Here's a December Entry From James Powell's Blog:


The Galloping Gourmet

30 December 1968

Long before Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay worked their culinary magic on television, there was Graham Kerr, a.k.a. The Galloping Gourmet. While Kerr (pronounced “Care”) was not by any means the first gourmet chef to appear on the small screen—that honour goes to James Beard in 1946—he, like Julia Child, did much to popularize fine cooking in North America. At a time when the acme of fine dining for many Americans and Canadians was a hamburger topped with bacon and cheese, and Italian cuisine was a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti, Kerr introduced millions to the likes of Lamb Apollo, Red Snapper in Pernod, Crab Captain Cook, and Gateau Saint Honoré. His zany antics, lightning fast wit and double entendres delivered while chopping and sautéing delighted television audiences around the world. At the peak of his popularity in 1970, his television show, The Galloping Gourmet, was seen in thirty-eight countries, including the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Australia, with more than 200 million viewers. Dubbed into French, it was called the Le Gourmet Farfelu on the CBC’s French-language network. Amazingly, The Galloping Gourmet was made in Ottawa.

The British-born Kerr learnt how to cook as a teenager during the late 1940s in the kitchen of his parents’ hotel. After five years in the British Army’s catering corps, he moved to New Zealand and joined the New Zealand Air Force as a catering adviser. It was in New Zealand in 1959 that he got his first televised cooking show—Eggs with Flight Lieutenant Kerr. Performing in uniform, the young Kerr received a munificent $25 for his weekly television programme. Spotted by a promoter with links to Australia, Kerr was launched on Australian television with a programme called Entertaining with Kerr in 1964 on the Ten Network.

In 1968, he and his wife Treena came to Ottawa to film The Galloping Gourmet for Freemantle International, a television production/distribution company. Although the show was aimed at an American audience, the Kerrs chose Canada as their base of operations because they wanted to bring a British/Australian flavour to the show that they thought might be lost in an American-made production. Also, Canada had first class television studios that could make colour programmes. Colour television had been introduced to the Canadian market in 1966, whereas Australian television was still operating in black and white. To make the daily 23-minute programme, the Kerrs went to the CJOH studios located at the corner of Merivale Road and Clyde Avenue in Ottawa. Then owned by Bushnell Communications, CJOH was the third busiest television production centre in Canada. Under the direction of Bill McKee, an exceptional staff of 160 people, of whom 100 were directly in production, worked ten hour days seven days a week producing as many as dozen different television series as well as films for government departments. In a 1970 interview, Kerr stated that CJOH had the “finest” television crew with whom they had ever worked.

Production of The Galloping Gourmet began in the summer of 1968, making six shows a day, thirty shows per week. It was a gruelling schedule. The Kerrs worked as a team, Graham in front of the camera, and Treena as the show’s producer. Initially, there was little to distinguish the new show. Indeed, the television studio’s audience relations staff found it difficult to find people willing to fill the seats in the studio equipped with a full kitchen with an autumn brown fridge and stove, dining room, bar and wine rack. However, this was to quickly change.

The programme first aired on CBC television (CBOT, channel 4 in Ottawa) at 4pm on Monday, 30 December, 1968, up against the likes of Match Game, Big Spender, House Party, and the cartoon show Hercules. The show was also syndicated throughout the United States. CBOT advertised it as “a cooking show…but what a cooking show! It is as entertaining as the best comedy shows and as informative as a documentary because of the talent of the host Graham Kerr, a world famous gourmet, formerly of England, now living in Australia.” It added that Kerr was nicknamed the galloping gourmet, “because of the lightning speed at which he moves his six foot, three-inch frame while alternately singing, dancing, telling stories and giving homely advice…all while cooking sumptuous dishes with dazzling dexterity.”

It was an apt description though his nickname was more likely based on a book that he co-authored with wine expert Len Evans called The Galloping Gourmets published in 1967. The book chronicled the authors’ globetrotting efforts to find the world’s best restaurants in 35 days. His address was also wrong. By this time, Graham, Treena and the Kerr children had taken up residence in the tony Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood in Ottawa.

The Galloping Gourmet was an instant and huge success though some stations censored the more naughty bits. The Globe and Mail, in a rant about the poor quality of daytime television filled with Lucy Show and Gilligan’s Island re-runs, soap operas, and second-rate talk shows, likened The Galloping Gourmet to “a flower growing in a crammed wall.” It opined that “while Graham gallops, there is hope.” Tickets to attend the show’s tapings became as rare as hen’s teeth. Kerr’s most faithful admirers were female. One die-hard fan attended 49 times during the show’s first year. It helped that he was a culinary James Bond with a sense of humour—young, good looking, always impeccably dressed, and a superb British accent.

But the show appealed to all, women and men, young and old. The reason—it was fun. Each show began with Kerr jumping over a chair with a glass of wine in his hand. The manoeuvre, suggested by wife Treena, became his signature move. Most shows had some gag that were sure to provoke guffaws, such as stirring a pot with a five-foot spoon called “Big Mouth,” or pulling a brassiere out of a rolling pin. Shows also featured clips of exciting places around the world visited by the Kerrs for culinary inspiration. But the most endearing feature of the show was Kerr’s unbounded enthusiasm, excellent comic timing, and an ability to roll with whatever happened. To watch him try to unstick a reluctant cake out of a mould while a cherry sauce is cooking on the stove is hysterically funny. The show was nominated for two Daytime Emmys, but lost out to The Today Show. However, Kerr received the ultimate public recognition when he was invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1970.

But what about the food? Kerr’s culinary critics poo-pooed his skills, seeing him as a showman rather than an expert at fine cuisine. One called him the Liberace of the cooking world. There may be an element of truth to this. But he introduced people to a range of cuisines from Cajun jambalaya and British beer and rump pot roast to Mexican huevos rancheros and Russian shrimp povlik. One thing that was clear, however, his food was rich…very rich. There were few vegetables. In his recipes, Kerr used copious amounts of clarified butter, fat and sugar. Just watching him lard an already well-marbled, two-inch steak, then fry it in butter, bacon fat and brown sugar is sufficient to clog the arteries. But this was a more innocent time. Certainly, willing volunteers, usually women pulled from the audience at the end of each show to taste his culinary creations, appeared to love his food.

At the height of his popularity, disaster struck. In April 1971, Kerr was seriously hurt when a truck rear-ended his car in California, leaving him with a damaged spine and a weakened right arm. The couple returned to Ottawa to try to tape another season, but things were not the same. With Kerr injured, shows were mostly cobbled together using bits of earlier programmes with celebrities brought in to give their opinions of past shows and dishes. In the summer of that year, the Kerrs bade Ottawa good bye after taping 560 shows in front of 46,000 people. He lauded Ottawans for their support, coming out for tapings in the midst of snowstorms, and stoically sitting through an overheated studio when summer air conditioning failed.

From leafy Rockcliffe, the family charted a new course aboard their $300,000, 71-foot yacht with an aim to visit the world’s beauty spots while they recuperated and worked on new projects, including a Galloping Gourmet line of kitchens, cook books, and cooking utensils. But things didn’t turn out as expected. Treena was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Fortunately, the diagnosis proved to be wrong; it turned out to be tuberculosis. But she still lost part of a lung and became hooked on both prescription and non-prescription drugs. They also lost $800,000 to a man they had trusted. The couple subsequently became born-again Christians and abjured their earlier lives. Turning his back on the galloping gourmet, Kerr gave up alcohol, which had featured prominently in his earlier shows, and his risqué behaviour. The couple visited Ottawa in 1975 to appear at an evangelical rally at the Earl Armstrong Arena in Gloucester. The same year, Kerr returned to television hosting Take Kerr, a five-minute, syndicated cooking show featuring a mix of alcohol-free recipes with a dash of Christianity.

In 1987, Treena suffered a stroke and heart attack exacerbated husband Graham was convinced by his high fat, high sugar recipes of earlier years. In response, he re-doubled his efforts to create healthy “minmax” recipes—minimum fat and cholesterol with maximum flavour and aroma. More television shows, including The Graham Kerr Show, made in Seattle, Washington, and cook books that emphasized wholesome foods followed. In 1997, Kerr returned to Canada, this time to the Bay’s Arcadian Court in Toronto to tape yet another cooking programme called Graham Kerr’s Gathering Place.

Treena Keer died in September 2015 just short of their 60th wedding anniversary. Graham Keer, who turned 85 in January 2017 lives in Mount Vernon in Skaget County, near Seattle. Today, Keer has come to terms with his galloping gourmet past. His latest passion is “upstreaming,” that he describes as the “conversion of habits that can harm” into “resources that can heal” ourselves and the planet. Reruns of The Galloping Gourmet can be seen occasionally on late night television or on the Cooking Channel. Some have also been posted on YouTube. They are worth watching for the Sixties clothes and hairstyles, and, of course, for Graham Kerr’s incomparable cooking style and humour.

Sources:

Chicago Tribune (The), 1972. “A Glimpse of Graham, the Gourmet,” 9 November.

Goldman, Jeanette, 2015. The Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr) “The Monty Python of Cooking.

Kerr, Graham, 2017. Time to Grow.

Levine, Sarah, 20?. “Devour the Blog: Loving: The Galloping Gourmet,” Cooking Channel, 21 May.

Ottawa Journal, (The), 1968. “CBOT Highlights,” 28 December.

————————–, 1969. “A Watched Nockerln,” 30 April.

————————–, 1970. “The Galloping Gourmet in Moscow,” 7 February.

————————–, 1970. “Graham Loves Us,” 8 August.

————————–, 1971. “The Galloping Gourmet goes, salutes ‘fabulous’ Ottawans,” 23 August.

————————–, 1972. “Battle of the Sexes Name of the Game,” 11 March.

————————–, 1972. “Galloping Gourmet hungers for the sea,” 19 July.

————————–, 1974. “Ottawa TV production centre is one of Canada’s busiest,” 21 December.

————————–, 1975. “Galloping Gourmet has come up with a recipe for a good life after his recent conversion,” 23 August.

World Library, 2017. The Galloping Gourmet,

Story written by James Powell, the author of the blog Today in Ottawa's History
Retired from the Bank of Canada, James is the author or co-author of three books dealing with some aspect of Canadian history. These comprise: A History of the Canadian Dollar, 2005, Bank of Canada, The Bank of Canada of James Elliott Coyne: Challenges, Confrontation and Change,” 2009, Queen’s University Press, and with Jill Moxley, Faking It! A History of Counterfeiting in Canada, 2013, General Store Publishing House, Renfrew, Ontario. James is a Director of The Historical Society of Ottawa.

And One More December Entry from James Powell's Blog:



Sir Galahad


6 December 1901

The next time you go for a stroll down Wellington Street, stop and take a look at the statue right in front of Parliament Hill at Metcalfe Street. Instead of honouring monarchs or prime ministers, it’s a statue of Sir Galahad, the legendary knight of King Arthur’s Round Table renowned for his gallantry. It was erected in 1905 to commemorate a singular act of heroism that had occurred four years earlier.

That fateful Friday, 6 December, 1901 was a bitterly cold day with the temperature in Ottawa struggling to reach -9 Celsius. But it was bright and sunny, encouraging skaters to test the sheet of seductively smooth but treacherous ice that had formed on the Ottawa River during the first cold snap of the season. In the early afternoon, a skating party from Government House had ventured out onto the ice without mishap. Later, as dusk fell, another party set out. The foursome consisted on Miss Bessie Blair, age 21, the youngest daughter of the Honourable A.G. Blair, former premier of New Brunswick, and then Minister of Railways and Canals in the Liberal Government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Alex Creelman, aged 28, an employee of the Imperial Bank of Canada, Miss Snowball, daughter of Senator Jabez Snowball of New Brunswick, who had been visiting the Blair residence, and Henry Albert Harper, aged 28, the assistant editor of the Labour Gazette, the monthly journal of the newly-established Dominion Department of Labour.

The young people set out from the newly constructed Interprovincial Bridge and headed east towards Kettle Island, with Miss Blair and Creelman skating hand-in-hand in front, with Harper and Miss Snowball pulling up the rear. Unexpectedly, the leading couple came upon an area of open water near the confluence with the Gatineau River, Unable to halt in time, Blair and Creelman plunged into the icy, dark water.

After sending Miss Snowball back to the shore for help, Harper moved to assist the couple who were frantically struggling in the frigid water weighted down by their heavy winter clothing. Lying prone on the thin ice, Harper extended his walking stick to Bessie Blair but to no avail; she was too far away. Despite entreaties not to venture further, Harper took off his overcoat and gloves and dove into the water to help the sinking woman. Before entering the water, Harper said: “What else can I do?” Moments later, both he and Blair disappeared from sight. Drowned, their lifeless bodies were recovered the following morning.

Almost miraculously, Blair’s companion, Alex Creelman, survived, saved by Mr Arthur Treadgold, a member of the Government House skating party whom Miss Snowball had encountered on her desperate race back to shore for help. Informed of what had happened, he immediately rushed over to the site of the accident in time to pull the unconscious Creelman from the water. Suffering from hypothermia and shock, Creelman was taken to a nearby home to recover, before returning to his rooms at the Turkish Baths Hotel under a doctor’s care. It was Creelman who recounted Harper’s act of sacrifice.

The heroic action of Henry Harper stuck a cord among Ottawa’s citizens. Within days, a large public meeting was held at City Hall where a resolution was passed to commemorate Harper’s heroism by the erection of a memorial statue using funds raised through public subscription. The initiative was strongly supported by William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s future prime minister. He and Harper had been the best of friends at university, and had even shared rooms for a time. King, as Deputy Minister of Labour and editor of the Labour Gazette, had hired Harper in 1900 and was his boss.

The statue was to be symbolic of heroism and nobility of character. One of Harper’s prized possessions was a reproduction of the 1862 painting of Sir Galahad by the British symbolist artist George Frederic Watts, R.A. (1817-1904) which had hung behind Harper’s desk in his office. According to friends, Harper saw Sir Galahad as his “ideal knight.” The painting became the model for the statue.

The American sculptor Ernest Wise Keyser from Baltimore, Maryland won an open competition for the commission. His bronze statue set on a granite plinth was unveiled by the Governor General Earl Grey on 18 November 1905 before a crowd of more than 3,000 people as the regimental band of the Governor General’s Foot Guards played “The Maple Leaf” and “God Save the King.” At the unveiling, Sir Wilfrid Laurier told the crowd that “The stranger to our city will pause as he passes this monument and wonder what deed called for its erection. He will be told of the noble act of self-sacrifice of a life given in an effort to save another.” P. D. Ross, the chairman of the memorial committee, said that “Harper had lost his life. But in that sacrifice, he left to the rest of us a great lesson and a great inspiration.”

The following year, Mackenzie King published a biography of Harper—“his oldest and most intimate friend,”—titled The Secret of Heroism. In it, King recounts the details of Harper’s short life from his birth and school days, to his life as a reporter, first in London, Ontario and later at the Montreal Herald, and finally to his work at the Labour Gazette. King described Harper as a man of “fearless integrity of heart and mind.” Like King, Harper was a practising Presbyterian, with “a strong belief in a definite moral order and the ultimate triumph of right.” King mourned that Canada had lost a “true patriot in sentiment and aspiration,” and had Harper had lived he would have been “an earnest and practical reformer.” Harper’s political and economic sentiments described in the book are believed to mirror King’s own views, and provided the inspiration that motivated the future prime minister over his long career.

Harper was buried in a hill cemetery overlooking Cookstown, Ontario, the town of his birth, on what would have been his 28th birthday.

Sources:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Henry Albert Harper.

———————–, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

King, W. L. Mackenzie, 1906. The Secret of Heroism, A Memoir of Henry Albert Harper, Fleming, H. Revell Company, Toronto. 2nd Edition.

Mayer, Roy, 2012. Galahad Cried, Createspace, Ottawa.

The Globe, 1901. “DROWNED IN THE OTTAWA: Miss Bessie Blair and Mr. H.A. Harper the Victims THROUGH THE ICE Mr. Harper Lost His Life Trying to Save the Lady,” 7 December.

St. John Daily Sun, 1905. “Sir Galahad,” 19 November.

The Ottawa Evening Citizen, 1947. “Sir Galahad,” 18 September.

———————————, 1948, “Happy Memorable Years at University of Toronto,” 7 July.

Images:

Henry Albert Harper, from King, W. L. Mackenzie, The Secret of Heroism.

Sir Galahad by G. F. Watts.

Sir Galahad, Wellington Street, Ottawa by James Powell

Story written by James Powell, the author of the blog Today in Ottawa's History
Retired from the Bank of Canada, James is the author or co-author of three books dealing with some aspect of Canadian history. These comprise: A History of the Canadian Dollar, 2005, Bank of Canada, The Bank of Canada of James Elliott Coyne: Challenges, Confrontation and Change,” 2009, Queen’s University Press, and with Jill Moxley, Faking It! A History of Counterfeiting in Canada, 2013, General Store Publishing House, Renfrew, Ontario. James is a Director of The Historical Society of Ottawa.