Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 09:06 UK

Obituary: Keith Floyd

Keith Floyd specialised in cooking in the most extraordinary places

With a whisk in one hand, a glass of wine in the other and wearing his trademark bow-tie, Keith Floyd transformed the face of television cookery.

Whether rustling up a spicy prawn dish on a beach in Thailand, 40-clove garlic chicken in Provence or jambalaya in Louisiana, Floyd's idiosyncratic, often shambolic, style of presentation endeared him to millions of viewers around the world.

But Keith Floyd almost stumbled into stardom. Born in 1943, he was educated at Wellington School, Somerset, and became a junior newspaper reporter before the sight of the Michael Caine film Zulu led him into the Army.

He served as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment before leaving to pursue a career in the catering industry.

After working as everything from a potato peeler to a dishwasher, Keith Floyd opened his first restaurant, Floyd's Bistro, in Bristol. He was a mere 22 years old.

His culinary style, with its emphasis on fish, proved a hit and he was soon running three establishments.

Keith Floyd on Floyd on Fish
The 1985 series Floyd on Fish established him as a star

But Floyd's lack of business acumen, and a staggering propensity to distribute largesse to all and sundry, soon proved his downfall, just as they would throughout his career.

After selling up, he sojourned in France for a while before buying a restaurant there. This too, was a failure and Floyd returned to Bristol and opened yet another bistro.

This restaurant, situated near the city's BBC studios, was frequented by a television producer and bon viveur by the name of David Pritchard.

It was Pritchard who first recognised the star potential of the place's eccentric, Stranglers-loving, patron.

Well lubricated

Though Floyd was well known among Bristol's foodies, and had already written his first book, Floyd's Food, it was television exposure that made him a star.

The 1985 series Floyd on Fish was unlike anything that had come before. For a start, Pritchard moved the action out of the television studio.

The first episode, for example, featured Floyd cooking on a trawler while out at sea, meeting other chefs and demonstrating their recipes.

Keith Floyd
Keith Floyd's effervescent style made him famous around the world

As a presenter, Keith Floyd was unique. Well lubricated with the ubiquitous glass of wine, both booze and banter would flow as he directed his long-suffering cameraman Clive to show either his face or the dish with regular commands like "back to me".

Additionally, Pritchard would often order scenes to be re-shot, with a recharged glass each time so, as Floyd later admitted: "I used to come off those shoots just wrecked."

It should probably have failed, but the alchemy produced by the flamboyant chef and the immediacy of Pritchard's production style proved an instant hit.

Series after series followed - Floyd on Food, on France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Floyd's American Pie and Far Flung Floyd, to name but a few. And the books of the series made Floyd a wealthy man.


But the good times were not to last. Having ploughed a million pounds into his dream pub, The Maltsters Arms in Devon, Keith Floyd lost the lot.

His media commitments prevented him from spending much time there and not even the presence of superchef-in-waiting Jean-Christophe Novelli in the kitchen was consolation for diners who wanted to meet the man himself.

Floyd eventually went bankrupt, allegedly after he accepted a £36,000 cheque for a drinks order. The cheque bounced.

Keith Floyd in Toledo, Spain
Cheers! Floyd took cookery programmes out of the studio

And matters got even worse when the BBC cancelled his shows. In an era of Nigella, Gordon, Jamie and a re-emergent Delia, the airwaves were packed with cookery programmes.

More recently, Floyd appeared on channel Five and had been in negotiations with the BBC about a return.

But many bridges had been burned. He fell out spectacularly with David Pritchard and was bitter, both about his treatment by the BBC and his own legacy.

"We don't cook any more, we just watch TV programmes about cookery," he told one interviewer.

"Nobody takes cookery seriously now, it's just cheap entertainment. I'm totally to blame. I started it all and now I'm going to go down in history for having started a series of culinary game shows.

"It makes me terribly sad."

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