Tag Archives: biography

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.”

 

Giving Back with Chef Tell

29 Sep

When I sat down at the dining table in Chef Tell’s house in 2004, I did not know what his cooking would taste like.  He had insisted upon making me breakfast, even though it was only about six in the morning.

He told me, “I will cook you breakfast; it’s no trouble,” despite my attempts to decline his initial offer. Eventually the futility of telling a master chef that you didn’t want to trouble him with making you breakfast, seeped into my foggy brain, so I shut up and  waited.

“Do you like ‘frittata‘,” he asked. Not waiting for my answer, he had the fresh ingredients selected and cooking in the pan before I could change my mind.

Vaguely guessing that I knew what a frittata was — some kind of a quiche, I thought — I replied, “Sure” and let it be. I would find out soon enough not only if I liked frittata, but if I liked Chef Tell’s rendition of the dish.

Within seconds, the aroma of fresh garden vegetables mixed with eggs and fresh herbs of his choice filled the adjoining kitchen and our nostrils. Within minutes, two plates of the finished dish were placed before both of us.

Tell was that fast in the kitchen.

“Bunny tells me you are on a business trip…” he steered the conversation.  Over the course of about forty-five minutes we talked about his marriage to my sister, business matters, living on the road, food (of course) and selling (what I did) — whatever easily came to mind for a world-class chef and a nationally recognized salesman.

If you had been there watching us, you would have seen two men talking over breakfast, but more went on than met the eye. A rapport and communion of souls emerged over those eggs and vegetables; some kind of spiritual connection that just never departed.

I knew, for my part, that our conversation made me feel like he really cared about me. I had heard that he had a way of making his acquaintances feel important, which was true.  He deflected the spotlight away from him and onto others because, as I discovered later in my research of the man’s life, he was intensely interested in learning as much as he could about people and the things they did.

Chef Tell was more than a sponge for knowledge. He gave back to the communities and circles that he moved in, often delivering new versions of what he had encountered earlier; that was his style. His outside-the-box renditions played more like anecdotes, and he let you take or leave his words as you chose.

What he took in, he shared in the spirit of education and entertainment.  His gift was to teach that way. Combining elements of show business with the tenets of basic cooking made for better television and interesting live food demonstrations at the many road shows where he appeared over several years. They also made for a fascinating biographic story.

The thought occurs to me now that others who met him briefly, perhaps more briefly than my one breakfast with him, might also have walked away with that same feeling of importance.  I guess you could call it more correctly a “confidence.”  Chef Tell instilled confidence. He put a little bounce in your step, which, though you might not have expected it, might come in handy one day in a crisis. Kind of like the Pied Piper, he left bits of information gleaned from harvested relationships he gathered along his pathway through his lifetime on this earth.

Reflecting back on the last 30 months of my life devoted almost solely to research and writing his biography  gives me a new jolt of that confidence he instilled in me. I sense a peaceful satisfaction at having accomplished a new level of exposure for each of our lives, which is making me feel closer to this man.

While Chef Tell’s story will reveal to his legions of Baby Boomer fans more about the man than they ever knew, it will also expose my professional and personal life to the same kind of  public scrutiny that I know he never became accustomed to, yet endured. In ways I have yet to understand, my connection with Chef Tell will draw more deeply from the wells of the different emotions we plumbed together as the book progressed from concept to hard-won words published on paper.

Unfortunately, whatever comes to me from that union might make me miss him even more than I do now. Or at least, miss the opportunities to sit down more than once with Tell and converse with him.

I guess those who read his biography, and I, will just have to make do with what’s left for us in the pantry of our lifetimes before we shove off for new shores.  I guess that also leaves us to fashion our own ingredients into our “Chef’s Specials of the Day,” much the way Chef Tell did: one day at a time.

I wonder what we will make of them, you and I?

Chef Tell hi res cover

© 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.

Master Chef, Chef Tell DVD OFFER!

26 Sep

CHEF TELL is on a lot of peoples’ minds these days. The biography of his life reads like a timeless tale of overcoming one obstacle after another on an improbable journey toward a stardom that was almost beyond his beliefs. Certainly he could not have known that his likeness and words — let alone his cooking tips, lightning speed with sharp kitchen knives, and rapier-like wit — would become household conversation pieces around the country back in 1976, when he stood on a park lawn and auditioned for an experimental, national TV segment, barehanded and script-less.

The master chef was our first “rock-star” chef. As many as 20,000 Baby Boomer would-be home cooks crowded into Baltimore’s convention center on one weekend just to watch their TV hero cook and entertain in five shows.

(An infomercial of the “lost” Chef Tell shows on DVD will be operable on October 1st — be sure to come back to this link then!)

Chef Tell will again be seen on-air, at least in the Philadelphia area, at first on October 1st… and, who knows, the magic that syndicated his name and image around the nation more than once may strike again. Chef Tell may appear on the air around the country, if all goes well.Chef Tell hi res cover

A lot of the buzz has to be the book.  Chef Tell’s brother-in-law, Ronald Joseph Kule, spent a couple of years of his life researching and writing the life-story of the American kitchen icon. He wanted to leave a legacy for one of his sisters, who married Tell and was his most intimate companion for more than 25 years.

The 452-page, hard-cover book includes 70 photos and NEW CHEF TELL RECIPES, besides the DVD offer in print. There is even a “posthumous gift” inside from the master chef himself: a seven-course dinner suggested and designed to please any palate.

You’ll probably laugh a little, cry a little and even sigh a little reading this meticulous book, but you will walk away more certain that your own dreams can come true with a little luck and a lot of persistence after you journey through Tell’s life and times… those heady days when a renaissance of the culinary arts that captured the nation’s eyes and ears through the magic of television began in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, home of one of its most ebullient personalities, Chef Tell.

© 2013 by KuleBooks LLC. All Rights Reserved.

BOOK SIGNING EVENT WITH THE AUTHOR

19 Sep

Come meet and greet the author!

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 2:00-5:00 P.M. at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Clearwater, Florida, author Ronald Joseph Kule will read and sign book copies of his latest book, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, forewords by TV hosts Regis Philbin (“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, “LIVE! with Regis & Kelly”) and Chef Walter Staib (“A Taste of History” PBS TV series).

Chef Tell hi res cover

Chef Tell Erhardt was a national TV phenomenon. 40,000,000 Baby Boomers – more than Julia Child – tuned in to syndicated TV segments of “PM Magazine” and “Evening Magazine” three times weekly to watch him cook and entertain. He appeared regularly on popular TV shows hosted by Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, John Davidson and Phil Donahue, and others.

Chef Tell, a Tampa Bay resident in the late 1990’s, appeared with local host, Jack Harris, on “The Jack Harris & Company Show” and cooked on-stage at the Plant City Strawberry Festival.

Kule’s hard-cover book, published by Skyhorse Publishing (NYC), 452 pages with 70 photos, also contains NEW Chef Tell recipes, is available now in pre-release online and through retail.

In Chef Tell’s name, the author has pledged a portion of royalties from book sales to Iron Chef Cat Cora’s 501(3)(c) non-profit, Chefs for Humanity, “ to help raise awareness and provide resources for emergency and hunger-related causes.”

Order books now through the store or online and have them signed by the author… GREAT GIFT for the Season!

BARNES & NOBLE STORE

23654 U.S. 19  Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 669-1688

43 Days to Another Baby Boomer Milestone

19 Aug

In 43 more days the biography of the late Chef Tell will be available for delivery for the first time.  In pre-release since March, pent-up demand for the much-anticipated book has brought keen interest from Baby Boomers who remember the master chef.  In fact, at the heyday of his TV career, Chef Tell was followed by 40,000,000 Baby Boomers regularly.

It’s easy to figure why he was so loved on camera: his irascible personality, quick-witted quips and spot-on cooking tips were served up faster than the blink of an eye… and they always tasted good!  Just ask TV hosts Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, who tried more dishes made by Chef Tell than any other chef back in the days of their TV show, LIVE! with Regis & Kathie Lee.

Today Baby Boomers ought to spread the word: Chef Tell is back, not only with his life story — even the off-camera stuff, but also with NEW recipes and a DVD offer that includes never-before-aired shows with the Master Chef himself in redux.

The book is available through all the usual channels, including bookstores, online outlets and any place you can buy a book. This one is hard cover, about 264 pages and filled with photos of the man and the people who loved his food.

Makes a great gift idea for those who love biographies, recipes, and stories that make them cry and laugh out loud.

Chef Tell cover photo

New Book releases

31 Jul

Syndicated television was breaking out like a rash all over America in the 1970’s, and Baby Boomers were tuning in to watch segments on TV shows like Evening Magazine and P. M. Magazine.

America in that time got its first look at a beefy, brash, but lovable German-American chef who talked fast, told jokes fast and taught home cooking tips in 90 seconds… how to make food taste good: CHEF TELL, America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef.

No one had ever seen anyone like Tell, because no other chef had blazed the trail ahead of him. Chef Tell was the pioneer.

Within months, 40 million Baby Boomers were among his fan base, imitating his phrases, which were fast becoming as famous as the chef himself, “You do like this, do like that…” “Very nice, very easy…” and his promising sign -off, “I SEE YOU!”

The Boomers never knew “the rest of the story” until now.

On October 1st, Skyhorse Publishing of New York City, will release the new book CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, written by Ronald Joseph Kule, forewords by Emmy-winning, TV hosts, Regis Philbin and Chef Walter Staib (PBS’s TV series A Taste of History).

The new book includes text, photos, new recipes and DVD offers.

“Chef Tell made cooking on TV the new frontier.  He did it with humor, a thick German accent and was rather bossy.  ‘Let me show you how to cook this,’ he would say.  He showed, we learned, we laughed. I am honored to be a part of the book!”Jan Yanehiro, First Co-Host, Evening Magazine, San Francisco.

Synopsis: CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef

27 Jul

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

“Tell started all this television madness about chefs.” – Regis Philbin

If bombs raining on Stuttgart and empty years of near-starvation had not killed him; if family opposing his dream to cook for others could not deter him; if ducking the crush of physical blows, verbal zingers and pots and pans from fiery, kitchen mentors never dissuaded him and his mother’s suicide had not dashed his creative outlook toward living or his spirited bravado… the simple task of winning an outdoor park audition for a cooking slot on a TV show would not deny Friedemann Paul Erhardt his place in culinary history:

Empty-handed, Tell steps up to his mark, faces the camera and uses his wit, personality and imagination alone to win the contest, birthing a whole new breed of television star: the TV showman chef.

“Chef Tell” is America’s pioneer TV showman chef.  Within weeks, he appears on-air in 30 cities. Within months, 40,000,000 avid fans in 114 cities—approximately eight times the viewing audience of his contemporary Julia Child—tune in to Evening Magazine or PM Magazine to watch him perform his 90-second, cooking segments, three times a week.  The day after, water-cooler conversationalists and radio talk-show hosts across America mimic his lines. Personal appearances on the Mike Douglas Show; the Dinah Shore Show; the Merv Griffin Show, the Jon Davidson Show, and live cooking demonstrations in shopping malls and convention centers, add fuel to the German-American prairie fire that is sweeping the nation.

No one has ever seen anyone like him: Chef Tell cooks fast, entertains, teaches and makes America feel confident enough to try cooking his way.  A cavalcade of fan mail, more than 1,000 letters daily, blossoms into 14,000 pieces of mail weekly.  Excited crowds cheer him at airports and laugh at his live-show quips.  In Capitol Center in Baltimore, Maryland, he draws 20,000 people to his five cooking shows on one weekend.

PM Magazine gushes over their new “rock-star chef,” which in 95 percent of their syndicated outlets draws up to 50-percent market share. Detroit’s Kelly & Company conducts a “Chef Tell Look-Alike” contest, and local stations in Greensboro, Dallas and other cities and towns follow suit.

Tell’s appeal—ruggedly masculine yet comfortable in the kitchen—crosses gender and generational lines of television viewers.  Kids think he is the Swedish Chef from Sesame Street.  Twenty and thirty-year-old, female and male home cooks swoon over his engaging style and simple recipes.

“If a housewife, or man, sees me do something in 90 seconds they figure they can make it in five minutes,” Tell says, adding, “Most recipes are over-complicated anyway.  You see recipes in Gourmet Magazine… five of the ingredients are out of the country and three more you can’t find!”

Amazingly, Tell has no clue as to how extensive his influence is: “All of a sudden, everybody knows me, everybody’s my friend,” writes Erhardt to a friend, “I just can’t believe it.”

Yet, for all the glamour and glory of the Chef Tell public persona, Tell Erhardt suffers an inner lack of peace and understanding. The scars of his childhood and his mother’s ignominious suicide drive him through three restaurants—one on Grand Cayman Island, which he promotes on numerous appearances on LIVE! with Regis & Kathy Lee, two marriages, another suicide, sporadic drug use and clandestine sexual conquests before he finds the two measures of personal happiness that he has sought all along: an honest and loyal love from a woman he can trust implicitly and love boundlessly, and the production of his own syndicated television show (after turning down, on the legal advice of another, The Food Network’s historic, first contract offer).

When a new breeze catches the mainsail of his storied career vessel, and he opens two more restaurants that flourish, tragedy strikes.  Two untimely falls lead to ill health, lawsuits, marital strife and a (fortunate) discovery of a diabetic condition.

But Tell recovers everything. He kicks his medications and manhandles his diabetes with dietary changes and exercise. He loses 100 pounds, rehabilitates his marriage and begins research on his sixth cookbook—one was a 230,000-copy best-seller—loaded with diabetic recipes. In the Kitchen with Chef Tell airs on PBS locally, pulls high ratings and gets picked up on syndication.  His public remembers him.  Once again they tune in to watch and be entertained. Requests for recipes jam station mailboxes ten years after he left the mainland for Grand Cayman. Redemption is right around the corner!

But on Friday morning, October 26, 2007, Tell never reaches his cooking class at Chestnut Hill College. Instead, he collapses and dies alone at home, surrounded by family photos, and the tokens and tributes of his many accomplishments. Bunny, Tell’s wife, already informed of his passing, will return from her business trip late that night in a driving rain storm.

The next day messages of surprise, shock and reminiscence flood the internet, including this: “Chef Tell has died? Stick a fork in him, he’s done.”

Chef Tell would have loved that.

(* 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 and Cat Cora…)

Chef Tell in Grand Cayman Islands

Chef Tell in Grand Cayman Islands

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