A Memoir of A Master Chef

When I sat down at the dining table in Chef Tell’s house in 2004, I never knew what his food was going to taste like.  He had insisted upon making me breakfast, even though it was only about six in the morning.  I acquiesced at his persistent “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 did not want him to trouble him with making you breakfast seeped into my foggy brain, so I shut up and sat down.

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

Only 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.

Chef 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 business, road trips, food and sales — 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 was going on than met the eye. A rapport and communion of souls emerged over those eggs and vegetables; some kind of spiritual connection that would never depart.

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 and found out it 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 what they did.

More than a sponge for knowledge, Tell gave back to the communities and circles that he moved in. He often delivered new versions of what he had encountered earlier. His outside-the-box renditions… he let you take or leave as you chose.  What he took in, he also 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 his many road-show appearances for 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 a “confidence.”  Chef Tell instilled confidence. He put a little bounce in your step that, though you might not have expected it, could come in handy one day in a crisis. Kind of like the Pied Piper, the bits of information he gleaned as he harvested relationships along his pathway on this earth, were his breadcrumbs leading you to a new place.

Reflecting back on the last 30 months of my life, which I devoted almost solely to researching 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 our lives. While his 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 public scrutiny that I know he never became accustomed to, yet endured. In a way, In ways I have yet to understand, my connection with Chef Tell will draw more deeply from the wells of different emotions, which we plumbed together in the making of his book.

Unfortunately, whatever comes from that undertaking might also make me miss him even more than I do now. Or at least, miss the opportunities to sit down and converse with him again.Chef Tell Hi-rez cover

I guess those who read his biography, and I, will just have to make do with what’s left in our pantries in the rest of our lifetimes before we shove off for new shores.  I guess that also leaves us with ingredients we must fashion into our own “Chef’s Special of the Day” the way that Chef Tell did. 

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

 

 

 

 

© 2013 by Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.

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Famed University of South Carolina Football Coach Paul Dietzel Passes

Sadly, we report that the “Dietzel-powered Engine” has gone silent today. Famed head football coach and Athletic Director Paul Dietzel passed away today. Were it not for his bright idea to bring in Yankee star Bobby Richardson to helm the University of South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team as head coach, making him an offer that could not be refused, the fortunes of Gamecocks baseball might have continued on its mediocre path. Once Richardson became the university’s first full-time head baseball coach, the destiny of the program was placed on a path that led directly to back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2011.

Our heartfelt condolences go to Paul Dietzel’s surviving family members.

Coach Dietzel graciously shared with us arguably the most pivotal decision and moment in the Gamecocks’ baseball history. — Co-authors J. David Miller and Ron Kule, Pressure Makes Diamonds A Timeless Tale of America’s Greatest Pastime.

 

© 2013 by J. David Miller and Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.

 

Holiday Season Life Events of a Master Chef

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but seeing my hard-cover book for the first time was a breathtaking experience that made me feel very tired.

You see, I had worked on research and writing the book for a solid 30 months.  The work is a non-fiction biography of a chef who is no longer living; someone who really did make a difference in millions of lives and at least two industries.  I had worked at least 8-10 hours daily, non-stop, for all those months.  To see the actual book with its colorful dust jacket and more-than-an-inch thickness — the 452-paged size that I had envisioned in my mind’s eye — and feel its heft… I was at a loss for words.

I immediately wanted to go and sleep like Rip van Winkle.  One journey had ended, another just begun.

I was not ready to take first steps on the new path of marketing the book. I’m still not sure I’m ready for that now, although only a few days have passed that I have my books.

Trust me, though, the courage and the chutzpah will come. I will face the nation squarely, if they will have me.  After all, I’ve carved out an out: I can tell them the book is all about my subject, the chef, not me.  I am the messenger, and people never shoot the messenger, right?

Okay, so I left out some of the juiciest parts of my first baby steps to date. One was to present the book to two of my closest cohorts in business.  The first bought my copy outright from me.  Wouldn’t take no for an answer when I protested. I hadn’t really expected that.  The second went to a favorite couple who, I know, do a lot for Mankind in their selfless work. They received a copy gratis. (I didn’t have the heart to charge them money.  Secretly, I was more honored and respectful just to let them see how I might have produced something which might make their workload a bit easier.)

Then, too, there is a different “hat” involved here.  This my book, not some item to flog here and there.  I am “The Auteur” here. I must uphold at least a sense of dignity, if only in homage to those who’ve gone before me down the ages.  At least, that’s what I told myself.

Which brings me to the other feeling that awakened when that box that carried my books flew open: humility.  In my heart of hearts, this book was a collaboration between the late chef and myself.  There is no other way to put that; the experience of writing a book about another’s life and doing justice to it, strikes me as a daunting task more today than when I began this work.  Yet, I love it.  I’m really hooked on biography. I’m even considering the removal of the title of “author” from my business cards, adding in its place “Biographer.”

And, yes, it really is an awesome task, but I love it.  Two others are on the boards for finishing now.  This time, for people still living in the flesh.

For now, though, the others will have to get in line. You see, a certain chef in the “wings” wants to see his story passed into the light of day and perused and devoured by old and new fans alike. My errand now is the second quest — one that he achieved in his lifetime — of making both the work and me bona fide “best-sellers.”

Oh… the name of the book you ask? CHEF TELL The Biography of America’s Pioneer TV Showman Chef. (Available now in pre-release in any bookstore. Release date is October 1, 2013. Good Holiday Season gift.)

Chef Tell Hi-rez cover

Labor Day

Well, I’ll be laboring this Labor Day on my taxes again.  The ultimate deadline looms ahead in two weeks, and there is no more wiggle room to play.

I can’t help but think that a better way for the government to collect any taxes would be a sales tax. Pay as we go; pay as we purchase. Simple. Efficient. Everybody pays who participates in our economy.

Every wage-earner keeps 100 percent of their earned wages, too.  We choose to save or spend.  What’s right about that?

First, if we save more, we are more solvent, each of us.  Likely, we save in banks. Banks with more money to lend — especially community banks — lend to local businesses who grow their businesses.  And if that “rainy day” comes, we have reserves to weather the storm.

If we save more, we are voting with our dollars: Congress has to do a good job, or we will save our money, spend less, and slow down the economy as a result. We could “vote” with our spending/saving habits.  Congress would have no choice but to pay attention and listen to the voice of the people… right in the pocketbook of the government.

If we had more money, we would need less government assistance, easing the tax burden all around.  Smaller, more efficient government would be a boon for all of us.  And maybe even require less time in Washington for Congress, so that they could also live and work at jobs like the rest of us, at least part-time.  That would make them more understanding and responsive to the actual needs of their local people, and to the nation collectively.

If we spend more, we are saying Congress is on the right track. We rev up the economy with our purchases, which also fill up the government coffers with tax revenue.  Good times would equal more for all entities.  And, if government salted away a portion of the revenue for repaying the national debt and/or a “rainy day,” the whole country could relax more.

The question of who collects the sales tax is simple: turn the I.R.S. into a sales-tax collection agency.  So simple, so non-intrusive, less costly.

Well, that’s it for me on this Labor Day. The taxes I do have to account for stare at me.  I better get cracking.