Character Build: College of Culinary Bard a.k.a. Chef
Welcome to article #200 on Dungeon Solvers! Today, I’d like to carry on a tradition I started for my 100th post and create a D&D 5e character build that’s based on a movie/pop culture thing that I like. Namely, something ridiculous.
Jon Favreau’s Chef started as a bit of a meme for me and my buddies in college, but it’s become one of my favorite films. Seriously, I’ve watched it so many times my fiancée rolls her eyes whenever it’s my turn to choose a movie to watch. It’s just a fun feel-good film about some really, really good food.
A quick summary of the film is that Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) was once a renowned chef known for his innovation in Miami, FL but now works at a restaurant that doesn’t allow him to experiment with his craft. After receiving a terrible review and going ballistic on the reviewer, he’s fired.
However, with the help of his ex-wife he’s able to build a food truck and finds his spark again. Plus, he becomes super successful (and a much better father to his kid).
Oh, he also has sex with Scarlett Johansson because he cooks her pasta. That’s very important to the plot (it’s not).
So today, I’m going to use the College of Culinary bard subclass from The Book of House to cook up a character build for Chef Carl Casper in honor of this dumb movie that always makes me hungry.
Books Needed for this Build
- Optional: You can purchase the College of Culinary separately on the DM’s Guild.
- Optional: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (additional spell options)
Background: Guild Artisan
Note: While Jon Favreau is a master of performance and so the Entertainer background would suit him, his character, Carl Casper is a master chef that has run many a kitchen in his day. I think Guild Artisan suits him well. If you don’t choose Cook’s Utensils as your tool proficiency then you’ve already failed this build.
Race: Variant Human
Note: This is solely because the chef himself is human.
Stats: This was done using point buy. Check out this post for more info on point buy!
STR: 10 (+0)
DEX: 14 (+1) – +1 from Variant Human
CON: 16 (+3)
INT: 12 (+1)
WIS: 8 (-1)
CHA: 16 (+3) – +1 from Variant Human
Note: It pains me to have a negative in Wisdom, but Carl is not a very wise man. It takes him an entire movie to realize that he needs to be a better father to his kid. I think he deserves an ASI to at least put him an average Wisdom score by the end of the movie though.
Skills: Insight, Persuasion (Background) & Nature (Race) & Acrobatics, Investigation and Perception (Class)
Note: Carl is honest with everyone, in fact one of his issues is that he acts before he thinks so Deception, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth aren’t his thing. Instead, he’ll have proficiency in Nature so he knows what the best ingredients for a dish are.
Acrobatics is a must-have for a chef surrounded by knives. All chefs have to be able to do cool knife tricks.
Safety PSA: A falling knife has no handle!
Feat: Inspiring leader
Note: Carl inspires all of his friends, family, and coworkers to aid him in both the kitchen and his life. After all, one of his cooks quits their job just so they can join him on his food truck tour. His peers look up to him as a mentor. Plus this is a nice way to support the party in-game!
Post Level 1
Ability Score Increases (ASIs)
Charisma >>> Dexterity > Constitution > Wisdom > Intelligence >= Strength
Bards get a total of 5 ASIs throughout their progression from level 1 to 20. While this is a fun build I still want to make sure this is a playable build at the end of the day so I won’t goof around in this section since it’s so important.
Charisma is the bard’s spellcasting ability, and for a support-type build such as this, we’re going to want to make sure it’s at its peak!
We want our Dexterity to be high as it increases our AC and is one of the most important saving throw abilities in the game. Constitution is our next priority as it also gives us a boost to survivability and helps with maintaining concentration when casting spells. I don’t think we need to boost it above the +3 we already have, though.
Our Wisdom is low due to role-playing reasons, but as I mentioned earlier it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bump it up at least to a +0!
Lucky – I’m never going to not suggest that you pick up Lucky. Also, it’s fitting for Carl since having a successful food truck that snowballs into a renown 5-star restaurant is the epitome of being lucky.
Prodigy – Carl is an intelligent dude. He picks up new cooking techniques and skills extremely quickly. He’s also quite handy and can lead a renovation of a food truck without having prior experience. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’d pick up other random skills quickly too!
Observant – You need to have a keen eye to work at a high-level in a fast-paced environment such as a kitchen! Plus this is a nice half-feat so you’ll still gain a +1 to Intelligence or Wisdom in addition to its benefits.
War Caster – I’d take War Caster once you have at least an 18 in Charisma. It’s a fun feat that lets you use a Cantrip for an attack of opportunity and gives you advantage on concentration checks. It’s not flavorful for the build, but I like it nonetheless.
Follow this guide and you WILL be the big dog or at least, you’ll be up all night cooking.
Spellcasting – Level 1+
The bard is a full-caster similar to the likes of the sorcerer as both classes function through having a limited pool of spells that they know as opposed to preparation classes like the wizard or cleric. This means that on a level-up they can swap out a single spell.
Bards also have it a bit better than their sorcerer comrades as they eventually gain Magical Secrets which give them access to spells from other classes’ spell lists!
Regardless, your spellcasting ability is Charisma. Hence why we want it to be our highest stat. Your spellcasting abilities are as follows:
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Oh, also, bards have access to ritual casting so you can save yourself a few spell slots if you have the time to perform a spell (with the ritual tag) as a ritual!
Bards do not have to use a regular spell focus for the casting, though they can if they want to. They can use a musical instrument instead, or if your DM is cool they’ll let you use your cooking tools. You can use your cooking tools as a focus either way at level 3, but cool DMs will let you do so from level 1.
Bardic Inspiration – Level 1, 5, 10, and 15
Bardic Inspiration is easily one of the best support features in 5e. It allows you to use a bonus action to give a creature within 60 ft. of you a Bardic Inspiration die. The value of the die varies based on your level, but it scales from a d6 to d12.
Bardic Inspiration dice can be used to add their value to the result of an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Plus, the creature can choose to use their Bardic Inspiration die after they see the result of the roll, but before the DM says if the roll succeeds or fails.
Oh yeah, this buff lasts 10 minutes so a player will have plenty of time to decide what the most optimal usage of their extra dX is!
Solid buff? Check. Excellent value for your action economy? Check. What’s not to like?
Jack of All Trades – Level 2
Bards are just naturally good at everything. Note that I said “good” and not “great”. As a Jack of All trades bards get the benefit of being able to add 1/2 of their proficiency modifier (rounded down) to any of their skill checks that they don’t have proficiency or expertise in.
It’s a nice feature that you’ll surely get some mileage out of. Plus it’s flavorful in that it seems like Chef Carl Casper can do anything at least slightly better than the average person.
Song of Rest – Level 2, 9, 13, and 14
You can now aid in your party’s healing during a short rest by putting on a performance to bolster your allies’ spirits. If you use Song of Rest during a short rest your allies will gain at least 1d6 point of HP at the end of a short rest. So, more free utility, yay!
The value of this extra healing increases every few levels, up to a maximum of 1d12 at 17th level. Scaling is always cool, plus you can flavor (hah) as you cooking up a meal for the party to enjoy during your downtime!
Expertise – Level 3 & 10
At levels 3 and 10 you can gain expertise in two skills you are proficient in. Expertise doubles your proficiency bonus, so you should have no issue passing skill checks in these skills!
My choices for Expertise for this build would be Nature, Perception, Investigation, and Persuasion. I feel as though these are skills that Carl uses frequently. Insight is mechanically a great skill for this build, but he’s not an insightful person. He makes quite a few mistakes due to his inability to understand how others feel or view him.
Font of Inspiration – Level 5
You now regain your expended uses of Bardic Inspiration on a short rest or a long rest.
This is just a good feature. I’ve got no seasoning to add to this side dish.
Countercharm – Level 6
Countercharm allows you to use an action to give all friendly creatures within a 30 ft. radius advantage on saving throws against being frightened or charmed. The only requirement is that the creatures must be able to hear your performance.
This leans into how Carl is viewed as a leader in the kitchen. During stressful periods such as a dinner rush, it’s easy to get nervous and make mistakes, but he’s there to ensure everyone keeps their shit together and sends good food out of the kitchen.
Magical Secrets – Level 10 & 18
This is easily my favorite feature that the bard gets. It’s definitely in the top three of my favorite features in 5e. Magical Secrets gives the bard the ability to learn two new spells of any level from any class. These spells count as bard spells and are included in the class’ “Spells Known” table, but this also means that should you wish to swap one of these out, you can replace them with a new bard spell of your choice on a level-up.
This gives you easy access to spells that are typically exclusive to a class or a limited number of classes. For example, grab Haste to speed up your sous chef’s work so that the dish can get served pronto!
Or… you know… give the barbarian an additional weapon attack. Same thing.
Superior Inspiration – Level 20
If you are fortunate enough to play as Chef Carl Casper to 20th level, you will be gain access to the bard’s capstone feature, Superior Inspiration. This feature is sort of similar to the sorcerer’s capstone ability. In that, if you begin a battle with 0 of your class’ resources, you gain some back immediately.
Superior Inspiration just gives you 1 Bardic Inspiration which, at this point, is a D12 so it’s certainly a sizeable boon to give an ally.
Flavor-wise, you’re never not inspired. Just like how I’m never not in the mood to watch Chef.
College of Culinary
The College of Culinary is a homebrew subclass so please check with your DM if it’s ok to use this. I will say, that they’ll earn an official Cool DM™ award if they allow it.
Also, I think it’s a well-made, fun, and balanced subclass.
Preparation Proficiency – Level 3
The first feature you get from selecting this subclass is that you gain proficiency with either Cook’s Utensils or Brewer’s Supplies. Since we already have proficiency with Cook’s Utensils thanks to our background, we’ll now gain the ability to brew alcohol to pair with our cuisine.
As I mentioned previously, this feature gives you the option to use these tools or a simple weapon that’s considered to be part of your cooking utensils. Speaking of those, The Book of House includes unique weapons for College of Culinary Bards to wield. Willy has also cooked up some more options in the Culinary Weapons supplement which you can find on the DMs guild!
But that’s not all! This feature also gives you an additional way to expend your Bardic Inspiration dice! You can expend an action and one Bardic Inspiration die on your turn to begin cooking food in the middle of a fight. If a creature is within 15 ft. of you and can see or smell your food then they must make a Wisdom save. On a failure, they subtract your proficiency bonus from all of their attack rolls until the start of your next turn.
You can even continue to cook your dish for up to one minute, provided that you use a bonus action on your turn to do so. Plus, you can add 1/2 lb of fresh ingredients to the dish which is consumed, but double the range of the ability to 30 ft.
This is a fantastic feature that gives you some utility, debuffs the enemy, and holds some serious action economy value provided that you are willing to pay the price of one Bardic Inspiration die and an action.
Make a Meal – Level 3
Make a Meal is both another way to provide utility/support for your allies and a new option to spend a Bardic Inspiration die. This feature gives you the ability to prepare a feast for your allies during a short or long rest. The result of a roll of your Bardic Inspiration die determines how many creatures the meal feeds.
If your dish doesn’t feed enough hungry mouths you can, thankfully, use additional Bardic Inspiration dice to increase the number of seats you can fit at the table.
The meal’s effect is determined by the ingredients you use. See the table below for details, but each flavor your meal has grants you buff and a bonus to a specific saving throw equal to your Charisma modifier for a total of 8 hours. However, only one meal may be consumed at a time. Creatures need to make a long rest before consuming another Make a Meal feast.
One pattern you’ll notice in the College of Culinary’s features is that if you take the time to gather fresh ingredients you can use them to enhance the subclass’ features. Make a Meal has its Meal Effects doubled when at least 1 lb of fresh ingredients per person eating the meal is used in the dish.
Thematically this makes a ton of sense. There are numerous scenes in Chef where Carl goes out of his way to find fresh, local ingredients to use in his dishes. He changes the menu based on what new ingredients he can purchase throughout his road trip.
Elevated Meal – Level 6 & 14
As you experiment with ingredients and gain experience as a chef you’ll be able to incorporate different flavors into a dish. At 6th and 14th level you will gain an additional flavor that you can include in a Make a Meal feast.
If you choose to include multiple flavors, anyone who consumes your meal will gain the benefits of all flavors the dish has.
Now your dishes can be slimy and satisfying! Wait…
Make a Snack – Level 6
Look, your party appreciates your meals. They love your food, but sometimes you all just need to clear a dungeon quickly and don’t have time for a 14-course meal. Thankfully, you’ve perfected your cooking techniques and can now make snacks that are perfect for the modern-day adventurer on the go!
During a short or long rest, you can cook up a number of snacks equal to the result of a Bardic Inspiration die that you roll. These snacks only have one flavor, but if you use some fresh ingredients you’ll be able to add a second flavor as well.
These snacks can be distributed to the party and can be consumed by a character via the use of their bonus action. They’re tasty and efficient!
Unlike a meal, however, the effects gained from snacks last for a limited time. Specifically, they last a number of minutes equal to 1 * your charisma modifier. A creature can only benefit from the effects of one snack at a time.
See the table below for the benefits that snacks provide!
Carl is not a healthy eater. While he’ll tell his son to eat a nice piece of fruit for a snack, he’s only doing so to check off the “parenting” box before the duo makes a bee-line to the kettle corn booth at the farmers market.
Signature Dish – Level 14
Every chef has a specialty dish that they’ve perfected. For some, that’s something simple like spaghetti and meatballs, for anthropomorphic rats voiced by Patton Oswalt that’s Ratatouille.
As a master chef, you’ve not only perfected a dish, you’ve perfected flavor itself. Two flavors, specifically!
Upon gaining this feature, you must choose two different flavors. Going forward, any meals or snacks you whip up that include these flavors will feed the maximum number of people based on your Bardic Inspiration die. Also, the fresh ingredients bonus is automatically applied to these dishes without having to expend or possess the ingredients.
This is a nice little perk that improves your base features. It’s also especially helpful when you’re in the middle of a dangerous dungeon and can’t forage or purchase fresh ingredients, but your party still wants that zesty kick to the dish that fresh ingredients provide.
As I mentioned before, I’ve already done a full bard build for the College of Glamour. There are going to be some similarities between these lists so I won’t retrace my steps with regards to spells I’ve included before. Check out that article for some more information on my spell choices!
Keep in mind that we can only have a maximum of 22 spells and 4 Cantrips known in this build. I may have more spells in this list since so choose the options that work best for your playstyle!
A spell with a (*) will be a spell that you gain from Magical Secrets. By all means, feel free to think outside the box with those though!
Mage Hand is like one of the most perfect Cantrips for a chef. Getting an extra hand in the kitchen is dream come true!
With Prestidigitation, you can magically season dishes to perfection. No longer will you have to pretend to enjoy underseasoned food!
Flavor-wise, Prestidigitation and Mage Hand are probably our best bets, but I’d just pick one for flavor and grab Vicious Mockery so you’re still useful in a fight.
Light is a nice mechanical option for us since we don’t have Darkvision. Just grab that one last though, this build is for fun (and flavor)!
Not every recipe will be written in the common tongue or a language that you can speak. Comprehend Languages is a convenient utility spell that will allow you to quickly translate recipes from cultures long past. I guess it’s also useful for solving riddles and puzzles.
Unseen Servant is a great spell for when you need an assistant in the kitchen but you don’t have the budget for a real assistant. Call it an internship of sorts.
Detect Thoughts, Enhance Ability, Heat Metal, Hold Person, Locate Object, Pyrotechnics
You’re not a mind reader. How could you possibly know what dish to prepare for a picky eater? Well, with Detect Thoughts, you become a mind reader so now you are one!
Heat Metal is an awesome spell for heating a cast iron pan in a jiffy. Also for slowly roasting the bodies of your enemies in their armor, but I digress.
Locate Object is perfect for finding that one utensil in the back of the cupboard. It’s also a great spell for solving mysteries!
Pyrotechnics is both a surefire way to liven up a meal and a handy way to cause temporary blindness for your enemies that are enamored by the fireworks show.
Stinking Cloud will lose you points with the health inspector, but it’s a fantastic way to clear a room or hinder the enemy’s action economy.
Dimension Door is a convenient spell to use to get yourself and an ally out of a pickle. It can also be used to quickly teleport to a hard-to-reach location that’s somewhat nearby.
Greater Invisibility is quite a convenient spell to use on yourself or an ally. While it requires concentration to maintain, it allows the invisible target to use actions and attack as normal whilst their invisible. It can even be used defensively to give an injured ally a better chance to get out of harm’s way.
Fabricate is an interesting choice for me. It’s not one I’d normally take. However, it seems like a fun spell for this build. The spell allows you to take raw materials and form them into usable objects. For example, if you find a hunk of gold you can make yourself a nice set of gold cookware because you’re fancy like that.
Greater Restoration, Hold Monster, Legend Lore, Teleportation Circle
Greater Restoration is useful in a pinch to relieve party members of debilitating effects.
Legend Lore is an expensive spell, but it’s certainly one avenue you can take to learn of forgotten recipes.
At this point in your cooking career, you’re past the point of using preserved ingredients and dried spices. You want the freshest ingredients for every dish! Teleportation Circle gives you the means to procure the freshest of the fresh ingredients straight from the source!
True Seeing is a bit of a niche spell, but it’s a surefire way to find a secret passageway. I could see this being a fun spell to use in the right situation.
Sunbeam is like using the power of the sun as an oven to cook the forces of evil. It’s a solid AoE spell that gives you both a bit of damage and a debuff by applying the blinded condition to creatures that fail the saving throw.
Mordenkainen’s Magificent Mansion, Regenerate, Teleport, Simulacrum*
You are a god amongst chefs. I daresay you are the chef! No longer will the party eat your gourmet feasts off the floor of a cave. No, they will eat in the halls of a place that will match the quality of the food you serve in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion!
Regenerate is a very solid healing spell and will be a perfect addition to your theoretical utility belt.
Teleport is an upgraded version of Teleportation Circle so you could certainly replace it with this brand new, albeit slightly confusing, spell.
Simulacrum is a very expensive, but extremely worthwhile upgrade over Unseen Servant. With this spell, you now hold the power to assemble the greatest kitchen in history!
Power Word Stun is potentially a permanent stun to a creature. It has an indefinite duration until it succeeds on a Constitution saving throw. Odds are, it eventually will, but the party will get at least a few turns in wailing on a defenseless creature. Plus, it doesn’t even require you to maintain concentration!
Sometimes one Polymorph just isn’t enough. That’s where Mass Polymorph comes in handy as it lets you polymorph up to 10 creatures at once for up to an hour!
Oh, and if you want something more permanent, check out True Polymorph.
Your polymorph options are endless! Well, not really, but it feels like it.
Strengths of this Build
First and foremost, you can cook some damn good food. That’s the most important outcome of this build. What about mechanical benefits though?
You are an absolute buff machine. Make a Meal and Make a Snack provide the party with flat bonuses in quite a few different portions of their character sheet. These are both exceptional uses of your Bardic Inspiration dice which can still also be used to provide its regular buff.
Prepare a Dish is a great way to debuff the enemy whilst bolstering the party’s general survivability in combat. Plus your base bard features such as Song of Rest and Countercharm also provide a boost to the party’s overall survivability.
The bard spell list is well-regarded for its options in buffing the party and CCing/debuffing your enemies. Couple this with Magical Secrets and you can even grab powerful spells from other class spell lists to bring your support capabilities to the next level.
Your strength is in your allies. You are at your best when you are bolstering their abilities or making things difficult for the enemy. Oh, also you’re quite useful as the party’s face thanks to your high Charisma and expertise in Persuasion!
Weaknesses of this Build
As a (mostly) pure utility character, you’re going to have trouble holding your own in combat. Make sure that whatever you do, you stick with the party as you’ll need to rely on others to deal damage. Your family is your strength!
Oh, also, make sure you’re not in the front-lines. You’re not a tank either. Support your allies who can fulfill the roles you cannot and you’ll be fine.
Picky eaters are also a nuisance to deal with. It will take many meals to set them on the path to Flavor Town.
Watch Chef. Eat good food. Watch The Chef Show which is more Chef but with Roy Choi and Jon Favreau clowning around while they eat good food.
Also, Netflix please sponsor me.
P.S. Thank you all for joining me on this wild ride, and I’m terrified of what I’ll cook up for post #300!