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.
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© 2013 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.