Chefs We Love is a Valentine's Day tribute to those who have done great work in the culinary world -- to those who inspire us to not only eat well, but to try new things in our own kitchens. With this holiday around the corner, we at Kitchen Daily felt that it was appropriate to share our love and respect for those who have most inspired and influenced our passion for cooking. See more chefs we love.
With such a serious sounding name, you would think Graham Kerr would have grown up to be a politician, but instead what the world got was a charismatic and comical TV chef. With his bumbling hilarity, Kerr has been an entertaining force on TV since he leaped into Americans' living rooms with his first cooking show, "The Galloping Gourmet." His formula included anecdotes, jokes, slapstick comedy, cooking mishaps, and audience engagement. He cooked with copious amounts of clarified butter and cream, creating recipes as indulgent as any king would dine on.
Born in London in 1934, Kerr grew up in a family of hoteliers and was always surrounded by great chefs. After working at various hotels, he eventually became catering advisor for the British Army. He left the country with his wife Treena in 1958 to become the catering advisor for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and when the couple later moved to Canada, Treena had the idea of creating a television show (she would eventually produce all of Kerr's shows).
"The Galloping Gourmet" came about in 1969, the title being based on a book Kerr had co-authored with a wine expert. The show became an immediate hit all over North America as people fell in love with Kerr, who ran into the audience with a glass of wine and leaped over a chair before introducing each episode's recipe.
I started watching Kerr in the '90s, when his self-titled cooking show aired on PBS. The show was all about healthy cooking, so I first knew him as a healthy chef who used little-to-no butter, a far cry from his "Galloping" days. Even as a young kid, I learned a lot about healthy cooking and to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. It was years later that I learned of his former penchant for rich foods.
It turns out there was a reason for Kerr's big switch.
In 1971, Kerr and his wife Treena were victims of a car accident. Both had very lengthy recoveries and "The Galloping Gourmet" came to an end. In 1986, Treena suffered a stroke and a heart attack -- that's when Kerr came to alter his perspective on food and began to cook healthier. Both he and his wife benefited from this lifestyle change, and the new Graham Kerr emerged. Television now knew him as the health-conscious cook. But even with all of life's setbacks, Kerr didn't lose his humor.
I don't know what the food world would have been without Graham Kerr, but I can imagine it would have been much more boring and mundane. What Kerr did for food television was make it its own form of entertainment, worthy of any other program. If you think about it, he paved the way for many of today's TV personalities.
So what's he up to now? Kerr continues to have a presence in the media with TV appearances on daytime talk shows and news shows (you can also watch reruns of "The Galloping Gourmet" on The Cooking Channel). He also supports many causes and travels with his wife to promote healthy eating. He and his wife live in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Books By Graham Kerr
Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden
Recipe for Life: How to Change Habits That Harm into Resources that Heal
Day-by-Day Gourmet Cookbook: Eat Better, Live Smarter, Help Others
The Complete Galloping Gourmet Cookbook