In this year of political campaigning and discourse one wonders if there is anywhere to hide out from all the hoopla of the Presidential election cycle. Is there a neutral zone away from left-leaning and right-leaning pundits?
The answer is that there is: the commercial kitchen. The milieu of the kitchen is about preparing food and presentation of plates before hungry, expectant customers. In the kitchen there is no taking sides on either side of the aisle like in Congress. There is only taking sides on either side of the line — behind the line you’re in the kitchen, ahead of it you’re part of the front room — the line, of course, being the counter where prepared plates are picked up by wait-staff members for delivery to diners.
When Chef Tell Erhardt stepped past the line and entered the front room to make conversations with his fans at their tables he wore the Executive Chef hat, which encompassed all of the responsibilities of running a proper restaurant establishment, including ensuring that the end-consumer of his products and services were satisfied and happy with their dining experiences.
He talked with them and drank with them, told them jokes and entertained, but he never took sides in political debates or repartee. Chef Tell was a representative of “The Neutral Zone.” His Neutral Zone was apolitical. He served Democrats and Republicans equally — and would serve Tea Party, Libertarians and Independent adherents today, if he were still with us, because food, although here and there bandied about like a political football, is apolitical.
Chef Tell delivered more than what was expected of him by reason of his unique and irrepressible personality and skills in the kitchen and on television where he was a “Rock-star Chef.” Beyond the tube, people sought his company in his famed restaurants. He was able to trade communications with kings, queens, politicians, white- and blue-collar wage-earners and children with equal aplomb. For that, he was rewarded with a rich and famous lifestyle, despite many 20-hour workdays, six days a week for several decades.
Chef Tell’s lifetime — told in the forthcoming biography — of struggles and triumphs fascinates and provokes thought. It makes one believe there is no goal one cannot attain.
Soon the world will know the details and will be able to applaud Chef Tell’s many contributions to the worlds of entertainment and food. His place as the pioneer of that popular breed of chefs known today as the “TV Showman Chef” — of which he was the first — will be assured and acknowledged as an important part of the legacy of the great chefs of the Neutral Zone, that safe harbor from the din of political opinion.
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