Almost forgotten by the turn of the 2000s, Graham Kerr was the celebrity chef of the 1970s. He became famous for his one show, the “Galloping Gourmet”, though he later disowned it. In all, 455 episodes were filmed.
There was butter, cream, wine and laughter. During the run of “The Galloping Gourmet”, Weight Watchers named him “public enemy number one” and sent him a broken spoon. He was considered outrageous for the times. While making a chicken dish, he’d say “All right, ladies! Throw your breasts into the pan.” He joked, played camp and laughed with his viewers, and never minded making himself the object of laughs. His episodes went so fast that no one was ever really able to write the recipes down.
Then, it all changed. He had a car accident, and found Jesus and low-fat. He became a member of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and an honorary life member of the American Dietetic Association. He became a public speaker at hospitals and for organizations, health programmes and rehab centres, and has set up his own corporation called “Kerr Corporation.” He partners with American Dietetic Association for projects, and does radio / TV spots for the American National Cancer Institute on healthy fruit and vegetables.
A naturalized American citizen, he lives in Mount Vernon, Washington.
His favourite spices are garlic, ginger, lemongrass and lemon.
Graham was born 22 January 1934 in Brondesbury London, England. His Scottish Presbyterian parents had a hotel in Sussex; previously, his father John Douglas Kerr had worked for Claridge’s in London. He went to a primary school called “Kidbrooke Park” in Forest Row, East Sussex. The first thing he made in the kitchen was puff pastry, when he was 6, reaching the work-surface in his parent’s hotel’s kitchen by standing on a box. The puff pastry didn’t turn out.
In 1948, at the age of 14, Graham dropped out of school. In 1949, at the age of 15, he started training at the Roebuck Hotel in Ware, East Sussex, England, then studied hotel management at colleges in Brighton (Brighton Technical College) and Devon.
In 1952, at the age of 18, he started several years in the British army in the kitchens at a garrison in Wales, then at the Army Emergency Reserve in Bedford, Bedfordshire. Part of his stint at one point was washing pans when he was demoted from Corporal to Private for not doing as he was told, and for pranks such as sending a Yorkshire pudding to the Ministry of Health to be analysed,
On 22 September 1955, he married Treena Van Doorne (also seen as “Van Doom”), an English actress (18 May 1934 – 17 September 2015.) They had first met when they were both eleven. They would have three children.
Graham and Treena joined Graham’s parents as business partners in owning and running an inn dating back to the 1400s, but it went bankrupt. To pay off their debts, he had to get a job as a waiter; she had to get a job as a barmaid. They paid off the debt with their tips.
In 1956, their daughter Tessa was born.
In 1957, at the age of twenty-three, he became general manager of the Royal Ascot Hotel in Berkshire (demolished 1964), where his parents were now working as well. He found it a lot of work for very little money.
New Zealand and Australia
In 1958, Graham and Treena emigrated to New Zealand, where Graham worked as a food advisor for the New Zealand Air Force. They arrived with $1.25 to their name; and got an advance of $200 on his salary.
In 1959, Graham appeared on the air in New Zealand to demonstrate cooking. In his very first cooking show ever on television, he was dressed in military uniform, and showed how to cook an omelet. He was a hit. He went on to do 60 shows more in this series, called “Entertaining with Kerr.” He also became an advisor to various government produce marketing boards in New Zealand.
In 1960, his son Andrew was born.
In 1963 and 1965, Graham won New Zealand Television’s “Personality of the Year” award.
In 1964, Graham was transferred by the military to Sydney, Australia, where he did a show called “Eggs with Flight Lieutenant Kerr” on Saturday nights. In Australia, he lived in Middle Harbour, Cremorne. He had a two-storey test kitchen built in the home.
In 1968, his daughter Kareena was born.
The Galloping Gourmet
In the same year, a Canadian producer associated with Fremantle International saw his show in Australia, and offered him a gateway into the North American market. The fee paid to Graham would be $2 million for 650 episodes. Treena, his wife, would help produce the series.
Graham came to Canada to star in the show called the “Galloping Gourmet.” The series was produced in Ottawa, Canada, for a TV channel called “CJOH-TV”, part of Canada’s state broadcasting station, CBC. The show ran five days a week, Monday to Friday, on daytime TV, often in mid-morning, competing with other programmes such as “The Edge of Night” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
CBS in the United States picked up the show starting in January 1969.
Within five months, Julia Child reputedly said, “He doesn’t know a thing about cooking.” But his show had become a must-see show.
On 3 March 1969, Apollo 9 was launched into space. The news was almost overshadowed because it was also the day Graham Kerr’s potholder caught fire on TV. In Ottawa, Graham and Treena lived in the exclusive Rockcliffe Village, but he still kept his house in Australia, which he considered home. During his time in Canada, Graham would have several extra-marital affairs.
In 1970, Graham lent his name to a collection of stove-top and oven ware, as well as cutlery.
In 1971, Graham was planning on ending the series. He said in interviews in February of that year that the 1,000th episode would be his last — “after all, nobody in their right mind could continue a pace like this” — and that he’d focus on his cookware. Then, on 21 April of that year, he and Treena were in a car-crash in California. They were passengers in a house trailer that was rear-ended by a vegetable truck and trailer that was speeding. Graham was left with a dislocated spine and a weakened right arm, and was temporarily paralysed on his left side. His doctor told him he had to take a year off, so he had the reason he wanted to end the show.
He decided to take his family on a round-the-world sailing trip. The first stop was England, to collect one of his daughters from school there, and to actually buy the boat — a huge 71 foot (21 1/2 metres) fibreglass yacht for $250,000. During a phone interview conducted with him while he was in Bournemouth, England, in October, he said “I predict that within 25 years, 60 per cent of the people will be living on pills and a milky substance obtained from roots.”
As of January 1972, they were still in England. Treena was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and had to have part of her lungs removed. They then did a trial four-month cruise of the Mediterranean before starting their world cruise. The world cruise, however, never materialized as Treena found that she got too boat sick.
In the same year, 1972, Graham and Treena filed $1.5 million worth of lawsuits in California against the drivers of both the vegetable truck and the house trailer, and their employers. The studios also sued the drivers because the accident prevented the series from getting completed. In July, Graham was in Toronto, Canada for a short while.
Around 1973, Graham and Treena bought a 10,000 square foot 1814 mansion on a 10-acre estate in Easton, Maryland right on Chesapeake Bay, and built a $60,000 test kitchen there. He began teaching at Cornell University Hotel School in Ithaca, NY as an adjunct professor.
Take Kerr and Religion
Around 1973, Graham and Treena hired a maid named Ruthie for their Chesapeake Bay house. She was a member of a Pentecostal Holiness church in Wilmington, Delaware.
In 1974, Graham and Treena lost $800,000 in bad investments. Forced to return to work, Graham developed the “Take Kerr” series of infomercials.
On 17 December 1974, Treena became an evangelical Christian when Ruthie their maid invited her to church; Graham followed suit three months later on 13 March 1975, a few months after Treena saw Jesus in a vision.
They made immediate changes in the “Take Kerr” series. The wine rack in the background was replaced by a Holy Spirit Dove. The sign-on song became “This is the day the lord has made”, and bible verses were added to the closing credits.
The TV critics noticed, and commented:
“Kerr (pronounced ‘Care’) has a new show now, called ‘Take Kerr’, on which he blends low-calorie cooking advice with a pinch of Christianity…. The new, 3 1/2 minute show ….. Besides the absence of alcohol, innuendo and calories, the new show has some other differences which reflect the new Kerr. The wine rack has been replaced with ‘an alcove of light with a dove in it,” a frothy theme song has been ousted by ‘This is the Day the Lord has Made,’ and the closing credits include a Bible quotation.” Baker, Ann. TV’s Galloping Gourmet a changed man. Eugene Register-Guard. 3 October 1975. Page 1B.
“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.”  Siewert, Dionna Lynne. Galloping Gourmet Changes Directions.Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Living Light News. c. 1998. Retrieved Dec 2011 from http://www.livinglightnews.org/vgourmet.htm
The Washington Post reported, “On ‘Take Kerr’, there is no reminder of the Galloping Gourmet. Gone is the impressive wine cellar that was used as a backdrop for the earlier show. Instead, there is a ‘God Bless’ from Kerr at the end and almost subliminal flash of suggested biblical verse reading.” White, Jean. Graham Kerr Shuns Gourmet Life. LA Times – Washington Post. Reprinted in: Sarasota Herald-Tribune Sunday. 22 February 1976. Page 15.
The advertising agencies asked them to remove the Bible verses. The Kerrs refused. The TV stations edited them out anyway, and the Kerrs quit in a huff.
They auctioned off their house, their yacht, their sailboats and almost all their worldly possessions. They disowned their previous “Galloping Gourmet” work as sinful and tried to get re-runs taken off the air”
“Of the show which made him famous, Kerr said, “What I did wasn’t an art, it was a crime …. Kerr flails himself for encouraging alcohol use by drinking wine on the old show and for spreading ‘smut and sexual innuendo’ in the form of double entendres about his cooking ingredients. Food preparations such as ‘stuff something into the backside of a chicken’ or ‘stripping an eel’ gave him an opportunity to make viewers laugh with lewd jokes, he said. The Kerrs are trying to get TV stations to stop showing re-runs of the ‘Galloping Gourmet’ show.” Baker, Ann. TV’s Galloping Gourmet a changed man. Eugene Register-Guard. 3 October 1975. Page 1B.
They became inspirational speakers, and opened a spiritual retreat centre near Vail, Colorado at a 614-acre ranch they called “Rejoice Fellowship” for couples, but it failed.
In 1978, Graham and Treena joined Youth With A Mission.
In 1986, Treena had a heart-attack, and Graham got serious about low-fat cooking. He decided that his calling was now to teach people how to eat better.
In the 1990s, Graham returned to TV, somewhat repentant over his earlier zealotry, promising advertisers to keep religion off the air, and began preaching the gospel of low-fat instead. His shows were more health-conscious, and were branded very tame.
In 1994, Graham received a Special Citation from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
In 1996, Graham became the Editor at Large for Cooking Light magazine. He would continue this position until 2000.
In 1997, Graham was appointed to the College of Diplomats of the Educational Foundation of (American) National Restaurant Association. He also received a James Beard Foundation Award.
In 1999, Graham was inducted into the American Culinary Federation Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Graham was made an Honorary Life Membership to the American Dietetic Association.
In 2003, Graham received an Honorary Doctorate in “Culinary Nutrition” from Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island. He also became a member of American Advisory Board for Partnership For Food Safety Education.
In 2006, Graham was on tour in America to promote his new book, “Recipe for Life.”
In 2015, Treena Kerr (née Van Doorne or Van Doom) died after a brief illness. Casey, James. Wife of famed ‘Galloping Gourmet’ chef dies at 81; Graham Kerr had to make exit from crab festival. Port Angeles, Washington: Peninsula Daily News. 9 October 2015.
[Further timeline update pending.]
- 1959 to 1968. 155 1/2 hour episodes in a series called “Entertaining with Kerr.” Broadcast in Australia and New Zealand
- 1969 to 1971. The Galloping Gourmet. 455 1/2 hour episodes. Broadcast around the world. The series that made him famous.
- 1970. 5 minute radio spots called “Fun with Food”, Monday to Friday on NBC Radio Network
- 1974. 260 5-minute infomercials on healthy eating in a series called “Take Kerr”
- 1976. 30-minute colour film called “Switch On Kitchen” about seafood for Cornell University.
- 1988. 39 half-hour programmes in a series called “Simply Marvellous”
- 1990. 170 1/2 hour programmes in a series called “The Graham Kerr Show”
- 1990. 130 thirty-second publication awareness ads on healthy eating broadcast in America
- 1992. PBS. 78 1/2 hour programmes in a series called “Graham Kerr’s Kitchen”
- 1996. PBS. 26 1/2 hour episodes in a series called “The Best of Kerr”
- 1997. TV series “Swiftly Seasoned” for PBS, consisting of 26 1/2 hour episodes
- 2001. Gathering Place. 130 1-hour TV episodes. Focussed on healthy alternatives. Graham and Treena. A health expert was featured on each episode: whether a health professional, researcher or government official
Books by Graham Kerr
- 1963. Entertaining with Kerr, AH & AW Reed, Wellington, New Zealand.
- 1964. The Graham Kerr Cookbook (British Edition) Lion Publishing and AH & AW Reed, Wellington, New Zealand.
- 1965. The Galloping Gourmets, AH & AW Reed, Sydney, Australia.
- 1970. The Graham Kerr Cookbook (American Edition), Doubleday. (200 recipes)
- 1970 to 1972. The Television Cookbooks Seven Volumes, Fremantle International, USA.
- 1973. The Complete Galloping Gourmet Cookbook, Grossett and Dunlap.
- 1975. The New Seasoning, Simon and Schuster.
- 1997. The Love Feast, Simon and Schuster.
- 1981. Step by Step Cookbook, David C. Cook.
- 1991. Graham Kerr’s Smart Cooking, Bantam Doubleday Dell.
- 1992. Graham Kerr’s Minimax Cookbook, Bantam Doubleday Dell.
- 1993. Graham Kerr’s Creative Choices, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
- 1994. Graham Kerr’s Kitchen, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
- 1996. January. Graham Kerr’s Best, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
- 1997. January. Swiftly Seasoned with Graham Kerr, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
- 1997. October. The Gathering Place, Camano Press.
- 2002. January. The Gathering Place, Volume II, Quarry Press.
- 2004. Graham Kerr’s simply splenda cookbook. Alexandria, VA: Small Steps Press (with Treena.)
- 2004. Charting a course to wellness: Creative ways of living with heart disease and diabetes. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association (with Treena.)
- 2006. Recipe For Life. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group (with Treena.)
- 2006. Outdulgence. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group (with Treena.)
Literature & Lore
“The Galloping Gourmet provides an entertaining half hour, but is about as far away from the Julia Child sort of cooking as Liberace is from Horowitz.” — Lowry, Cynthia. Apollo TV coverage zooms up, too. In Elyria, Ohio: The Chronicle Telegram. 4 March 1969. Page 12.
“QUESTION FOR GRAHAM KERR, TV’s “Galloping Gourmet”
Do you pick the people who taste your specialty for that day, and if so, are they people on your staff? (asked by Martin Thaler, Ridgefield, NJ.)
Yes, I do pick the people to taste the dish, but these are people in the audience and not part of our staff or crew. Also, these are picked at random and not selected ahead of time.” — “Ask Them Yourself” column. In Family Weekly Magazine. Tri-city Herald. Pasco, Washington. 11 April 1971. Page 2.
“You just have to accept this from us,” says Graham. “The male position in the household has been taken over by the female. She handles all the available money and he turns his money over to her. That’s an illegal relationship. My bones are bigger than hers. I’m designed by God to take that responsibility (of decision-making).”….. In open forum discussions, in churches, in meeting halls, the Kerrs talk together. Her message is, “How I Lost the Liberation Battle and Won the War.” — Hass, Jane Glenn. Their New Recipe for Happiness. Hayward, California. The Daily Review. Tuesday, 7 June 1977. Page 8.
His last name is pronounced “care”, not “cur”.
“Hand foods diet of future”. (Galloping Gourmet). Long Beach, California. Independent Press-Telegram. Wednesday, 13 October 1971. Page F-20.
“What in the World!” (Galloping Gourmet). Family Weekly Magazine. 28 February 1971. Page 23.
Associated Press. Galloping Gourmet Suspends TV Appearances for While. Fresno, California: The Fresno Bee. Monday, 24 July 1972. Page A6.
Associated Press. Ideal Kitchen the Aim of Galloping Gourmet. In Daily Tribune. Grand Bend, Kansas. Monday, 15 February 1971. Page 8.
Canadian Press. Graham Kerr Will Relax. In Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Tuesday. 24 August 1971. Page 18.
Claire, Aileen. Galloping Gourmet Cooks Up Delectable Television Dish. Burlington, North Carolina: Times News. 27 May 1969. Page 10-A.
Deans, Ralph C. The Galloping Gourmet. Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany: The Stars and Stripes. 27 April 1969. Page 32.
Dietrich, William. A Healthy Conversion. Seattle, Washington: The Seattle Times. 1 June 2003.
Emlet, Dolores. Galloping Gourmet Cooks Up a New Lifestyle. Charleston, West Virginia: Charleston Daily Mail. Wednesday, 30 June 2006. Page 3B.
Galloping Gourmet a must for cooks. Kingston, Jamaica: The Sunday Gleaner Magazine. 23 April 1972. Page 9.
Galloping Gourmet New Cooking Series. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Winnipeg Free Press. 4 January 1969. TV Radio Section. Page 15.
Gourmet Sues. Long Beach, California: Independent Press-Telegram. Saturday, 22 April 1972. Page A2.
Hass, Jane Glenn. Their New Recipe for Happiness. Hayward, California. The Daily Review. Tuesday, 7 June 1977. Page 8.
Jankiewicz, Robert. What has become of Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet? In the ‘Anytime Column’. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Winnipeg Free Press. Monday, 13 November 1978. Page 7.
Sassone, Bob. What’s Graham Kerr up to? 27 December 2006. Slashfood. Retrieved from http://www.slashfood.com/2006/12/27/whats-graham-kerr-up-to on 6 February 2007.
Walker, Larry. Graham Kerr – gourmet. San Rafael, California: Wines & Vines Magazine. August 1995.
|↑1||Baker, Ann. TV’s Galloping Gourmet a changed man. Eugene Register-Guard. 3 October 1975. Page 1B.|
|↑2||Siewert, Dionna Lynne. Galloping Gourmet Changes Directions.Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Living Light News. c. 1998. Retrieved Dec 2011 from http://www.livinglightnews.org/vgourmet.htm|
|↑3||White, Jean. Graham Kerr Shuns Gourmet Life. LA Times – Washington Post. Reprinted in: Sarasota Herald-Tribune Sunday. 22 February 1976. Page 15.|
|↑4||Baker, Ann. TV’s Galloping Gourmet a changed man. Eugene Register-Guard. 3 October 1975. Page 1B.|
|↑5||Casey, James. Wife of famed ‘Galloping Gourmet’ chef dies at 81; Graham Kerr had to make exit from crab festival. Port Angeles, Washington: Peninsula Daily News. 9 October 2015.|