Gerd Conte of Uniondale, chef and cooking teacher

An undated photo of Gerd Conte of Uniondale.

An undated photo of Gerd Conte of Uniondale. (Credit: Handout)

Gerd Conte of Uniondale was a food lover's dream, a masterful chef whose dishes left an impression long after the last bite settled in the belly.

A Norway native who immigrated to the United States in 1962, she taught adult cooking classes in local venues such as the Herricks Adult Education Program and was adored as much for her stovetop skill as her personal warmth.

Conte died at home Monday of kidney cancer. She was 78.

"She was the kindest and nicest person you could ever meet," said Martha Eiken of Matawan, N.J., one of Conte's two sisters. "She was very warm and if she could help somebody, she would. A very pleasant person. I can say she was a good person."

The former Gerd Knutsen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1934 but as a young woman she worked as a governess in Surrey, England. Soon after that, she traveled to the United States to see the world, said her sister.

She worked in various jobs including as personal secretary to the dean of admissions for the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga. After settling on Long Island, she taught cooking classes for Herricks and at the Bellmore-Merrick Adult Continuing Education Program.

She also worked for Fortunoff, where she worked in housewares and displayed cookware for customers.

In 1967, she married Joseph Conte, and the couple had two sons, Christopher and Robert.

Her courses at Herricks were cosmopolitan and creative, including Cooking Norwegian Delights, Fine French Cooking, Cold Food for Hot Days, Bake Someone Happy, Cooking Food for Chilly Days and Cooking Fish Without Bones. So good were her dishes, she once penned a column in the Food and Garden section of Horizons, a local publication.

"She was a very fine cook," said Barbara Valentine of Manhasset, who was first a student of Conte's, then a close friend for the past 35 years. "She would read a lot of cookbooks and she was just a very pleasant, thoughtful person. I consider her to have been one of my very good friends."

Valentine, who said she met Conte for lunch regularly for decades, said Conte would remember her grandson's birthday by giving him a piece of chocolate. "She was just thoughtful like that," Valentine said.

Conte was a member of the Long Island Scandinavian Society and a dedicated member of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniondale for more than 30 years.

Besides her husband, sister and sons, Conte is survived by another sister, Kirsten Knutsen, of Vollom, Norway.

A memorial service will be held for her Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m., at Hartnett Funeral Home in Uniondale.

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