Restless life of army man turned jaunty TV celebrity

KEITH FLOYD, 65, with his jaunty manner and gritty alcohol-fuelled voice, was one of the most popular and successful of an entire tribe of TV chefs.

He left viewers with the impression that he lived a hedonistic life, and was often to be seen supping copiously from glasses of wine as he demonstrated his prowess as a cook.

Floyd was born in Somerset in 1943. After leaving Wellington School in Somerset, he began his professional life as a journalist in Bristol.

But after watching the film Zulu, he decided to join the army, becoming a second lieutenant in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, stationed in Germany.

While there he persuaded the officers’ mess cook to experiment with various kinds of recipes and to produce, for instance, Gigot d’agneau Romarin for their table rather than roast lamb and two veg.

Floyd used to play a major role in the kitchen and so-called “Floyd nights” were something special in the mess.

After leaving the army, Floyd worked as a barman, dish-washer and vegetable peeler.

By 1971, he owned three restaurants in Bristol which he eventually sold, and he then bought from the proceeds a boat called Flirty. He spent two years with friends cruising the Mediterranean.

In France, he exported wine to Britain and imported antiques to France before opening another restaurant near Avignon.

In 1991, he bought Floyd’s Inn in Tuckenhay, Devon. He sold up in 1996, moved to Kinsale, Co Cork, and then in 1997, to Marbella in Spain.

Throughout these moves, he was running a highly successful TV career — jokey, self-deprecating and totally unpompous.

But it had been a chance meeting in 1984 with a TV producer in his Bristol Bistro which led to the opportunity to make his first television programme, Floyd On Fish, which lasted 10 minutes.

Very soon after that, the BBC offered him his first seven-part series, also called Floyd On Fish.

Since then, Floyd completed numerous television series, including Floyd Uncorked, covering cooking and drinking habits from all parts of the globe. He also wrote more than 20 books, many of which went straight into the bestseller lists.

At its peak, Floyd On... was must-watch TV and was shown in 40 countries.

His TV trademarks included his skewed bow-tie, the ever-constant glass of red wine in his hand, and chatting to, or even telling off, his cameramen while demonstrating a recipe.

He later complained that he had been sacked from the BBC after making a programme in which ostriches were shown eating ostrich eggs.

“I couldn’t believe it.” he said. “None of these boys — Rick Stein, Gary Rhodes — would be working without the Floyd thing.”

His last TV appearance was broadcast on Monday night on Channel 4. In the show, Keith Meets Keith, Keith Allen searched for his hero, Keith Floyd, finally meeting up with him in rural France.

Off the TV, Floyd delighted his fans with one-man stage shows.

Repeats of his programmes were still being screened on satellite TV around the world, of which Floyd complained: “I don’t get a penny.”

Floyd is said to have once gone bankrupt after personally guaranteeing a £36,000 (€40,000) drinks order while running Floyd’s Inn Pub, in Devon.

Floyd split with his fourth wife Tess, who he married in 1996, just before Christmas 2007 and had moved from their main home in Avignon, France.

Floyd has a son, Patrick, with his first wife, Jesmond.

His second marriage in 1983 was to Julie Hatcher, the mother of his daughter, Poppy.

He proposed to his third wife, Shaunagh, after meeting her in the pub four hours beforehand.

She was 23 years younger than him and the marriage, which lasted three years, ended in 1994 when he accused her of forgetting his birthday and threw her and the regulars out of his pub.

In December 2007, Floyd looked back at his life and said: “There is Keith, who is just a cook and doesn’t want to be famous. He wants to lead a simple life, go out to dinner with his mates, go fishing.

“Then there is this other person, Floyd or Floydie. He is universally popular. People are so obsessed with Floydie that Keith can never lead a quiet life. It is unjust. I don’t want to be Floyd.

“If I’ve influenced people, then I have. But I’ve got no idea who Floyd is. Not a clue,” he said.


Louisa Earls is a manager at Books Upstairs, D’Olier St, Dublin, which is owned by her father, Maurice Earls.Virus response writes a new chapter for Books Upstairs

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