Keith Floyd retrospective now running on British television

The legendary restaurateur and television presenter Keith Floyd — the UK’s first celebrity chef — would have been 70 on December 28, 2013.

Last autumn, three channels — BBC2, Food Network UK (Freeview 41) and the Travel Channel (Freeview 42) — began showing repeats of his shows. With their Christmas programming over, Food Network have resumed showing his series at 10 a.m. weekdays.

My better half and I have been watching with interest, much more so than when Floyd was alive. The older series from the 1980s are the best, particularly Floyd on France (as in ‘en France’, he said) and Floyd on Britain and Ireland. He looks smart and wears his characteristic bow tie in most of the series through the mid-1990s.

In Floyd on Fish, we were surprised to see a young Rick Stein prepare a dish and talk about — what else? — fish.

In the series on Britain and Ireland, a very young — and somewhat heavier — Gary Rhodes professionally explained classic French sauce preparation.

Another series of his worth watching is Floyd Uncorked, which takes viewers around France with Master of Wine Jonathan Pedley.

Floyd has given much to British cookery shows. A number of our television chefs cook on location. James Martin’s Food Map of Britain (BBC) shown in the autumn of 2013 was pure homage to Floyd, from the cooking on location, to open criticism of the producer, to the invisible hand which passed plates back and forth.

The other thing which struck my better half and me was that most of the Britons on the show were careful to appear presentable on television. They also spoke in their best received pronunciation with only a hint of regional accents. Today, of course, that would be taboo.

We didn’t think the later series were all that great. Once Floyd ventured to Spain and beyond, he began getting careless about preparation and often relied on stews. After that, we remembered why we turned off: too much slapdash preparation and dishes that few locals sampled.

That said, the Floyd retrospective is still worth viewing if only to watch the man in action.

They are also a good reminder that our memories of a kinder, gentler Britain are accurate. Well mannered, well spoken and well dressed people really did live among us not that long ago. My, how times have changed.

If you met Keith Floyd or ate at his Maltsers Arms in Devon or Brasserie in Phuket, I would be particularly interested to read your impressions of the man and his food.

And if, like me, you looked forward to watching him on television, please feel free to chime in.

13 comments for “Keith Floyd retrospective now running on British television

  1. Dan
    January 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

    a legend for his cooking….and his choice of music, The Stranglers.
    The man had taste.

  2. January 2, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Floyd set the template for almost all cookery shows that followed. But where he was ebullient with real people, these rely on contrived scenes.

    One of my all time TV favourite moments is when Floyd cooks piperade for a French woman and she says that it’s terrible, makes her own and Floyd admits that hers is much better.

    • Mudplugger
      January 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      I’d nominate the scene where he got progressively more rat-arsed on a train. A great cook but an even better entertainer.

    • January 4, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Truth in cookery! It’ll never catch on… 🙁

    • January 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      The piperade scene is a classic! 🙂

  3. James Strong
    January 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Didn’t he die just after eating a good meal?
    A true bon viveur and a real, rather than stage-managed, personality.

  4. Lemmi
    January 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    My wife and I met Keith at the Maltsters in 1994. When we went in we were greeted at the door by what appeared to be an old tramp, it turned out to be Keith. He was a lot shorter than I had thought. We spent 3 hours. Chatting to him, a little about food but mainly about rugby and the forthcoming World Cup in South Africa. We also nattered about motorbikes, we had gone to Devon on my Triumph Daytona 1200. He was an absolutely charming man, great sense of humour and genuinely interested in what we had to say, not at all stuck up or only interest in himself. I’m so glad I had the privilege to meet him.

    • January 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      I can imagine.

      Thank you for that anecdote — much appreciated.

  5. anthony mercer
    January 2, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I loved the scene when, in Spain, he roared off the metalled road and across rubble strewn tundra. ‘This is a true Go Anywhere Car’ – he said, with a wide grin on his face. ‘A Hire Car’.

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