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How I Wrote the Biography of Chef Tell

29 Jan

I had come to the conclusion that no one else was going to write about the life of Friedemann Paul Erhardt (a.k.a culinary icon CHEF TELL) and that I better do something. After all, he was my brother-in-law. But I was not sure that it was a worthy endeavor — family and friends were in opposite camps about the man: some loved him, others hated him. I just wanted to research the facts and decide for myself.
In December of 2011, my sister Bunny Erhardt, widowed since Chef had passed away in 2007, acceded to my request for access to her friends and acquaintances. She gave me permission to write the first Chef Tell biography.
Embarked on my quest to discover whether this man was worthy of my time or not, I developed a three-part outline loosely fitted to the early, middle and later years of his lifetime.  As the work progressed, data gathered on my desk and on sheets of papers surrounding my desk fitted into the corresponding sections of that outline. Eventually, a timeline list of major events in Tell’s life took shape, which became the backbone to my body of work.
As people’s names popped up I jotted these down, notching a mark each time the same name appeared. The list directed me to individuals who would become subjects of interviews that I hoped would provide personal anecdotes, as well as qualify some of the data, which were adding up to conflicting accounts.

Fact and fiction overlapped more than a few times. These instances were not the proverbial “truth is stranger than fiction” variety; either the subject of my book had lied to the press, or journalists had researched their magazine and newsprint articles poorly or not at all. Sifting actual fact from a widespread panoply of published falsehoods circulated among articles, media interviews, and the chef himself, was the hardest part of the task!

My Virgin Interview

My first in-person interview was in Philadelphia in the administrative office of Chef Georges Perrier, a contemporary of Chef Tell and one of the Top Five, premier French chefs in America. Perrier had agreed to 15 minutes only — not much time to request more than a simple, “Tell me, chef, what was important about Chef Tell?” If any more time passed, I would wing it by following my instincts.

I had never conducted a live interview with anyone before. Working in international marketing sales (to support my writing aspirations) I had met and sold products and services to many top business executives in the financial and healthcare industries for the last 18 years, but this would be my first live interview as an “Author.”

The questions I asked were never a part of my notes, and Perrier was a wonderful interview. He waxed on about his friendship with Tell as I wrote highlights on my pad of paper. My small recorder captured the actual phrases and nuanced details for later playback. I prodded infrequently and only to let Perrier loose.
In the end, the clock had flown by for more than an hour. We hugged, perhaps with a hint of tears in our eyes, because Perrier had not known that Janet Louise Nicoletti, Tell’s fiancee when the two chefs first met, had overdosed and died years earlier. Perrier’s summation of the woman said it all succinctly,
“Mon dieu, I did not know this. I knew this woman; she was simply tall, bright and beautiful.”
Later, downstairs, having shelled out a twenty-dollar bill to retrieve my rented car from the union-run, Philly parking garage, I made a mental note to bring enough change to feed the street parking meters at future interview meetings. That evening I rewarded myself with an authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwich, for making it through what I thought would be the worst of my gauntlet of interviews for this book.
Now I was proud that I had struck out on this course. Perrier, a man at the top of his profession — the same one as Chef Tell’s — had confided in me two significant morsels:
Chef Tell was a giant of a man. I miss him. I loved him,” and “You know, maybe I’ll have you write my biography, because I like you. But, of course, it would be a very naughty book!”
(Perrier’s remark, which made us both laugh, further broke the ice between us and opened a more intimate repartee from that point forward, gave me reason to reply,
“Georges, perhaps you should wait until you read my book on Tell; you may not think I can write a book well.”)

Each subsequent interview, each fork in the road, each turn, and hill and valley of the path I was on led to new information about whether I would love or hate the man who was Chef Tell as the work moved inexorably toward its own completion.

http://bit.ly/ChefsBiographyThe details, sprinkled among them never-before-released photos and Chef Tell recipes, and my conclusions, are recorded in CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, the 452-page book published by Skyhorse Publishing (NYC) and available online and in bookstores in hardback, eBook and AudioBook formats. Forewords by Emmy-winning TV hosts Regis Philbin and Chef Walter Staib.
Author-inscribed copies are available from the author’s website at http://RonKuleBooks.com.
*****
Ronald Joseph Kule is an internationally published author/biographer who writes in several genres. Readers consider his works five-star quality. Kule also writes on commission for corporate and private clients. Contact the author for details by emailing to KuleBooksLLC@gmail.com.

What Is a White Coat Chef? (Why Do Master Chefs Wear White Coats?)

20 Dec

EVER WONDER WHY CHEFS WEAR WHITE COATS?

William_Orpen_Le_Chef_de_l'Hôtel_Chatham,_Paris“Chefs’ clothing remains a standard in the food industry. The tradition of wearing this type of clothing dates back to the mid-19th century.

Marie-Antoine Careme, a popular French chef, is credited with developing the current chef’s uniform. The toques (tall white hats) were already used, but he sought a uniform to honor the chef. White was chosen for the chef’s coat to signify cleanliness.

“Later, the French master chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, brought the traditional chef’s coat to London, managing the restaurants at the Savoy Hotel and then at the Carlton Hotel.

“Chefs wear cooking aprons for several reasons; one is that they deal with a variety of food ingredients for many hours each day and have to have a means of keeping their clothing free from dirt, stains and odors.” (excerpted from Wikipedia re: chefs’ uniforms)

Friedemann Paul Erhardt — CHEF TELL — was a Master Chef from Germany, who became America’s pioneer TV showman chef in the 1970’s. His celebrity spanned decades. His story is captured in the biography available online and in bookstores worldwide, 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. Published by Skyhorse Publishing (NYC). (Recipes included.)

Have You Read the CHEF TELL Biography?

22 Oct

click photo for author-signed copiesIf you have read this book and liked it, and wish to help sell more copies for the author, please click on the link and go to the Reviews area on the page and post a comment and how many stars the work deserves.

Thank you.

http://www.amazon.com/Chef-Tell-Biography-Americas-Pioneer/product-reviews/1626360049

I Wrote the Biography of A Dead Chef

27 Jun

Why I Wrote My Book

I wrote the biography of a dead chef. I had good reason to sit down and write a biography of a dead chef, because he had been my brother-in-law. His real name was Friedemann Paul Erhardt, but his television persona — how people knew him on TV and at live cooking demonstrations around the country — was CHEF TELL.

Confession & Redemption

230,000 copies sold

1982 Best-seller Cookbook

The plain truth is that the rest of my family knew Chef Tell when he was alive much more than I. At the time of his greatest involvement with our family, I was travelling extensively across North America and I never attended many family functions that he attended. One thing I did know, though, was that part of our family loved him, the others hated him.

Chef Tell caused that reaction wherever he went. He was not meek, quiet or timid about what was on his mind. He was tall (6′ 3″), hefty (250 pounds), and he had a thick German accent. In other words, he was a commanding figure with a no-nonsense presence and a precise manner of living his life among the rest of us. You had to either love or hate him; you could not ignore him.

Tell also had a rapier wit and loved to make people laugh, which he could do easily. He loved to teach people to cook, which was his way of giving back. If you let him get inside of you, or you got inside of him, you would become fast friends.

The truth about Chef Tell was that he had a heart of gold.

Christmas party with staff at the Manor House

Christmas party with staff at the Manor House

The Fastest in the Kitchen

And he was competent in the kitchen. He was intelligent and fast with his (custom) knives and food preparation. Other chefs stepped well away when time was short, and meat had to be carved up and prepared for diners expecting nothing less than the best, who knew that Chef Tell was in the house.

Tell once beat all other timed records on the LIVE! with Regis & KathyLee show for prepping five courses in under five minutes!  He had boasted that he was “the fastest chef with knives in the West” on an earlier appearance, and Regis challenged him to prove it. Chef Tell won the contest. No one has since broken his record over more than 10 years.

But… back to why I wrote my book

I sat down and took about two years out of my life to risk writing a biography of a man I hardly knew well, because he made people feel like they were important. In a few words: he was a larger-than-life personality who left behind a fan base of 40 million Baby Boomers; legacy that all TV chefs today emulate; and a vacuum for those who had worked with him in the business of cooking.

Tell’s lot was to blaze the trail for celebrity chefs on TV — he was the pioneer. He left us too soon. With the rest of us wondering if we loved or hated him, and people wondering what had become of him, I had to write the biography so that his place in culinary history would not be forgotten.

“Chef Tell started all this television madness about chefs.” — Regis Philbin, Emmy-winning TV host

I simply had to find out for myself if I loved this guy or hated him. The result of my quest to answer that obsession is my book. Readers have been pleased to spend their time with it. To date, all reviews have been five-star.

Here are two:

chris gibson book“This book is excellent and well-written,”Chris Gibson, author of Acne Free in 3 Days ~ How I Cured My Acne Condition in 3 Days ~ No Prescriptions… No Over-the-Counters… 100% Natural 

walter staib“It’s a well-written book. The author did such a job. It reads extremely well. You pick up the book and you don’t want to put it down. There’s good information here, and it shows people at the end of the day that life is full of surprises.”

― Chef Walter Staib, Emmy-winning TV show host of A Taste of History on PBS, and SuperFoods with Chef Walter Staib; operator of City Tavern in Philadelphia.

Perhaps, you will want to read my book, too. Author-signed copies of CHEF TELL, The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef are available on my website.  The hard-copy edition is 452 pages, 70 photos, with 7 new recipes. This is also available in all bookstores on their shelves or by request, and on their web sites in all the usual locations. The Audiobook and eBook editions are available through Amazon.com online.

(PLEASE NOTE: A portion of all author royalties go to CHEFS FOR HUMANITY, a 501 (3)(c) non-profit organization founded by Iron Chef Cat Cora, in Chef Tell’s name. Chef Tell always gave back and paid forward what he was given.)

click to buy an author-signed copy

© 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

How to be a Proud Master Chef and Cook for Celebrities

31 May

     “In short order, the number of Tell’s celebrity friends and acquaintances expanded.  Among them was Yul Brynner, the actor born in Russia and educated in China, who performed The King and I more than 4,200 times.  He was a demanding guest with a penchant for one particular type of Washington State apple, which Tell took the trouble to find and keep on hand for him.  Princess Margaret, the unpretentious Royal—her only peccadillo was fresh mint in her red wine—who found Tell’s storytelling as charming as his cooking, said, ‘Whatever you would like to cook for me would be well-suited to me, Chef.’

” Tell’s days at the Barclay were numbered, however.  The relationship between Tell and the General Manager of the hotel broke down over minor disagreements, which lead to one incident that gave management reason to part ways with Tell.

“’I walk through the dining room in my chef’s uniform, and this is the greatest disgrace that ever happened in the history of the Barclay.’

“Tell was particularly proud of his uniform, ‘If I walk around like this, people think I’m a doctor because I’m dressed all on white, and they see a thermometer sticking out of my short pocket. It’s a meat thermometer.  And I go everywhere in my uniform.  If people don’t like it: tough.  Somebody calls me to a party, wants me to come over for an hour, I go dressed like this.  I drive to work like this. I move around like this.  I shop like this.  I am a chef, this is my uniform—this is a part of me.'”

(excerpted from Chapter 20 of “CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef,” forewords by TV hosts Regils Philbin and Chef Walter Staib. [Skyhorse Publishing, NYC])

BUY THE BOOK!

author at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Signing Event

CHEF TELL Lifetime Discussed on PCN-TV

5 May

pcn-tvLate in April 2014, the author of the biography, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, Ronald Joseph Kule, visited the Philadelphia bureau of PCN-TV (Pennsylvania Cable Network-TV) to tape a show segment of PA BOOKS, at the request of network President and CEO, Brian Lockman.

Another guest participated: Chef Walter Staib. Staib, proprietor of Philadelphia’s iconic City Tavern, who wrote one of two forewords to the biography — the other is by TV host Regis Philbin — was a friend of (the late) Chef Tell (Friedemann Paul Erhardt).

The author had asked Chef Staib to come to the taping to add historical perspective to the commentary, and he did not disappoint, also bringing anecdotes and fresh strudel for the whole crew. (Staib is the host of the Emmy-winning TV series, A Taste of History.)tj-walter261x362

During the hour-long taping, host Lockman interviewed Kule about his book, why he wrote it, and what it was like to research and write about such a renowned chef. Turns out that Kule was the late chef’s brother-in-law. He shared an anecdote about a breakfast that inspired him to write the book, as well as several other facts about the chef, including some of his famous quips.

40 MILLION BABY BOOMERS

Baby Boomer Philadelphians, a part of Tell’s fan base of 40,000,000 avid viewers, will remember watching Chef Tell on TV-show segments of Dialing for Dollars and Evening Magazine, and his guest chef appearances on the Mike Douglas Show, The Dinah Shore Show, the John Davidson Show and the Merv Griffin Show, among others. He was the chef who boasted he was the “fastest chef with knives in the East and the West” — a status he proved on one of his many appearances on LIVE! with Regis & Kathie Lee, by handily breaking the record for preparing and cooking a five-course meal… in under five minutes!

Chef Tell Manor HouseTell’s signature sign-off, “I SEE YOU!” was a household phrase for the three decades he appeared on television and in numerous live cooking demonstration shows in venues across America.

The book, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, published by New York City’s Skyhorse Publishing, came out in October 2013, in hard cover, audiobook and eBook formats. Books are available through Barnes & Noble Booksellers, other store retailers, and online. Kule has garnered all five-star reviews to date.

The place to order author-signed, hard-cover editions for gifting is the author’s website. Included in the book are new Chef Tell recipes, as well as a DVD offer for Chef Tell cooking shows.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers Signing Event

Barnes & Noble Booksellers Signing Event – Author & wife.

PCN-TV’s PA BOOKS will air the one-hour show about the Chef Tell biography on Sunday, June 15, at 9:00 p.m.

YOUR COMMENTS AND REPLIES ARE WELCOME HERE (BELOW).

© 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule and KuleBooks LLC. All Rights Reserved.

CHEF TELL America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, favorite of Baby Boomers

19 Mar

“Before Julia… before Wolfgang, Paul, Emeril, Jacques, Bobby, Mario, Gordon, Rachel, Jamie, Martin, James, Charlie, Thomas, Anthony, Alex and Cat* there was… Chef Tell!

‘Tell started all this television madness about chefs.’ – Regis Philbin

(* Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pepin, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsey, Rachel Ray, Jamie Oliver, Martin Yan, James Scott, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Sara Moulton, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Iron Chef Cat Cora)

“FIVE STARS. FASCINATING, HARD TO PUT DOWN”
“It reads like a real life novel. I was surprised by the excellent writing ability of the author. Not only is it a chronological account of the life of one of the world’s greatest chefs and pioneer TV chef showman, it’s a series of word pictures that ties together the complexities of each aspect of Chef Tell’s life and career. It’s a “Must Read” for all Foodies especially aspiring TV cook or chef.”  — Chef Charles Knight

 

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