11 December 2019 · Author Profile
The culinary world has been reeling from the loss of one of its exceptional voices with the death of British culinary icon Gary Rhodes last month at the age of just 59.
The chef, restaurateur, television personality and author regarded an ambassador for British cuisine, “reintroduced Britain to its rich gastronomic heritage and uncovered a culinary culture to rival that of any other country in the world.”
His celebrity as one of Britain’s most talented chefs was well established from early on in his career. He was lauded for his time at many notable restaurants including the Michelin-starred Castle Hotel, Taunton, followed by a stint as Executive Chef at Greenhouse Restaurant, where he earned the restaurant its first Michelin star. Rhodes went on to open many of his own restaurants including the Michelin-starred Rhodes Twenty Four and in recent years he relocated to the United Arab Emirates where he opened and ran Rhodes Twenty10.
Outside of the kitchen, his ability and ambition fueled a prolific on-screen career as well as fame as an author—he authored more than 20 cookbooks and hosted numerous hit television series, making appearances on many others. He grew increasingly famous with popular shows such as Rhodes Around Britain, the U.K. version of Hell's Kitchen and both the U.K. and original U.S. versions of MasterChef.
In 2006, Rhodes was honored with a new title—OBE (Order of the British Empire), a title honoring him for his contribution to Britain’s culinary culture.
The culinary world is crisscrossed with links to and from Gary Rhodes, him as a central figure. He mentored chefs in his kitchens and taught countless home cooks how to prepare meals through his cookbooks and television programs.
Jo Pratt, food writer and founder of Cookbook Festival, worked for years behind the scenes with Rhodes. She remembers him as a hard-working perfectionist driven by his passion and balanced by, “a wicked sense of humor.” She noted his ability to leave inspiration in his wake, noting one young man at a backstage demonstration who declared, “I’d love to be up there one day doing what he does.” That young man turned out to be Jamie Oliver, who shared a tribute on Instagram sharing, “Gary was a fantastic chef and incredible ambassador for British cooking, he was a massive inspiration to me as a young chef.”
Kit Chapman, proprietor of The Castle at Taunton and Gary Rhodes’ first boss, shares in the first Great British Chefs that, “From the start, it became apparent that [Gary Rhodes] was blessed with a remarkable natural gift matched by a single-minded determination to make the top.” Driven by ambition, Rhodes chased after and earned several Michelin stars throughout his career. He influenced chefs who worked alongside him who also then went on to have their own starred careers—chef Anthony Demetre shared the kitchen with Rhodes at the Castle Hotel at Taunton for several years, and followed at Greenhouse before continuing on his own to win several Michelin stars over the years.
Having written over 20 cookbooks, Gary Rhodes was enthusiastic about cookbooks. He licensed several of his titles to ckbk including Rhodes Around Britain, More Rhodes Around Britain, Open Rhodes Around Britain and Fabulous Food, all companions to his hit TV shows.
Unsurprisingly, Rhodes ranks as one of the most popular authors on ckbk, showing up on the top 10 lists of many prominent food professionals.
Felicity Cloake, Guardian columnist and ckbk advisor, lists New British Classics among her favorite cookbooks, noting, “I found Gary Rhodes’ New British Classics in a second-hand bookshop on the Isle of Man about 20 years ago, and at the time it seemed such a breath of fresh air; in an era, for me, characterised by sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, to find someone taking British food seriously, but being creative with it – it felt like being given permission to cook old favourites like stew and dumplings or spotted dick.”
Borra Garson, Rhodes’ one-time agent and founder of talent management agency Deborah McKenna, lists Keeping it Simple among her top 10. She tells us, “What I like about Keeping it Simple is, strangely, not one particular recipe, but the key flavour ideas at the start of each chapter. It is a cookbook that treats you like a decent cook and a grown up, and with so much usually dictated in a recipe, I thought it was especially nice to go freestyle with simple guidance – Pork with prunes . . . And off you go! No recipe! But if I had to choose one stand out dish it would have to be his salmon fishcakes which were, unusually, rolled into golf ball sized perfect spheres and sat in a lemon butter sauce. Perfection.”
Gary Rhodes’ own top 10 list shows while he became known for rediscovering classic British dishes, his personal top 10 showed that classical French cuisine remained a major influence including recommendations for Great Chefs of France, Simple French Food by Richard Olney, and Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook among others.