Archive | Master Chef RSS feed for this section

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.

How a Master Chef Biography Teaches Us Life Lessons

20 Oct

CHEF TELL

A biography is more than a summary of one person’s lifetime; it is a platform for life lessons that are timeless. Friedemann Paul Erhardt’s lifetime rose out of the dying embers of World War II, crossed the skies above two continents, and burned out too soon. The trajectory of this star-crossed ball of fire came with the TV persona “Chef Tell.”

Erhardt’s arc began when a young boy listened to his mother’s advice, “If you become a chef, you will never go hungry.” Later, he sought to cook for the world to share his personal knowledge and love for food. When Erhardt won an audition for a new show concept in the (then) infant days of syndicated television in the early 1970’s, a new category of chefs was born: the “TV Showman Chef.” (A title bestowed by Philadelphia Inquirer food editor and writer, Elain Tait.)

Within weeks, while Julia Child appeared on regional TV, Chef Tell picked up more than 40,000,000 adoring foodie fans across the nation, also performing live cooking demonstrations in public venues to as many as 20,000 people on a weekend.

Suddenly, Chef Tell was famous, overworked and getting rich. It would not be too much to say that Erhardt as Chef Tell was, in fact, America’s first “Rock-Star” chef.

FRESH INGREDIENTS, FRESH TASTE

Chef Tell’s characteristic signature for all of his cooking was twofold:

  1. He only used the freshest possible ingredients, and
  2. his food always tasted good.

As a matter of principle, Erhardt rose before dawn every day to oversee personally the purchase of foods that would be prepared and cooked in his restaurants or on a TV show set. The freshness and quality of his food choices, as well as his kitchen skills and made-for-television, ebullient personality, brought him more appearances than any other chef on the hottest morning TV show in the nation, LIVE! with Regis & Kathie Lee (later known as LIVE! with Regis & Kelly). When Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa tried Tell’s freshly prepared food on-air and commented favorably, they were ad-libbing their glowing remarks, not reading prepared scripts. (Most other chefs had their foods prepared for them, instead of selecting fresh ingredients and preparing the foods themselves. The crews dismissed eating their foods but clamored for Chef Tell’s!)

LIFE LESSONS

click photo for author-signed copiesWhile the previous paragraph teases us with merely a taste of Chef Tell’s thrill-ride, celebrity life, the off-camera portions are more satisfying and easily ingested by reading the biography, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef (Forewords by Emmy-winner TV hosts, Regis Philbin and Chef Walter Staib; published by Skyhorse Publishing. 452 pages: hardcover, eBook and AudioBook.)

Readers can discover:

  • how he survived the detritus of post-war living;
  • the discovery of his mother’s lifeless body when he was to begin a three-year, mandatory cooking apprenticeship;
  • the verbal abuses and kitchen projectiles thrown at him as he developed into Germany’s youngest master chef;
  • his life inside an American corporate culinary culture that banished chefs to the confines of their kitchens and discouraged innovation; and
  • the rigors of executive cheffing three restaurants while taping TV shows, making live appearances on TV talk shows and traveling across the country to regale crowds of adoring fans looking for more of his humor and cooking wisdom.

And all of that was just his on-air, on-camera life!

Private Goals

The personal side of Erhardt’s lifetime fascinates readers just as much. There they find the marital bliss and destruction that he faced more than once, and how he emerged mostly unscathed from self-created conflagrations with single women. Through it all, garnering lifelong friendships and overcoming hardships that he had to learn how to master and out-live, Erhardt searched for a long-lasting relationship with one soulmate. And he ended up winning each and every dream he pursued, giving us lessons that we can all use in our quests for happiness.

Chef Tell entertained his fans and loved his celebrity life, but Friedemann Paul Erhardt was just as happy to be someone that his cats and dogs, and closest friends, could always count on to be there for them.

Despite the adversities he had to overcome, Erhardt left us with an important legacy: Persistence toward, and achievement of, desired goals is not only possible, but also a must for surviving a lifetime worth living.

The biography written by Ronald Joseph Kule is available everywhere online, and through the author’s website.

© 2015 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights 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.

Facebook page about Chef Tell

29 Dec

https://www.facebook.com/ChefTellBooks

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.)

%d bloggers like this: