Friedman Paul Erhardt, 63; Television's 'Chef Tell'

Associated Press
Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friedman Paul Erhardt, 63, the German-born cook known as "Chef Tell" who was one of America's pioneering television chefs, died of a heart ailment Oct. 26 at his home in Upper Black Eddy, in Bucks County, Pa.

The mustachioed Mr. Erhardt was a fixture on the Philadelphia dining scene in the 1970s and 1980s when he owned restaurants in Chestnut Hill, Wayne, Ottsville and Upper Black Eddy. He built a reputation as a culinary educator, cookbook author and spokesman for major cookware and food product lines.

Mr. Erhardt's jolly personality, thick German accent and wit helped pave the way to television, where he became a fixture, with appearances on local TV and national shows such as "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" and comedy sketches on "Saturday Night Live." He said, perhaps jokingly, that he was the inspiration for the Swedish chef on "The Muppet Show."

Born in Stuttgart, the son of a newspaper owner, Mr. Erhardt received the nickname "Tell" after playing William Tell in a school play. He trained in restaurants and hotels throughout Europe.

He made his first appearance on a local Philadelphia TV show, "Dialing for Dollars," in 1974. That was followed by a 90-second cooking spot on a nationally syndicated show, which blossomed into appearances on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," specials for QVC and a PBS program, "In the Kitchen With Chef Tell."

"He was the first of the great showman chefs," former Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Elaine Tait said. "Up until his era, chefs stayed in the kitchen."

For the past 2 1/2 years, Mr. Erhardt taught at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia.

A diabetic, Mr. Erhardt had just completed a book about cooking for diabetics based on the experience of working himself off insulin by changing his recipes.

Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Bunny Erhardt, a son and a grandson.

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