Afternoon tea with ‘The Galloping Gourmet’ | Greg Asimakoupoulos

Faith and Values

When I was a senior at Wenatchee High School, I didn’t take home economics. But I wasn’t entirely ignorant when it came to the culinary arts. After all, “The Galloping Gourmet” was on TV every day.

Graham Kerr was a gourmet chef and entertainer par-excellence. The tall lanky comedic cook with a delightful British accent was fun to watch. He made experimenting in the kitchen fun. How could I have known then that I would be having afternoon tea in his home 55 years later?

After learning that Graham was living in a Christian retirement community an hour away, I reached out to him. He graciously consented to be interviewed.

On a rainy April afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds as my wife Wendy and I arrived at Warm Beach Senior Community. Graham welcomed us with his signature smile and an invitation to sit down for a cup of tea.

As our 89-year-old host poured our liquid refreshment, I marveled at the miniature plate of healthy nibbles he’d artistically arranged. Toast with homemade huckleberry jam, an Aussie bite, a whole grain biscuit spread with Nutella and a couple slices of watermelon.

Sipping my tea, I asked Graham to reflect on his faith journey. He proceeded to list the various ingredients God had combined that resulted in his spiritual appetite. With the enthusiasm I recalled from his high-energy cooking show, my new friend shared his story.

Graham, an only child, had been raised by well-to-do hoteliers in England. As such he was exposed to the hospitality industry at an early age and learned from master chefs. His meteoric rise to fame came early in his twenties when television came calling in New Zealand and Australia. Soon he was galloping around the globe earning an international reputation. By 1968, “The Galloping Gourmet” debuted on an American network.

Graham told me he was dubbed by the media as “the high-priest of hedonism” because of his playboy persona, his ubiquitous glass of wine and televised entrees bathed in butter and heavy cream. And while his popularity was soaring, his marriage was in free-fall.

While Wendy and I savored our tasty morsels and continued sipping our tea, Graham shared about a near-fatal car accident in 1972 that ended this gourmet’s gallop and severely injured his wife. Per a doctor’s suggestion, the Kerrs’ lengthy period of healing included sailing around the world with their three young children on a 71-foot yacht.

Within two years, Graham’s wife Treena, who had become addicted to pain-killers following the accident, lost her dependency on drugs and gained a dependency on God. Within several months, Graham had followed his wife’s lead and gave up the control of his life to a higher power. His surrender resulted in a welcomed release from the success that had held him hostage.

A life of ministry would define the Kerrs’ newfound freedom. And that ministry included helping people discover a more nutritious way to eat along with modeling for others how to feast on the Word of God through personal Bible study.

Widowed since 2015, Graham’s initial grief has been replaced by deep gratitude for the life he and Treena shared. That gratitude is fueled by the daily recipe he follows that helps him maintain a nourishing diet of faith. It begins with an hour and a half of Bible study, prayer, meditation and journaling.

Graham proceeded to tell me about the wooden cross that hangs around his neck. He explained that he wears it every day as a reminder of his spiritual identity in Christ. Curiously, it is a cross he carved from one of the spatulas he used in his TV kitchen.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.