Tag Archives: A Taste of History

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.

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.

celebrity chefs remember Chef Tell

15 Nov

“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.”

 

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