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Finding the Perfect Camera-ready TV Chef

8 Nov

Watching Chef Tell in action is both a learning and a laughing experience. Even before he achieved his “youngest master chef in Germany” status in 1970 he was teaching students in Heidelberg classes. Throughout his entire professional life Tell gave back by teaching cooking classes wherever he worked, including in America. He was generous that way with his time, but, more than that, he was giving of his knowledge and expertise not only to students hoping to one day become chefs, but also to home cooks who watched him through the magic of syndicated television when that medium was a start-up industry.

From the recently released Chef Tell biography:

“Channel 6’s Dialing for Dollars Producer Art Moore took notice and offered Tell an opportunity to cook on-air, if Marriott would provide the food. Marriott was receptive, and Tell’s first 90-second TV cooking demo aired. The station received a flood of phone calls. Half the viewers liked the novelty of his having to cook in 90 seconds or less and they liked Tell; the other half complained about his thick German accent and the speed at which he talked.

“When 800 letters from the audience deluged the station after airing the one test segment, Moore decided to air another segment, albeit after Tell and he had worked together to improve his speed of speech delivery and, of course, do what they could about the accent.

“According to Moore, ‘We created the show and went looking for a chef to do a cooking segment. Fortunately, after the initial trial, we found we had a chef on our hands, who understood the importance and potential of television. Tell “got it” right away. Even though we prodded him about his accent and joked with him, he rolled with our advice, which helped create his banter on-air with the audiences.’

“Moore also commented upon Tell’s personality, ‘He had a charming, ebullient personality. He was smart, and we saw that what he did worked.'” (end excerpt.)

Chef Tell — Friedemann Paul Erhardt off-air — also had a gift for delivering jokes and one-liners that made viewers laugh and his producers and their advertisers happy with the ratings they recorded.  Within a few months of his first airing, Tell had become a sought-after celebrity chef with a following of tens of millions of Baby Boomers who tuned in and were entertained with phrases like, “You do like this, you do like that” (as he prepared some meat dishes) and “Very easy, very nice” (as he plated and garnished his finished products). And, of course, people all over America mimicked his sign-off phrase, “I SEE YOU!”

At times, he would add in a little self-deprecating humor, “Why does the new German navy have glass-bottom boats? Because they can see the old German navy that way.” And without waiting for the audience to laugh, or finish laughing, he would move on to the next preparation step or the next dish.

All in 90 seconds, which eventually expanded to three to five-minute sketches as fast as his audience numbers grew. In some markets his segments brought in a 50 percent market share for the local stations. In fact, Chef Tell was a phenomenon that had not been seen in television before him: the pioneer TV showman chef.

Owning a series of Chef Tell DVD’s brings the master chef into your home all over again. These are available now. The impetus for the offer is the recently released book, CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef, written by author Ronald Joseph Kule, who was Chef Tell’s brother-in-law. The hard-cover book is 452 pages and contains 70 photos and NEW, never-published recipes from the master chef; also available in eBook and Audiobook formats online and in stores.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: If you’ve come this far in this blog post, please comment on the post and anything else you wish to share about Chef Tell, or chefs and cooking in general.  Do you have an anecdote from knowing Chef Tell? Please share with other readers here.

© 2013 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

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

Master Chef Reveals a Big Mistake!

13 May

Back when Friedemann Paul Erhardt was a lowly apprentice in the German trade apprenticeship program, he was merely 13 1/2 years of age and naive. The morning that his instructor told him to “boil a pot of potatoes,” he turned up the heat on a pot full of potatoes, and within minutes the kitchen filled with smoke!  The executive chef in charge got into the hapless boy’s face in a hurry, yelling even as his boot hit the lad’s behind — “hitting me where it hurts,” as Erhardt later put it.

No one had told him to put water in the pot with the potatoes!

Erhardt survived his apprenticeship failures, however, and graduated as the youngest Master Chef in German history to his time in 1970. He went on to captain the West German team to a gold Medal win in that year’s Cooking Olympics and also won a personal Gold Medal in another competition that year. He was named “German Chef of the Year.”

But the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey might have described it, is that Friedemann Paul Erhardt emigrated to America two years later and became Chef Tell, America’s pioneer television showman chef.  His 40 million-strong, Baby Boomer, TV fan base reveled in his recipes, cooking instructions and demonstrations and the jovial personality that, at times, made for non-stop jokes and entertaining TV.

Order your copies now — for yourself and as a great gift — in pre-release online and at retailers everywhere. Release date is set for October 1, 2013… in time for the Holidays.

What People Are Saying About Chef Tell’s Biography

29 Apr

Chef Tell Biography Reviews:
“WOW is a great start! This is a wonderful account of one man’s voyage and how in so many ways every reader will connect with something. It is engaging;  a testament of the human spirit.”– Tracy Repchuk, Best Selling Author, International Speaker

“I am honored to be a part of the book!”— Jan Yanehiro, First Co-Host, Evening Magazine, San Francisco.

“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
“Chef Tell was a man of great humor and incredible skills in the kitchen.  The author Ronald Joseph Kule did an impeccable job bringing to life Chef’s humor and passion for food.” — Iron Chef Cat Cora
“Chef Tell can be felt in the pulse that beats from within the pages. This work is going to stir more than just a few kitchen pots. I stood back in amazement as the author took a complex, infuriating, yet ultimately appealing character, and produced one superbly crafted work of literature.” — J. David Miller, Award-winning Author/Sports Journalist

Skyhorse Publishing has set the release date for 1 October, 2013 and the book is available now in pre-release online and at usual retailer outlets.

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