Ever since he was taken prisoner of war by the US Army after World War II, food and cooking have played an important role in Günter Grass's work. He not only experienced the basic physical suffering of hunger; he also discovered his passion for cooking – with imaginary foods – at a »Cooking Class for Beginners« that he attended in captivity. He reports on this class in detail in Peeling the Onion (2006).
Alongside nuns and birds, Grass also developed the cook as a central pictorial subject as early as the 1950s, in his beginnings as a visual artist. The three motifs are linked by visual analogies, such as the slender, elongate heads, and also by the white color. The art and literature scholar Viktoria Krason regards these motifs in terms of the relation between victim and offender: »The cook is out to get both the meat of the bird and the nun.« The motif of the cook is also repeated in Grass's literary works, for example in the theater play The Evil Cooks, which premiered in 1961. In the play, the motif is modified to follow the principle of »prosecution and interrogation«. When Grass takes up modeling with terra-cotta in the 1980s, he also returns to the cooks as pictorial motif. This time, he is obviously interested in the smooth, flowing forms that the soft and quickly drying material allows him to create. Subsequent silver casting of the terra-cotta figures additionally highlights the sculpted lines and the vivid play of light on the sculptures' surfaces.