by Susan Hamilton

Before Emeril Live, The Naked Chef or any of the Food Network's myriad other shows, there was Graham Kerr. The popular chef and author pioneered the way for entertaining culinary instruction on TV with his popular early-1970s series The Galloping Gourmet. And he's still blazing a trail for others to follow. The master of inventive cuisine, as Kerr has been called, now combines healthful cooking with flavorful taste.

On Wednesday, Kerr will take his audience on an inspiring culinary trip as he speaks about "A Journey of Choices" in Spokane. The event is sponsored by the Heart Institute Community Partners, who have a unique association with Kerr.

"There has been a continuing relationship with Graham and the Heart Institute since he came and spoke here last year," says Patty Seebeck, Nutrition Services coordinator for the Heart Institute. "He was instrumental in bringing the Menu 2 pilot program to Spokane last summer. And we're getting ready to run another Menu 2 program here in the near future."

Menu 2 is a program designed by Kerr that offers diners the option of seeing the numbers of calories, fat and carbohydrates for menu items. Local chefs at four area fine-dining restaurants worked with the Heart Institute dieticians and learned how to balance flavor and nutrition.

So what will Kerr share with his audience next week?

"First of all, I want to thank the people of Spokane for testing out Menu 2," Kerr says from his home in Mount Vernon, Wash. "It was a slam dunk as far as being a successful program. Eighty-eight percent of diners changed their menu choice after seeing Menu 2."

Kerr's wife Treena will introduce him and give the audience unique insights before Graham's presentation. During the event, audience members will have the opportunity to taste and give comments as healthy dishes are prepared onstage.

Kerr will also share his views about a whole new way of living in troubled times. "By 'troubled times,' I'm not talking about terrorism," Kerr says. "The food habits in this culture aren't working because of unhealthy choices.

"I want to show people what Treena and I have decided goes into our shopping basket and give people ideas about how to use food items they enjoy and replace what is doing them harm," Kerr reveals.

Kerr infuses everything he does with vitality. He has successfully combined the worlds of science and the senses to create healthy, innovative cooking that is accessible to the average person. His helpful hints, encouraging advice, imaginative cooking techniques and interesting ingredients are all geared to help people discover ways to prepare foods that are as nutritionally sound as they are tasty.

"You don't have to abandon good taste to achieve good health," Kerr emphasizes. "You can eliminate risks without sacrificing the things you love most in food."

Kerr is obviously successful at marrying science and the culinary arts. Just last year he was named an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame and an honorary member of the American Dietetic Association for his work with human nutrition.

He continues to have speaking engagements around the country, as well as doing public service announcements on nutrition for the National Cancer Institute. Kerr is also the first Visiting Professor at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and is affiliated with universities and institutes that have culinary programs. And the latest in his long line of best-selling books, Where the Pan Sizzles and Science Smiles (about nutrient-rich comfort food), will be available soon.

What does the future hold for this popular food personality who is on the cutting edge of the culinary and scientific worlds?

"Now that the National Restaurant Association has endorsed Menu 2," Kerr explains, "I'm looking for private companies to sponsor it nationwide."

Kerr will appear on TV in April with a new series that brings science and great food together. The Gathering Place will be shown on public television, initially in Seattle.

"I want to give people creative food choices to increase their quality of life," Kerr says.

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