According to former Philadelphia Inquirer food writer Elaine Tait, “CHEF TELL was “America’s first TV showman chef.” Tait went on to write about America’s rock-star, German-American master chef, “… his food recipes always tasted good.”
Born in 1943, of a newspaperman and a pediatric nurse, Tell credited his mother’s recombining of garden-fresh ingredients with C.A.R.E. package foodstuffs as his first lessons in food preparation and basic cooking. In turn, she championed his childhood career choice to entertain and cook for others around the world.
Having endured a grueling, years-long apprenticeship, Tell became in 1970 Germany’s youngest master chef. He captained the Gold Medal-winning team that won the Cooking Olympics — his new dish, SchweinePfeffer, also won for him a personal Gold Medal — and he became Germany’s Chef of the Year in recognition of his special recipes and accomplishments that same year.
With the help of a former Miss Philadelphia (whom he later married) Tell arrived in America in 1972. Not long after, the TV cameras found him, and he began to teach gourmet cooking with simple ingredients to home cooks all over America with rapid-fire, quip-laden appearances on syndicated television segments and TV talk shows.
Tell’s fan base grew to 40 million Baby Boomers, who were in love with the irrepressibly funny German Giant with a thick German accent, a curly top of black hair and a horseshoe mustache. His appearances lit up switchboards. TV-station mail departments received tens of thousands of recipe requests weekly. He appeared on many TV shows, including Merv Griffin’s, Dinah Shore’s, John Davidson’s, and on LIVE! with Regis & Kathie Lee. In fact, he was Philbin’s most-requested (and favorite) guest chef.
The irreverently humorous, speedier-than-anybody-with-a-knife Chef Tell also packed commoners, gourmands and celebrities into a handful of Philadelphia area restaurants — one winning the prestigious Cordon Bleu Award four times.
A naturalized American citizen sponsored by former President of the United States Richard Nixon, he established a thriving restaurant in Georgetown on Grand Cayman Island. Chef Tell’s Grand Old House remained his workplace and vacation spot — he loved scuba — for over a decade, even as he continued to demonstrate his culinary prowess and knowledge in television and public-venue appearances all around America.
sweet home Philadelphia…
Affluent American and European gourmands and A-list celebrities followed Chef Tell wherever he cooked and served food. The first seven years of the 21st century found him back in the Philadelphia area, which he loved for its colorful history and American cuisine strongly influenced by German-cooking heritage.
Offered one of the first TV contracts by the then-fledgling Food Network, he chose instead to have his own TV show, In the Kitchen with Chef Tell, produced out of Allentown, Pennsylvania by WFMZ-TV. Test runs proved that his loyal audience wanted even more of their beloved pioneer TV chef, and the show was picked up for syndication to stations in several cities.
gone too soon…
Tell Erhardt lived the classic celebrity lifestyle, overcoming overwhelming odds, some self-created, to achieve his goals before he passed away on October 26, 2007. The Internet buzzed with condolences and reminiscent messages from fans all over the globe. Fortunately for the rest of us, his best-selling recipes, cookbooks and DVD’s remain today an interactive part of America’s culinary landscape.
The biography of Chef Tell’s fantastic life, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, by Ronald Joseph Kule, forewords by TV hosts Regis Philbin and Chef Walter Staib, is replete with timeless life-lessons for young and old alike; until now, never gathered, researched and written up. The world can now marvel at how one energetic and prankish German survivor of WW II conquered the worlds of cooking and television entertainment in one foreshortened lifetime.
Copyright 2012 by KuleBooks LLC. All Worldwide Rights Reserved.