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Raising a glass to Keith Floyd

Keith Floyd
The culinary landscape has been robbed of one of it’s brightest stars. Keith Floyd died yesterday. At the tender age of 65, Keith Floyd died after a heart attack, having previously suffered a stroke and bowel cancer.

I’ve always had an interest in cookery, and Floyd was one of my earliest inspirations. There was no pretence, just passion, knowledge and a natural skill. Gregarious and hilarious, he was brilliantly entertaining. He changed the course of TV cookery and made it an informal and accessible place. He travelled the world seeking out local gorgeous food. And the wine, well, he loved the vin rouge.

I’ve been seeking a particular clip to show you, unfortunately I have been unable to find it. In an episode from his series “Floyd on Britain & Ireland”, he visited Cork, a county I am particularly fond of, it’s where my mother is from and where I holidayed as a child and spent my University years, and some years following.

Now, Cork has a bit of a reputation. They have a sing-song accent, full of drama and song and Corconians declare Cork the real capital of Ireland much to the chargrin of Dubliners. It’s the biggest county, lush, and green and it’s no surprise that Floyd moved there for a bit, for they have a lot in common with their mutual gregarious natures. In the series, he paid a visit to Skibbereen, a small town in rural Cork and cooked with a local lady. It was fantastic, and hilariously subtitled, for the benefit of people unable to cope with the variance in pitch and the speed with which speech is delivered in this part of Ireland.

A particularly personal memory for me is, many years ago, having returned to Ireland after a stretch of travel finishing in Naples and experiencing real Neapolitan pizza and great Italian food, a friend gave me a copy of Floyd on Italy, which I still have. I adored it and read it voraciously, and it’s thanks to Floyd that I made my first homemade pizza. His passion for real people eating real local food was wonderful.

His tv career was quite accidental, and started with a phone in radio show, which led to brief tv appearances, and eventually 19 tv series. Not a buinessman, he was to declare bankruptcy and sell up a number of times. In his life, he owned several restaurants and wrote 25 books, his first was published before his tv career and his final one, his autobiography, is about to be published.

Somewhat coincidentally, Channel 4 last night screened a documentary, Keith on Keith, where Keith Allen decamped to Avignon, in search of Floyd and interviewed him. I was quite shocked when he appeared on camera, he looked very old, much older than his years. Nonetheless, his zest for life was still there, bubbling under the skin. I was surprised to hear that despite appearances, Floyd’s background was not wealthy, and he had grown up foraging out of necessity, getting up early to pick mushrooms before school. This was to serve him very well in his career. Sadly, I only caught half of the show, but intend to view it on 4OD, where it will be available for a further 29 days.

RIP Floyd. We’ll miss you and I will be raising a glass of vin rouge in your honour this evening.

Floyd’s Official Site

Obituary on The Guardian

A tribute to Keith Floyd from Jay Rayner on the Guardian (word of mouth blog)

Beef with Oysters and Guiness recipe – Floyd on Britain & Ireland – BBC

How to make a pizza – Floyd Cooks – BBC

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

18 Comments

  1. A lovely affectionate piece which completely captures what we all loved about Keith’s programmes. I thought the programme last night was very sad but he’d been ill for a while. Good to see how generously today’s telly chefs, including Jamie, have praised him.

    • Thanks Fiona. It was desperately sad indeed, but, as you say, it;s great to see he’s getting the respect he deserved.

  2. I was at work this morning, editing a blog post and chatting online to my dad, when the news broke. I know my mum and dad were both inspired by Keith, for much the same reason that I’m so impressed with the latest Hairy Bikers series. Despite the accent and the bow tie, the man underneath really knew how to communicate with ordinary people. Looking at your clips, the “naughty but nice” philosophy comes across so clearly. OK – so we wouldn’t dream of cooking like that nowadays, but Keith brought a ray of sunshine into many people’s difficult lives, despite the difficulties of his own. All I can say in tribute is “Cheers!”.

    • He really did. Also, he did bring that ray of sunshine, all too important in what can be a difficult world.

      I am not terribly familiar with the new Hairy Bikers series, I must check it out – cheers!

  3. Niamh, your “epitaph” to Keith is really well written. I too am saddened by his death. I always looked forward to his programmes, with his mischievous twinkle, banter and his ability to “wing it” in some shows! And thanks for including the link to C4 as I didn’t see it the previous night.

    See you at CG market tomorrow!

    Caroline (another Cork woman!)

  4. mistytwoshoes says

    I was fortunate enough to live in Bristol during Keith’s heyday! What a charismatic, charming, ecentric, theatrical person he was! I have fond memories of him. A true inspiration to many of my generation.

  5. Thanks for this — almost missed this newsflash out here in Syria

    I have very fond memories of watching Floyd shows with my Dad, growing up. We were always tickled by how much of everything he chucked into the large pot / wok (esp wine) while his hair was blowing everywhere out in the open, and how he always harrassed his cameraman to come do a close up of what was bubbling in the pot, inevitably getting the lens steamed up.

    It always made me laugh, but it always made me think, “that doesn’t look too hard. I could try that”

    It’s made me (and some of my family and friends) happier (and rounder) for it.

    Here’s to Keith.

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