Graham Kerr tempers his `hedonist' image
THE ``Galloping Gourmet'' rides again, but he's galloping to a different drummer. Because he chopped carrots and celery on screen for an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide each week from 1969-'71, Graham Kerr laughs when he recalls that it was a near-fatal collision with a vegetable truck in 1971 that changed his life.
His recuperation from severe injuries set in motion a two-decade chain of events that has brought him and his producer-spouse Treena back to the tube with radically realigned priorities.
``I used to talk freely on air about feeding the hungry at the same time I was in full, hedonist pursuit of lobsters, fillets, and tenderloins,'' Mr. Kerr says of his earlier show. ``And it gave me Brownie points without having to make any sacrifice or think of any strategies.''
A religious conversion from ``drifting Anglican'' to nondenominational Christian helped bring healing to him physically and emotionally, Kerr says. It also sent him to the far corners of the developing world to spread knowledge on how the hungry can help themselves.
``I became aware that I had suffered from avarice for a very long time,'' Kerr says in an interview at his Seattle TV studio. ``I was so caught up in my accumulated wealth, power, and prestige from the show that I suffered from a severe kind of spiritual indigestion.''
Sobering statistics on malnutrition in third-world countries, coupled with his growing distaste for gluttonous displays on camera, set him on a path to mitigate both. He gave up the rights and residuals to his lucrative show (worth about $4 million, he says), sold his home and many belongings, and embarked on a 15-year mission of what he calls ``basic altruism.''
After studying a French bio-agriculture method called LISA (low-input, sustainable agriculture), he formed a training school in Salem, Ore. In four years, 115 students learned micro-farming and animal husbandry, and then began to transplant their knowledge worldwide.