Celebrity Chef offers tips on cooking up a long life

Tell Erhardt’s career as a world class chef was inspired by his experiences as a boy during World War II in Germany – a time when food was rationed and there was little to eat.

“My mom said to become a cook, and I would never be hungry,” Erhardt said in a phone interview from Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, where he cooks for restauranteurs at Chef Tell’s Manor House on the Delaware. “It’s the only time I listened to my mother.”

Ironically, it was his own super-rich, high fat creations that put his health in danger about five years ago, when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Chef Tell will be in Tacoma on Thursday, April 18, for a low fat cooking demonstration as part of Franciscan Health’s “Create a Healthy New You” series. Chef Tell’s presentation, “Cook Up a Long Life,” is set for 7 p.m. at the Tacoma Sheraton, 1320 Broadway Plaza.

“It’s so easy,” he said of preparing healthy, but still tasty meals. “You only miss the salt in the first bite. The same thing with sugar.”

Chef Tell himself has made the transition to more healthy meals, in the process trimming the fat from his recipes, managing to control his diabetes, lower his cholesterol by 100 points and lose 60 pounds.

“I decided to do something about it,” he said of his improved eating habits and health turn-around after learning he had diabetes.

Another key to healthier living, he said, is not to eliminate completely all the unhealthy foods you like to eat, but to limit the amount of such foods you eat. Chef Tell said he still enjoys eating red meat and drinking alcoholic beverages, just not in such large quantities.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Erhardt left school at 14 to apprentice at a local restaurant. By age 27, he had received a gold medal at the Cooking Olympics and was named “Chef of the Year.” In 1970, he earned his Master’s degree in cooking from the University of Heidelberg, and then progressed through the ranks of some of Europe’s finest restaurants and hotels.

In 1974, he started a new career in the U.S. at Philadelphia’s Marriot Hotel and soon after began making regular appearances on Philadelphia’s nationally syndicated “Evening/PM Magazine.”

His first restaurant, “International Cuisine” in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill District, became a four-time winner of the prestigious Cordon Bleu Award.

Over the year’s, Chef Tell has made numerous television appearances, and was the inspiration for the Swedish Chef character on “The Muppet Show.” He was recently named one of the Top Ten Celebrity Chefs in the world by the Arts & Entertainment Network. He also cooks for television audiences on PBS’s “In the Kitchen with Chef Tell,” as well as diners at Chef Tell’s Grand Old House in the Grand Cayman Islands.

Doors for Chef Tell’s Tacoma presentation will open at 6:30 p.m. for exhibits and refreshments. Tickets cost $12. Call 888/825-3227 for reservations.