One of the actors who played a cook on M*A*S*H actually owned a restaurant in real life. The character actor, Val Bisoglio, played a character simply named “the cook,” first appearing in the season 9 episode called “The Life You Save.”
In the episode, Hawkeye teaches the cook, who has quite the temper, how to prepare a french toast that he describes as “the greatest french toast you ever tasted.” But the exchange is hilariously intense, and Bisoglio came back two more times throughout the series.
He appears in the episodes Twas the Day After Christmas, and The Life You Save.
While Bisoglio played The Cook on M*A*S*H he was perhaps better known for the role of Danny Tovo on Quincy, M.E. In the series, Tovo owns a restaurant that’s a big favorite of the main character.
“Whenever the writers find they’re a little short of time after they wrap up the case, they write in a little scene at the restaurant,” Bisoglio said in a 1982 interview with The Daily News. “It’s only one minute or two, at the most. So, I’m the one or two-minute man!”
He really relished the opportunity to play a restaurant owner, because he actually owned a restaurant before deciding to become an actor. He owned a small luncheonette in New York City. In fact, he said that it was similar to the one on Quincy, M.E.
On top of his time on M*A*S*H and Quincy M.E, he appeared in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bonanza, and All in the Family. But it seems he felt most at home in the cook roles.
One ‘M*A*S*H’ Actor Is Really Passionate About Animal Rights
Another M*A*S*H actor with a starring role on the series also had quite the passion. Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, was a passionate advocate for animals. In a 2010 interview with the Toronto Star, she talked about living by Gandhi’s philosophy.
“I try to live by his pacifist philosophy,” Swit explained. “I am so committed to animal rights activism and I always think of his quote, ‘The true test of a nation’s greatness lies in the way they treat their animals.’”
Swit has donated the proceeds of her book to various causes, including animal rights causes. And this activism played deeply into how the writers portrayed her character. Just as Bisoglio’s time as a restaurateur no doubt influenced how they wrote his.
“The writers knew about my animal activism and brilliantly used it to develop Margaret’s character,” Swit told The Spectrum in 2017. Alan Alda and other writers with M*A*S*H were careful to flesh out her character, especially later on in the series.
The writer’s room really got to know the actors. And it looks like even the people like Val Bisoglio, who only appeared on the show a few times, got some details of their life written right into the story. It’s part of the reason M*A*S*H always felt so real.