"CHEF TELL The Biography of America's Pioneer TV Showman Chef" by Ronald Joseph Kule
CHEF TELL Was Larger than Life!
Bombs raining on Stuttgart and empty years of near-starvation do not kill him; family cannot deter him; ducking the crush of kitchen mentors never dissuades him, and his mother’s suicide has not dashed his creative outlook... when Friedemann Paul Erhardt (a.k.a., “CHEF TELL”) steps up to his mark, faces the camera and uses wit, personality, and imagination alone to win the contest that births a new breed of television star, the TV showman chef.
Within weeks, he appears on-air in 30 cities. 40,000,000 avid fans in 114 cities tune to Evening Magazine or PM Magazine to watch him perform 90-second, cooking segments three times a week. Personal appearances on the Mike Douglas Show; the Dinah Shore Show; the Merv Griffin Show, the Jon Davidson Show follow. Live cooking demonstrations in shopping malls and convention centers add fuel to his German-American prairie fire that sweeps the nation.
No one had ever seen anyone like him: Chef Tell cooks fast, entertains, teaches, and makes America feel confident enough to try cooking his way.
Fan mail blossoms into 14,000 pieces of mail weekly. Excited crowds cheer him at airports, laugh at his quips. In Capitol Center in Baltimore, Maryland, he draws 20,000 people to five cooking shows on one weekend.
PM Magazine gushes over their new “rock-star chef.” In 95 percent of their syndicated outlets, he draws up to 50-percent market share. Detroit’s Kelly & Company conducts a “Chef Tell Look-Alike” contest, and other cities and towns follow suit.
Tell’s ruggedly masculine appeal crosses the gender and generational lines of television viewers. 20 and 30-year-old 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.
Yet, for all the glamour of the Chef Tell persona, Erhardt suffers an inner lack of peace and understanding. Scars from his childhood and his mother’s ignominious suicide drive him through three restaurants, two marriages, sporadic drug use, and clandestine sexual conquests before he finds the two measures of personal happiness that he sought all along: an honest and loyal love from a woman he can trust implicitly... and his own syndicated-television show.
He opens two more restaurants that flourish, but then tragedy strikes: Two untimely falls lead to ill health, lawsuits, marital strife, and the discovery of a diabetic condition. Yet, Tell recovers everything. He kicks medications and manhandles his diabetes with dietary changes and exercise. He loses 100 pounds, rehabilitates his marriage, and begins his sixth cookbook—this one with diabetic recipes. His PBS show airs locally, pulls high ratings, and gets picked up on syndication. Redemption is right around the corner!
Sadly, Friday morning, October 26, 2007, he collapses at home and dies alone. Messages of surprise, shock, and reminiscence flood the internet, including this, which he would have loved, “Chef Tell has died? Stick a fork in him, he’s done.”
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