I am absolutely gob smacked to learn that Gary Rhodes one of the pioneers of modern British food has died at the young age of 59. He was one of the most understated and self effacing chefs I have ever had the pleasure to know. Although a ‘Celebrity Chef’ he was a chef’s chef. He was quite shy compared to the Jamie’s and Gordon’s of this world. Gary came to the Castle Hotel at Taunton in the 80’s when I first met him. More like a ‘Punk’ than a Chef with his spiky hair and ear piercings. His looks belied his incredible talent! He succeeded another friend of mine, Chris Oakes, who like Gary was another brilliant modern British chef, himself quiet and modest who also tragically died aged 59 in 2015. I never knew the cause of Chris’ death despite, the last time I saw him (months before he died) he had mentioned that he had not been well. The same, at the time of writing, is the case with Gary. His cause of death has not yet been disclosed. He had been living in Dubai since 2011 and I had not seen or talked to him for many years. He had two well known restaurants in Dubai, ‘Rhodes W1’ and ‘Rhodes Twenty 10’.
His bestselling books, Rhodes Around Britain and More Rhodes Around Britain (and his Rhodes Around Britain TV programme) confirmed his love and passion for modern British cooking. Abroad he had a ‘Rhodes’ restaurant in Grenada, Rhodes on P&O cruise liners, Arcadia and Oriana, as well as an outlet in Dublin and The Grosvenor House in London, ‘Rhodes W1’: and in 1998 one of his first emblematic restaurants ‘Rhodes in the Square’ in London.
It was Gary I turned to in ’87 when I needed a chef for an upmarket — ahead of its time — restaurant on the Costa del Sol. He sent me his second chef Mark Pantling who I also knew.
His work and success was rewarded with an OBE in 2006. His lovely wife Jennie must be inconsolable and his family too.
Tributes were paid by fellow professionals Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver extolling his virtues and contribution to our industry.
Losing two great chefs at such young ages in a period of five years is heartbreaking. Goodbye old chum — RIP Gary Rhodes 27th November 2019