“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.”