The Best TV Chef Ever

Keith Floyd Dies at 65

by John Mariani

There never was and now never will be anyone to match Keith Floyd as a raconteur gourmand, the British TV chef and cookbook author who died this week at his home in Montfrin, France. His personable style of irreverent, make-it-up-as-you-go-along showmanship was in complete contrast to the over-produced, contrived glitz of most contemporary food shows in which loud, crass personalities with weird haircuts go around the world looking for the worst things to eat and the oddest people to eat them with.

Floyd was the antithesis of all that, thanks, partly, to the lowest of all BBC budgets that allowed him nothing more than a camera and sound man to follow him to France or Spain or wherever he could afford to go, where you’d find him cooking in some Normandy housewife’s kitchen or on a Basque beach with the wind whipping through his tousled hair, setting his omnipresent bow tie askew. A glass of wine was ever at hand.

In his 1980s TV shows, “Floyd on Fish” (above) and “Floyd on France,” often recycled in the USA, he would speak Brit-inflected French to a fisherman then turn to the camera and say he didn’t understand a word of the man’s dialect or confiding to the audience that a restaurateur he was working alongside was “an old crocodile.” In well-titled his memoir, Stirred But Not Shaken (to be published next month), he writes,
“I don’t think we had any rules, and if we did, we most certainly broke them.” It was this seat-of-the-pants approach to cooking that was at once very genuine, clearly without guile, and always hilarious.

But Floyd knew his food, without fuss and without pretense. He had been a chef at
the Royal Hotel in Bristol, then opened a few of his own (failed) restaurants before hopping off on a five-year jaunt through Spain and France, where he ran a small restaurant in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, then returning to Britain to open a seafood restaurant in Bristol, where a BBC producer asked him to do a 10-second food spot, which led to BBC2 bankrolling put “Floyd on Fish” in 1985. Twenty more series followed, including “Floyd’s American Pie” and a talk show.

The restlessness and the headlong tilt of Floyd’s TV personality was apparently as true of his private life.
Raffish and self-deprecating, Floyd reeked silly British savoir-faire; he married (and divorced) four times. And recent photos of him show a man who appears far in advance of his 65 years. His was a life truly well lived, rough spots and all. He will be missed by those millions who invited him into their homes to cook, to kibbitz, and to charm for all those years.

Keith Floyd (December 28, 1943 – September 14, 2009) — Gourmand, epicure, oenophile, raconteur, alcoholic womanizer….in other words, someone we could relate to. (ELV)


3 thoughts on “The Best TV Chef Ever

  1. Thanks for sharing ELV–it’s nice to bring forward the life story of often-forgotten “stars” of the food world.

    To the television viewer, Keith Floyd looked disheveled, bordered on drunkeness, and obviously didn’t follow a script handed to him by a Producer–all qualities that him so thoroughly likeable and fun–yet he held inside his soul a serious knowledge and love of food and wine.

    It’s too bad that we don’t have more personalities like Keith Floyd cooking on television today.

  2. We did and he was “quick slurping” long before Keith Floyd. His name was Graham Kerr, better known as The Galloping Gourmet!

  3. For those true “Floydophiles” out there (we believe he would have liked that phrase), we have found a rather nice collection that is now available – a 14 CD set that covers his last seven series, at “”. Unfortunately we can not find similar sets for those brilliant early shows, so remain stuck with old VCR tapes that are showing signs of wear. If anyone out there has found some of the oldies we would appreciate any tips.

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