who pays attention to his fans."

Before Saturday's game against the Orioles, the Chefs got to meet Sheffield for the first time. Chodnovsky said Sheffield thanked them for their support, offered them better seats in the stadium and talked about the possibility of taking the show on the road for a few games.

    Gary Sheffield   /   LF
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 190
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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Sheffield said as long as it means more to Braves fans no matter where the game is played, he is all for having the Chefs around.

"It's what the game is all about," Sheffield said. "It keeps you involved. You concentrate even more now."

Sheffield said this is not the first time he has had a cheering section. During his time with the Marlins there was a section called Sheff's Kitchen, but the Chefs differ from the Kitchen because it was established by his foundation while the Chefs is a section initiated by fans.

While a group of young men and women barely out of college starting their own fan section might sound like a combination for rowdiness and improper behavior, Turner Field usher Ernie Ryan said if the Chefs are in his section he knows he isn't going to have to worry about any trouble.

Ryan said he enjoys the Chefs so much that he even buys a ticket on his days off from the park to come sit with the group which has given him the nickname "Old Poppa Chef."

Chodnovsky and Geihsler have supplied the recipe for excitement and the Braves have responded by going 21-5 at Turner Field since the white hats made their first appearance.

"I hear them all the time out there," Sheffield said. "Anytime you have people coming out there to support you like that, it motivates you to do something special for them. I hope they're there all the way through the World Series this year."

Erik Carlson is a student at Ohio University, and an intern at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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