Archive | November, 2013

celebrity chefs remember Chef Tell

15 Nov

“Chef Tell was a man of great humor and incredible skills in the kitchen. He brought wonderful food to the table as well as love and laughter. Author Ronald Joseph Kule did an impeccable job bringing to life Chef’s humor and passion for food,” wrote Iron Chef Cat Cora about the recently released biography of the American culinary icon.

“The culinary atmosphere in Tell’s time, unlike the competitiveness that exists today, was one of great cooperation among chefs. That ambiance was created among his peers and his audiences by Chef Tell, who made cooking fun,” wrote Chef Walter Staib, TV host of the PBS series, A Taste of History.

“Chef Tell etait une speciale, homme tres special.” (“Chef Tell was a special, a very special man.”) Acclaimed and honored French chef ,Georges Perrier, commented in an interview regarding his friend.

“I saw how everyone seemed to know Tell and how they treated him respectfully. I got my first taste of the celebrity lifestyle up close and personal and I was impressed,” said Executive Chef John Barrett of the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, then hired by Tell to work in his newly acquired Manor House restaurant and then invited to accompany him on a trip to a friend’s wedding on Grand Cayman Island. He continued, “Tell is a chef’s chef, someone I wanted to work with.”

Wherever Chef Tell ventured he worked cooperatively with his peers. In the early days of his cooking career as a lowly apprentice he had the backs of his contemporaries when their mentors got too out of line or kicked one of them too hard. In fact, given the opportunity one afternoon, Tell “accidentally” locked inside of a walk-in freezer the group’s fiercest executive chef just to give him a taste of his own medicine and to recover a morsel of respect for all of the other apprentices. That day may have witnessed the young Tell’s first standing ovation for work accomplished in the kitchen.

Chef Tell was royalty to the best of his contemporaries. The renowned chef David Bouley stepped up to the plate when Chef Tell walked into Bouley in Manhattan with a large group eager to have lunch there. Disregarding other celebrity diners seated nearby, Bouley personally took Tell’s order of several entrees for the entire party and then prepared the foods and delivered them himself, including one of his distinctive desserts.

If Tell’s brand of celebrity status to this date has been missed by younger generations, it is only because his life story has not seen the light of day in modern publications, until the release of his biography which is beginning to fill the vacuum of Chef Tell’s absence. Here and there, people are remembering the tall German chef and reading his story, which is capturing the minds and hearts — even the palates, since there are recipes in the book — of younger readers. From a 40’s-Something reader, “Chef Tell was a larger-than-life figure. I had no idea, because my generation missed him completely, but in my mind I am comparing him to any “rock star” or sports figure around today. His biography successfully captures and portrays the essence of how famous this guy was — what a rags-to-riches story!”

As more celebrity chefs find the time to read about the chef who blazed the television trail on which they stand, the kudos come in, agreeing with legendary TV host Regis Philbin, “I think there’s a little bit of sizzling here. Honestly, I can feel it. The ions are flying back and forth… it’s a shame he’s not with us now, but his memory lives on with this book.”

 

Video

Finding the Perfect Camera-ready TV Chef

8 Nov

Watching Chef Tell in action is both a learning and a laughing experience. Even before he achieved his “youngest master chef in Germany” status in 1970 he was teaching students in Heidelberg classes. Throughout his entire professional life Tell gave back by teaching cooking classes wherever he worked, including in America. He was generous that way with his time, but, more than that, he was giving of his knowledge and expertise not only to students hoping to one day become chefs, but also to home cooks who watched him through the magic of syndicated television when that medium was a start-up industry.

From the recently released Chef Tell biography:

“Channel 6’s Dialing for Dollars Producer Art Moore took notice and offered Tell an opportunity to cook on-air, if Marriott would provide the food. Marriott was receptive, and Tell’s first 90-second TV cooking demo aired. The station received a flood of phone calls. Half the viewers liked the novelty of his having to cook in 90 seconds or less and they liked Tell; the other half complained about his thick German accent and the speed at which he talked.

“When 800 letters from the audience deluged the station after airing the one test segment, Moore decided to air another segment, albeit after Tell and he had worked together to improve his speed of speech delivery and, of course, do what they could about the accent.

“According to Moore, ‘We created the show and went looking for a chef to do a cooking segment. Fortunately, after the initial trial, we found we had a chef on our hands, who understood the importance and potential of television. Tell “got it” right away. Even though we prodded him about his accent and joked with him, he rolled with our advice, which helped create his banter on-air with the audiences.’

“Moore also commented upon Tell’s personality, ‘He had a charming, ebullient personality. He was smart, and we saw that what he did worked.'” (end excerpt.)

Chef Tell — Friedemann Paul Erhardt off-air — also had a gift for delivering jokes and one-liners that made viewers laugh and his producers and their advertisers happy with the ratings they recorded.  Within a few months of his first airing, Tell had become a sought-after celebrity chef with a following of tens of millions of Baby Boomers who tuned in and were entertained with phrases like, “You do like this, you do like that” (as he prepared some meat dishes) and “Very easy, very nice” (as he plated and garnished his finished products). And, of course, people all over America mimicked his sign-off phrase, “I SEE YOU!”

At times, he would add in a little self-deprecating humor, “Why does the new German navy have glass-bottom boats? Because they can see the old German navy that way.” And without waiting for the audience to laugh, or finish laughing, he would move on to the next preparation step or the next dish.

All in 90 seconds, which eventually expanded to three to five-minute sketches as fast as his audience numbers grew. In some markets his segments brought in a 50 percent market share for the local stations. In fact, Chef Tell was a phenomenon that had not been seen in television before him: the pioneer TV showman chef.

Owning a series of Chef Tell DVD’s brings the master chef into your home all over again. These are available now. The impetus for the offer is the recently released book, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, written by author Ronald Joseph Kule, who was Chef Tell’s brother-in-law. The hard-cover book is 452 pages and contains 70 photos and NEW, never-published recipes from the master chef; also available in eBook and Audiobook formats online and in stores.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: If you’ve come this far in this blog post, please comment on the post and anything else you wish to share about Chef Tell, or chefs and cooking in general.  Do you have an anecdote from knowing Chef Tell? Please share with other readers here.

© 2013 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

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