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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.

Searching for a CHEF TELL Feature Film or TV Documentary

1 Jul

A CHEF TELL Feature Film or TV Documentary Makes Sense

If the Julia Child film made money at the box office (it did), a movie about a contemporary of Child, whose fan base was 8X larger than Child’s, could also do well, n’est pas?

My timely, five-star CHEF TELL biography recounts the fascinating life story of one of America’s culinary icons… at a time when chefs on TV dominate television air time and the viewing public’s interest.

In fact, the first chef to get a star on Hollywood Boulevard happened in June. (Bobby Flay).

Built-In Audience

http://bit.ly/ChefsBiographyAla “Field of Dreams,” if you produce it, people will come; people will most definitely come. Chef Tell’s fan base of 40,000,000 Baby Boomers – a prime audience demographic today – will come and buy at the box office, because this chef was THEIR GUY!!

So… who knows a stalwart, perceptive company or group with the means to make the movie or TV documentary happen?

Book, eBook or AudioBook

Read the hardcover or eBook edition, or listen to the AudioBook. Pick up on Amazon.com. http://amzn.to/1OPagXE

Or PM me for details about 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.

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© 2015 by Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.

How to Make A Celebrity TV Chef

23 Apr

 Excerpted from:

CHEF TELL the Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef

INTRODUCTION

“Rezepte sind nur Rezepte … im Rahmen des Zumutbaren Sie sie ändern können.”

(“Recipes are only prescriptions … within reason you can change them.”)

— Chef Tell

http://www.amazon.com/Chef-Tell-Biography-Americas-Pioneer/dp/1626360049“The recipe for making a star-bound chef/restaurateur goes like this:

First, rise with the morning twilight. Visit the fish, meat and produce markets daily to ensure your menu and daily ingredients are as fresh as possible. Chastise your vendors, if needed, for quality slippage in your last order; yet, make them feel like they are part of your success.

Second, walk several miles daily within the same four walls. Regularly add water, salt, chicken stock and splashes of wine to foods and to yourself. Even though you know it will take a toll on your body, taste everything you cook.

Third, ensure that your kitchen wait staffs arrive on time, prepared and sober. Mix in your waitpersons, bartenders, hostesses and accountants. Keep them honest with your cash register – every day.

Fourth, bring the first, second and third steps to a boil by simmering under low heat in the first few hours of the day. Gradually turn up the heat.

Fifth, repeat the routine 312* days a year, year after year, despite how you feel, as long as you make your patrons happy. (* Six days a week)

Sixth, (optional) add a pinch of television and media notoriety to the slew of photos with celebrities draped around you on your walls. Voila! A celebrity chef is born.

For super-star ranking, add one more requisite: “Culinary genius: the capacity to take consumable ingredients and envision them into remarkable, repurposed foods, flavors and presentations; the capacity to be ‘avant-garde,’ innovative, iconoclastic, visionary and … in the case of Chef Tell … funny.” (Author’s definition)

Remember, superstar chefs never follow rules; they make their own.

Who was Chef Tell?

The night Friedemann Paul Erhardt (later to be known worldwide as “Chef Tell”) was born, bombs dropped and hunger was a constant. When suicide took his mother, and his brother was separated from him, he became a cook’s commis at 13½. For the rest of his life he was forced to work his way out of one predicament into the next, and then out of the next into another, as he blazed a trail on which other chefs would walk.

No chef-by-the-numbers road map existed in his era. Up to his time, master chefs, for the most part, stayed hermetically inside of their kitchens; yet, he ventured outside where very few – from America only James Beard and Julia Child – ever tread…

Erhardt credited his TV superstardom to his mother, Giesela Gerber Erhardt. Her lessons, born of post-war necessity and the lack of pre-schooling in those days, enabled him to reach a nationwide audience in America and then internationally.  He entertained and taught TV viewers how to cook like his mother.

He soldiered his way to the top of his profession, becoming at 27 the youngest master chef in German history. He championed foods and food-product innovations, which today are considered staples in any kitchen, commercial or private.

The Lure of Two Worlds, the Best and the Worst

The enticing sights, sounds, smells and flavors; the excesses of fortune, fame and connection … excited his imagination.  His world of cooking ran white-hot active – full of innovation, opportunity and competitive challenge. A melting pot of fresh ingredients, newly acquired acquaintances and creative culinary challenges, made for a live-action reality show played out on themed stages. Cooking, for Erhardt, was nothing less than, “Showtime, folks!”

outside the Manor House restaurant 2007

He possessed talents to cook and teach on television that were extraordinary. Fires that burned others were mere sparks on the tail of the energy that propelled Erhardt’s comet. He never stopped thinking about new ingredient combinations, improved ways to cook and innovative cookware. Curious as a child, he sought and unearthed better ways to please more palates, which he then shared with America.

Fernand Point, elite Master Chef and the “Godfather of Modern Cuisine” wrote,

“As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain in the end, just a little bit.”

Erhardt pursued “everything” from sunrise to bedtime for a lifetime.

In the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Chef Tell performed on television screens in over 200 cities as 40,000,000 people watched weekly. But, for most, he was only the man behind the apron, the moustache and the smile, who told us, showed us, how to live through our taste buds.

Vulnerable, Like Us

     The man Friedemann Paul Erhardt was as vulnerable as the rest of us, as imperfect as any of us.  His extraordinary lifetime, for better or worse, ran a mercurial course. When he won, he broke off pieces of his good-fortune cookie and shared them with everyone he liked, even though some took advantage of him in return. When he lost, he lost big-time, making mistakes and enemies under the powerful magnifying glass of the media.

Erhardt might have succeeded in any profession but he had a passion to cook for people and to make them laugh.

     “If you are not a generous person you cannot be in this field,” wrote Fernand Point, trainer to a generation of French master chefs, which included Erhardt’s contemporaries.

Possessed with unusual charm and charisma – a joie de vivre that set him apart from the crowd, Erhardt mingled well with queens, kings, politicians, housewives, janitors, lawyers, musicians; men, women and children, celebrated or uncelebrated.

In a sense, Tell Erhardt’s life defines ours. How he conquered the long odds and devastating barriers that he faced helps us to navigate our minefields. With him in mind, we realize anew that even the biggest of our dreams, if nurtured and continued, can and will come true.

If truth were told, in the culinary arts, as in the art of living, excellent sustained achievement is accomplished only by superb execution of details in the face of harsh realities.  Chef Tell’s life is the perfect template for us to examine that notion.

Skimping will not do, where a five-star experience is desired.  We must, therefore, start at the beginning.

Philadelphia Inquirer promotion

Philadelphia Inquirer  promotional photo

© 2012, 2015 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

How to Overcome Barriers Toward Known Goals

11 Mar

A Life Story of the Pursuit of Happiness

How To Overcome Barriers Toward Known Goals

(A Life Story of the Pursuit of Happiness)

Friedemann Paul Erhardt, when asked by Art Moore*, “What will be your TV persona?” before he went on television for the first time, replied, “Just call me ‘Chef Tell,’ and in that moment he created the pioneer TV showman chef, a role to be played out by a long line of chefs joining a cavalcade of American TV personalities that is the most popular genre on the medium in 2015.

In doing so, Chef Tell evoked memories from his early childhood.  Erhardt had grown up in post-war Germany.  He survived days and nights without food, or with meager supplies.  He discovered he liked to help his mother in the kitchen at the early age of six.  A few years later, she told him, “If you become a chef, you will never go hungry.”  At the tender age of 13, he dedicated his lifetime to the profession, hoping to do justice to his mother’s foresight.

A Master Chef at 27

Erhardt was also Germany’s youngest Master-Chef graduate by 1970, the year he won the Culinary Olympics Gold Medal by leading a team of chefs to the Gold Medal.  Two years later, he arrived in America, and the rest, as they say, is history, because Chef Tell became America’s pioneer TV showman chef, a moniker formally bestowed upon him by Philadelphia Inquirer Food Writer Elaine Tait, who also reminded her readers that “Chef Tell’s food always tastes good.”

Tait’s loyal disciples flocked to his Philadelphia-area restaurants whenever he opened one in between his TV-show tapings and media tours and appearances across our land.  Chef Tell, you see, packed as many as 20,000 into public venues in a weekend.  They came to watch him demonstrate how to prepare fresh foods and cook them simply and quickly, as he quipped his way into their hearts and made them laugh and buy his wares.

About that TV persona name?  In childhood school days in Germany, Erhardt had performed the lead role in the play William Tell, and he had done such an admirable turn that his classmates started to call him ‘Tell.”

An Invitation to a Great Read

outside the Manor House restaurant 2007

outside the Manor House restaurant 2007

Although Friedemann Paul Erhardt’s celebrity lifetime was a complicated and tumultuous journey, it makes for an excellent, five-star read for bookies and foodies.  You see, he did accomplish at least two of his most cherished goals with panache.

Tell’s friends miss his cooking and continue to miss him, but now his biography followers wish they, too, could have been there when this culinary icon’s star-comet splashed across the media.

“Tell never forgot that he was the guest … never took over his segments from the host, and that added to his genuineness. While too many people work too hard to ‘be in,’ Tell naturally was ‘on.’
This book gives you so much: a taste of Tell, the person, and his taste for delicious food.”

—Art Moore, Executive in Charge of Production for LIVE! with Kelly & Michael

American culinary icon Chef Tell, aka Friedemann Paul Erhardt, IS America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef!

(*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Art Moore “discovered” Chef Tell.)

© 2015 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

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.)

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