Gary Rhodes, who has died at the age of 59, was one of Britain’s most popular chefs on and off screen – showing his love of good British food on numerous TV shows, and winning Michelin stars for his restaurants.
Rhodes grew up in Kent and began cooking at the age of 14, when his mother went back to work and asked him to cook his younger sister’s dinners.
His first kitchen job was at the Hilton in Amsterdam. While there, he was hit by a van and needed brain surgery, but he recovered and returned to England. He made his first TV appearance on Keith Floyd’s Floyd on Britain and Ireland in 1988.
His first full series for the BBC, Rhodes About Britain, was broadcast in 1994, and a second series followed a year later.
Then came programmes like Open Rhodes, Gary Rhodes’s New British Classics and Classic Rhodes.
By the time he opened his first restaurant, City Rhodes in 1997, he was a household name, and his trademark spiky hair made him one of TV’s most recognisable celebrity chefs.
City Rhodes won its Michelin star within 12 months. In 1998 he opened Rhodes in the Square, in Pimlico, which also won a Michelin star.
In 2001, the BBC chose Rhodes to take over as host of MasterChef from Lloyd Grossman, who had been at the helm for 10 years.
But Rhodes’ incarnation of the show lasted just one series before being cancelled. It was later relaunched – without Rhodes – in 2005.
His other TV shows included Gary Rhodes at the Table, Cookery Year and Rhodes Across India, while he published more than 20 cookbooks.
He often said he disliked the reputation he had among some food writers (“all this cheekie-chappie rubbish”), which was embodied by his spiky hair. But he said: “I think it wouldn’t matter if I changed my hairstyle tomorrow, they wouldn’t like the next hairstyle either.”
When Rhodes was made an OBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2006, he said the honour was more exciting than receiving a Michelin star.
“As a young lad growing up you would hear about these people getting these honours and think how proud they must feel. I never thought something like this would happen,” he said.
He took part in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2008, partnered with Karen Hardy. But his dancing wasn’t quite up to the standard of his cooking – they were the third couple to be voted off.
He’s pictured here on St George’s Day 2009 with Boris Johnson – then mayor of London, now prime minister. Rhodes is wielding a bread and butter pudding, and once said he was most proud of redeeming the humble dish’s reputation.
He’s pictured with fellow chefs Heston Blumenthal (left) and Michel Roux Jr (centre), who were judging chefs competing to win a Roux Scholarship in 2009.
He championed tomatoes on BBC Two’s Great British Food Revival in 2012.
Rhodes’ family said he died on Tuesday in Dubai, which had become his home and where he ran two restaurants.