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.
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.