Keith Floyd – Chef and Entertainer, remembered by Stephen Barrett:
I first met Keith Floyd in Bristol in the late 1970s. Inevitably it was in a pub, the greyhound in Clifton (Bristol) where he was holding court whilst sipping a large whisky and water. We had a friend in common (another restaurateur) that along with Keith had genuine sparkle, an enthusiasm for the good life with a touch of Gallic arrogance that was instantly appealing. His Bristol restaurant was frankly barmy, haphazard, even risky (in a culinary way) as it was driven by his charismatic bonhomie. Over the ensuing years we met again this time with the director David Pritchard who had also seen him perform in his Bristol emporium and offered him a TV series. This was around 1985 when he was to star in the first of many “Floyd On” series. I remember him asking me about the (Plymouth) Barbican fishermen, their boats and their drinking joints. Putting him straight on the local scene he leapt in head first, embracing his new found culture and inevitable foray into stardom.
His faintly harassed style was infectious as he bounced from barbecuing bass on a two-man trawler to the grand kitchens of illustrious French chateaux or camping with stetson donned cowboys devouring giant plates of Louisiana Chicken. He made TV an extension of his ego. TV became his lover, his bank, his reason to wake up. French wine was also very important to his life as he cuddled up to it on more than one occasion both on-screen and off.
Keith Floyd had invented a new sort of TV fun with his infectious smile, simple “anyone can do it” style of cooking and wonderful irreverence at every turn. His eventual separation from David Pritchard (who had by then found Rick Stein) was to be part of his undoing as he seemed to be lost without his mentor. New forays into a pub with rooms on the River Dart were seen as the start of a sort of rebuilding of his life with a new wife and stable business. This backfired horribly for him as it slipped into bankruptcy forcing him away from Devon and the fabled hostelry that was aptly renamed “Floyd’s Inn (sometimes)”
The emergence of new TV chefs seemed to force him off our screens and away from the country with a few years in the wilderness living in Dublin and Spain. During this time he was always looking for that certain allure that was so evident in the early years. He would have loved a new mainstream programme but sadly it did not mature. He will however remain a Tour de Force in TV terms, with his inimitable “Captain Chaos” style as a swashbuckling chef, The Jack Sparrow of the hot plate or the charming, erudite champion of the viewer who in the safety of their home were delivered take-away laughter by the plate full. His kind will be very hard to replace. “Now over here Clive not over there!”
Stephen Barrett, Wine and Food Writer and Restaurateur. Bistro One, Plymouth