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'Galloping Gourmet,' Redirected, Handles Life with Care
September 22, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
 
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Pace, as in the miles-per-hour context, always seems to have had a large role in the life of Graham Kerr. When he was in his 30s, in the late 1960s, he won over a very large number of viewers and pretty much invented a TV cooking form when he was known as The Galloping Gourmet and hosted a daily syndicated show of the same name.

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The pace then could be described as frantic -- as one can witness by watching the daily replays of the 1969-71 series on cable's Cooking Channel.

Kerr would burst onto the set, running among and greeting members of the always-packed studio audience. A full wine glass in his hand, he would run onto the set, jump one or two dining room chairs and finally settle onto a bar stool where he'd sip his drink, sometimes puff a cigarette and set up the day's cooking with a monologue that was packed with energy and crowned with a punch line.

It was a fitting introduction for the turbocharged cooking segment, a delightful, taste-at-all-costs, adventure that captivated his fans and galvanized opposition from proponents of healthy eating. A group that promoted heart health called him "dangerous," and a weight-loss group singled him out as one year's largest impediment to fitness.

Contacted recently at his rural north-of-Seattle, Wash., home, Kerr talked about the top-speed environment: the company would produce two or three shows a day, 195 shows a year, a total of 455 by the time the show's run ended. It all was done from a TV studio in Ottawa, Canada. Every show was as entertaining as it was enjoyable. It remains one of the fastest 30 minutes on television because Kerr, his wife and producer, Treena, and a crew that obviously was enjoying itself and its new-found multi-continental attention worked so hard to make it look like nothing but fun.

Enjoy it, he did: "Each show had approximately 19-1/2 hours of my life poured into it. . . By the time you get to (the show itself), you either enjoy the end of the process or you're a fool," Kerr said.

Thanks to a weekday-afternoon Galloping Gourmet dose on Cooking Channel, old fans are reconnecting with Kerr while others undoubtedly are discovering this program as a matinee must-see.

Just don't count Graham Kerr among the show's viewers.

It isn't simply because this man who has logged more than 1,800 television appearances doesn't own a television set. It isn't directly connected to the fact that he has only seen three episodes of The Galloping Gourmet in his life -- he explained that at the time Treena didn't want him analyzing, and maybe jeopardizing, the way the program came together.

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It's because now, at 76, Graham Kerr's life is just as intense as it was in those Nixon-era days. It just has been speeding in an entirely different direction for four decades.

The Kerrs' life has changed from five-star gourmet elegance to a simplicity that leaves no room for the former. The transformation unfolded in a particularly dramatic way.

In 1971 the Kerrs were victims of a serious auto accident -- so serious, it ended production of The Galloping Gourmet. After they recovered, they began a round-the-world sailing trip. It was in Antibes, in the south of France, on May 18, 1971 (Treena's 37th birthday), where everything changed. To celebrate the day, they went ashore and enjoyed a French feast, "a magnificent meal," he recalled. "It was the last magnificent meal I ever had."

They returned to their boat as a large storm was developing, and "it wasn't very long before we were all very sick." The following morning, stunned by the results of their excess, the young couple radically changed pace and started speeding in a new direction. For the remainder of their trip, they made meals that were fresh from the land or the sea. It was a radical move from the TV cooking style that regularly subjugated health concerns to butter- and fat-infused tastiness.

"When I came ashore," he said, "all I could think of was telling people about it."

The conversion to "eating as fresh as you can" took hold and has been central to the Kerrs' lives since. Today, they still are moving at a pretty swift pace to reach a lot of people with their message. At their WEBSITE, they fully explain their Double Benefit approach to living. In short, this is a philosophy to benefit personally by eating better while helping others by donating some of the resources that are saved in that process.

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Their efforts are three-pronged. Growing at the Speed of Life is a book that explains their mission in detail and offers plenty of solution ideas, including advice for personal planting and harvesting of fruits and vegetables and many recipes for making the harvest varied and palatable. It's nearing completion and will be their 26th book. They also have turned their yard into a substantial garden, doing much of the work themselves. Their strong video orientation made it natural for them to document this process. They shot many hours, are editing it now for use on their website and hope to have it completed and on-line by Feb. 1, 2011.

They additionally plan to transform the website to an interactive one where people interested in better lifestyles can share information, as neighbors would.

"My enthusiasm for what I do now is exactly the same as it was (during the run of the TV show)," he said. "I lived that life and suffered the consequences of it. I'm just trying to make people understand that we must find a better way to live our lives.

He doesn't think this new effort ever will surpass the popularity of the polar-opposite television series, nor is that a goal.

"I cannot compete with myself. I'm just trying to make people understand that we must find a better way to live our lives," he said -- then added a thought the original incarnation of the Galloping Gourmet probably wouldn't have understood: "As a society, we've gone too far and gotten ahead of ourselves. We just have to slow down a bit."

 
 
 
 
 
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