This blog will be a special tribute to one of the few remaining old school chefs- Chef Tell- who (if you have not heard) passed away last week.
He was, as the press wires have called him one of the first ‘entertainer chefs” and he was a natural at it. No musical bands or catchy phrases just his own wit and own brand of humor along with great old world type food.
I was fortunate to get to meet him for an interview a column I was doing a few years ago. He quickly took the invitation to be interviewed. I remembered how much his interview stood out from many chefs I had inerviewed. What impressed me most- was that the first thing he asked me before we started the interview-“would I like something to eat?”- in his true hospitable and European fashion.
You see, in Europe, when I have interviewed chefs that is the first thing that they will ask before you sit down. But in the US I had never interviewed a chef that asked me if I would like something to eat before the interview. And I had always thought it so cold and unhospitable. It seems to make sense because in Europe -food is just as important as your meeting.
But anyway, I had unfortuantely just eaten-but I could not resist this marvelous opera cake-that just came out of his kitchen. And it was reminiscent of the desserts I have had at the most exquisite coffee bars in Austria.
But the interview was always one that I remembered for his warm European manner. While I was delighting in eating this marvelous dessert we talked recipes ,Europe, about the style of the young chefs today and more. He couldn’t believe that I knew what Kugelhopf was and I couldn’t believe that he spent summers at the same resort we go to in Italy called Lago del Garda (Lake Garda).
Kugelhopf, is an Austrian cake that I learned about in Europe. Marie Antoinette took the recipe with her from Austria to France which made it so popular. It is a wonderful, sweet bread, great with coffee for breakfast. And while I knew he was so talented for his pastries I asked and he gave me his special Kugelhopf recipe.
The interview was a long one , but it seemed to end before I knew it. And before leaving I told him I was writing my first recipe novel. I told him that I grew up watching him on TV and would really be honored if he would take a look at the first draft before it was published. He wished me well with the book, told me to send it to him.
Fast Forward to two years later and my first call of the morning comes into my office-about 8AM-“is Maria there, this is Chef Tell (who could mistake that thick German accent?)
He called to tell me how much he liked my book and wanted to write a comment to appear in the book. We emailed back and forth until he came up with what he wanted me to include in my book.
Finally the email arrived with his quote:
“A memoir about Italy and the pleasures of Italian food that makes a perfect gift. But the recipes are so delicious, you’ll want to try it yourself!
Ciao Chef Tell and thanks so much for your encouragement and support along the way.
for the kugelhopf recipe go to my other blog at: