Friday, October 02, 2009

Floyd: In Brief, It's Absolute Rubbish

Keith Floyd's boozy memoirs have been published today, two days after family and friends celebrated his colourful life at a funeral in Bristol, the city where he ran a mini-chain of restaurants and launched his TV cooking career.

His autobiography, Stirred But Not Shaken, deals with his battle with the bottle, his four failed marriages, and a whole host of anecdotes befitting a man who made cheffing the new rock and roll, and changed cooking programmes for ever.

But even though the flamboyant cad had an encyclopaedic knowledge of gastronomy, and once said cooking was the only thing he lived for, he has some stark advice for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps, and taking up the knives.

"Don't ever go into the restaurant business," he says. "It kills marriages, it kills relationships, and it kills life. It kills everything. And I, the man with four ex-wives, should know."

Sadly, Floyd never actually saw the book. He died of a heart attack four days before it was printed.

Writer James Steen, who also penned Marco Pierre White’s fantastic biog White Slave, spent a year with the legendary gastronaut ghosting the book, and recalls how difficult it was at times because of the wine-guzzling cook's aversion to "self-analysis".

"On TV we all saw him as this jolly character, jumping around, funny, witty, and we were all very envious of him,” he said.

"But actually away from the cameras, his personal life was quite tragic in many respects.

"It was a culmination of things; first of all there was the drink, but he was also an insomniac, and a worrier.

"So when he would go away filming, he would be worrying about the next day, and how everything would work out, and how he would get it right.

"And this bottle of whisky - the dreaded Johnnie Walker - really became a crutch for him - it became something he felt helped him through the night and into the next day.

"In the book he admits he was an alcoholic, and he talks about drinking and how it all started...and how it finally took its toll, and he's very open in that respect.

"But he was extremely proud that he had passed on knowledge to his viewers, and that people had derived happiness from watching his programmes."

Steen said the proudest moment of Floyd's life was when he was filming Floyd On France, considered by some to be the best cooking programme ever made.

He said the cook's favourite scene was when he was scolded by an "old dragon" French housewife for ruining a dish of piperade.

Unlike the celebrity chefs Floyd's success spawned, the eccentric entertainer insisted on keeping the criticism in.

He even revels in it (imagine Rhodes or Ramsay doing the same) and translates the drubbing for viewers: "Apparently, she doesn't want to taste it because the way I cooked it was so off-putting that she knows it is going to be awful...

"There's not enough salt, not enough brief, it's absolute rubbish."

Steen added: "What wasn't seen afterwards was at the end of that particular scene, David Pritchard (the show's producer) shouted 'that's a rap' and she thought they'd shouted 'that's a rat'.

"And she yelled ' there's not a rat in my kitchen!'"

But even though Floyd was a complete natural on camera, he was a simple cook at heart, and often wondered whether he would have been happier without the fame; a local celebrity bashing out bistro dishes for arty-types in Bristol, but nothing more.

He found the media world pretentious and filled with reprehensible heels ready to jump ship whenever a celebrity’s kudos was about to fade. If you’ve read his first autobiography Floyd In The Soup, it is filled with references to the gruel of motorway service station diets, empty hotel rooms, and endless TV and radio interviews. ‘THEY’ made me get up at 5am etc, is a regular refrain.

Floyd’s almost schizophrenic relationship with TV, as his two halves battled between Floydie, the hard-drinking Oliver Reed of the kitchen that everyone loved, and the simple soul who just wanted to go fishing with his mates, is one of the main themes that came out during Steen’s weeks of taped interviews.

He added: "One thing that comes across in the book is he actually found it all very difficult - he didn't really like telly people, and saw them as a different breed.

"There is a classic line where he says 'I loved David (Pritchard) but I hated him too'. He felt that way about a lot of people who came into his life."

Floyd was cremated in a coffin made from banana leaves on Wednesday. But the celebrity chefs his success spawned were noticeable by their absence.

Despite being quick to fill TV screens and newspapers with tributes to the bow-tied roue over the past two weeks, none of them made it to say a final thank you to the man who’d made them millions.

Floyd’s only two real cheffing friends were both busy. Jean Christophe Novelli was attending a hospice in Hertfordshire (so you can’t knock him for that), and Marco Pierre White had “work commitments”, according to his spokeswoman.

Rick Stein, the only other real sleb chef he could have called a friend, was in Australia, doing interviews, ironically enough, about the pressures of fame and mistresses. Even ‘comedian’ Jim Davidson flew in from Dubai for the funeral. And he’s a right c***.

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