Galloping Gourmet Changes Directions
Graham Kerr, the original TV gourmet, discusses his two passions, food and his new found faith in God.
by Donna Lynne Siewert
The Galloping Gourmet — remember him?
The outgoing Brit revolutionized TV programming by preparing buttery sweets, rich creamy desserts, and crispy deep-fried morsels to delight our taste buds. Television producers who scoffed at the idea of a half-hour cooking show were soon eating their words. This was not just a show about someone cooking.
The Galloping Gourmet hopped over chairs, sloshed instead of measured, and described aromas so well they seemed to waft through TV screens into viewers’ living rooms. It brought “gourmet” to ordinary kitchens.
Thirty years later, Graham Kerr still chops onions at lightning speed and continues to introduce unique taste sensations — but with a difference. Life experiences have dramatically changed his family’s view of what’s important, and what’s not.
Kerr’s first excursion into television was in 1969. His show, The Galloping Gourmet, was taped in Ottawa and produced by his wife Treena. The couple was determined to cook up a ground breaking show spiced with comedy, making hospitality fun and “kicking some sacred cows.” The 440 episodes were syndicated internationally, and was being watched by as many as 200 million around the world.
Then, in 1972, while on a culinary tour in California, the Kerrs were nearly killed in a head on collision, bringing the show to an abrupt end at the height of its popularity. Following the accident they tried to pull their life together by launching another show, Critic’s Choice, but both lost interest in the program. Their once-celebrated life had become a mess.
In their search to rebuild, they decided to set sail around the world.
Packing up their three young children, they headed off to sea, only to discover that Graham was subject to extreme seasickness. Fatty foods were now off the menu and the revised recipes became healthy fare.
While some good came from the sailing experience, it still wasn’t enough to combat what was happening in Treena's life. She was addicted to her pain medications and had become mentally unstable. It was during this breaking point, after attending church in 1975, that Treena accepted Jesus as her personal Saviour. Graham joined her in a commitment soon after.
Immediately, Treena stopped taking drugs and the Kerr’s journey detoured. Together they made a lifestyle change and a commitment of “no compromise.” That commitment was put to the test with their next project, a show called Take Kerr. Wanting to tell the world about the changes God had made in their lives, they inserted various Christian elements into the show.
“We tried to get the message out,” says Graham. “We had little doves carved into the top of what was once the door to the wine cellar, and open Bible on the bench and a Christian tune closing the show.” But when they added a one second flash of a Bible verse in the credit line, “there was fury.”
“The station asked us, ‘Can’t you just compromise and take it off?’ ” he recalls. They couldn’t. By sticking to their personal commitment, they walked away from millions of dollars and overnight were set free of 36 entangling contracts. They also lost the rights to the Galloping Gourmet trademark, which has cost them millions of dollars in earnings.
Their former focus on earthly pleasures and riches had changed to living a life pleasing to God. For nine years they actively served as missionaries with Youth With A Mission. It's an organization Kerr describes as a “both-hands gospel.” On one hand, an emphasis on forgiveness and redemption through Christ, and on the other hand, taking a stand for social justice. Graham became the director of Long Range Development for the organization, and is still involved with it today.
Now living in the Seattle area, Graham continues to teach people about food through lectures, shows, and books, The couple still love good food and good cooking, but now it's balanced with a holistic approach to health that includes exercise, relaxation an and community of friends.
God continues to open doors for them. This summer they traveled full circle, back to Ontario, the site of their first cooking success story. They taped The Gathering Place, named after his newest book, at 100 Huntley Street's Crossroads Communications. It will be available for viewing early in 1999.
“A testimony of change is to be able to say to God, ‘Here I am, please ignite the passion in me to do what You want me to do’ ” says Graham.
By that measure, Graham Kerr is still a galloping gourmet, but now he’s a changed one heading in a new direction with God.
A Taste of Columbia
Black Rice...Well, Almost!
The popular Colombian classic — without excessive fats.
1/2 tsp. light olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped
1 cup long grained white
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp. coconut essence
2 cups low sodium beef or
1 can (15 ounces or 425g)
black beans, drained
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1. Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C).
2. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion for 2 minutes until soft. Stir in the rice and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add the cayenne, allspice, and 1/2 tsp. of the coconut essence. Cook long enough to warm the spices, then remove from the heat.
3. Transfer the rice to an ovenproof baking dish, 8 inches square, and cover with the stock. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. When rice is done, remove from over and stir in black beans, lime juice, and 1 tsp. of coconut essence. Keep warm.
Gathering Round the Table
by Donna Lynne Siewert and Jane Schreiber
Graham Kerr's last name is pronounced “care.” And caring about healthy eating is something that Kerr is passionate about. His style of cooking, best described years ago as “hedonism in a hurry,” has changed to what he now terms as “caring wrapped in pleasure.”
Kerr also cares deeply about a disappearing practice that enhances healthy eating: the dining room table as a gathering place, the meal as an event where people gather.
Whether on an exquisite oak table or on the mat of a dirt-floored hut, people around the world gather to eat.
“Serving food at one’s table provides an oasis in the burning desert of modern superactivity,” says Kerr. “It is a place of relaxation, restoration, conversation, and relationships.”
The “modern superactivity” that Kerr decries, discourages people from thinking of mealtime as an enjoyable respite. In the search for quick and easy meals, a growing amount of supermarket freezer space is now occupied by HMRs — home meal replacements. And while Kerr isn’t against convenience and help for busy people, he worries about the trend of people eating alone while curled up in front of the TV.
“Bombarded with work, we come home and reward ourselves by unzipping our head, laying our brain on our chest and watching television for the rest of the evening until we roll into bed,” he says.
When we're too busy for neighbourly visits, peopled around us stay strangers, says Kerr. And less time for God means that He becomes a nostalgic object of affection instead of our loving Father. As for loving ourselves, even that's been ignored as we rush through life.
As a Christian, Kerr believes that life is meant to be celebrated with joy. “Many times Jesus practiced hospitality around the table. What better celebration than to have friends and family elbow-to-elbow at the table?”
The Gathering Place, his beautifully illustrated new book, provides healthy, interesting menus and recipes from around the world. The book encourages people to deliberately invite friends and family to dinner to celebrate, not only good food, but also good company, restoring the joy of living.
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