Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes has died ‘very suddenly’ aged 59 during a break in filming for a new ITV show, it was revealed today.
The father-of-two, famous for his gelled spiky hair and for putting ‘British cuisine on the map’ passed away with his wife Jennie by his side in Dubai where he has lived since 2011.
Tributes have flooded in for the chef – who celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary this year and got his first Michelin star when he was 26 – as he was hailed a ‘gent and genius’ and ‘the first rock star of cooking.’
In a statement from the family today they said: ‘The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE.
‘Gary passed away last evening, Tuesday 26th November 2019, at the age of 59, with his beloved wife Jennie by his side. The family would like to thank everyone for their support and ask for privacy during this time.’
It is not known exactly when he was first taken ill but his son George posted a heartbreaking Instagram picture of his father the day before he died, with a blue heart emoji caption underneath. It is believed the photograph was taken months ago.
According to a statement by Dubai Police, Rhodes ‘died of natural causes’.
Jamie Oliver posted on Instagram that he had ‘passed away after a tragic fall.’ Oliver later deleted the post, and wrote a tribute without the claim, calling him ‘a fantastic chef and incredible ambassador for British cooking.’
A PR director at the Grosvenor House Dubai, where the chef had restaurant Rhodes W1, said he was working ‘until the day he died.’ Chef Reif Othman, who was filming an ITV programme with Rhodes in Dubai six days before his death, said at the time that he ‘seemed fine’ and ‘looked healthy.’
The production company that was working with Rhodes on the new TV series said he was suddenly taken ill during a break in filming.
A statement from his family said: ‘The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE
Rhodes pictured with Vineet Bhatia in Dubai just four days ago. It is believed to be the last photograph of the chef
Son George posted this picture on Instagram the day before his father died, with a blue heart emoji:
Gary Rhodes pictured in Dubai in an image posted on his Instagram on November 19
Rhodes pictured with chef Reif Othman in Dubai during filming for the ITV show. It was posted six days before his death
Rhodes was famed for fronting shows MasterChef, MasterChef USA, Hell’s Kitchen, Ready Steady Cook and Rhodes Around Britain throughout his career.
Rock Oyster Media and Goldfinch TV said in a statement to the PA news agency: ‘Gary was in the middle of filming a wonderful new series with Rock Oyster Media for ITV from his base in Dubai. Gary was taken ill very suddenly at home during a break in filming and died a short time afterwards.
‘Production was obviously halted as soon as Gary was taken ill and members of the Rock Oyster Team remain in Dubai to support the family as best they can.’
ITV said: ‘We are deeply shocked and saddened by this devastating news. Our thoughts and condolences are with Gary’s family at this incredibly sad time.’
PR director at the Grosvenor House Dubai, Jaideep Bhatia, said: ‘He arrived in Dubai in 2007 and had two restaurants, Rhodes 2010 at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa, and Rhodes W1 at the Grosvenor.
‘He was working until the day he died. He was working until Tuesday.’
Mr Bhatia said he was unable to confirm any further details about Mr Rhodes’ death, as everything else had to come ‘from the family’.
Television chef Gary Rhodes has died aged 59, his family have confirmed. Pictured right: Rhodes with his wife Jennie
Rhodes’s brother Kit (far right) posted this image on Instagram one day ago, showing the chef alongside his wife (second right) and sons (far left, and centre) with the caption: Family #strongertogether
Vineet Bhatia, another Michelin starred chef with a restaurant in Dubai, said on Twitter how he was with Rhodes just four days ago, during shooting for the ITV programme.
He wrote alongside a picture of the two together: ‘Extremely sad to know of Gary Rhodes sudden passing away.
‘Had known this gem of a man for years and intact filmed with him just 4 days ago for his new TV series. RIP my friend and may God give strength to Jennie and your boys in these tough times.’
Chef Mr Othman told MailOnline how he was filming at his Japanese restaurant in Dubai with Rhodes, for a programme ‘exploring the heritage culture and traditions of Dubai.’
He said: ‘He looked healthy, he looked fine, he looked good when we were shooting for ITV channel, he seemed fine.
‘So I’m very sad to hear the news but blessed that I saw him in person.’
He added: ‘I grew up watching him on TV and even got the opportunity to meet and work with him just a week ago. He has so much energy and charisma that it projects to all that knew him. He will be truly missed.’
A message on the Rhodes Twenty10 website read: ‘Closed from 16th September until further notice.’ Its Facebook page has not been updated since September 8.
Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa said in a statement: ‘The team are devastated to hear of the tragic passing of Chef Gary Rhodes OBE.
‘Not only has the industry lost a true culinary legend, we have also lost an inspirational human being and a very dear friend.
Rhodes and his brother Kit. Kit uploaded this image on social media, and wrote: ‘Not only have I lost a brother, but a best friend too’
‘No words can express our sadness at Gary’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rhodes family.’
Jamie Oliver this morning led tributes to Rhodes, posting on Instagram: ‘My heart felt sympathies to his wife , kids, friends and family, sending love and thoughts.
‘Gary was a fantastic chef and incredible ambassador for British cooking, he was a massive inspiration to me as a young chef.
‘He reimagined modern British cuisine with elegance and fun. rest in peace Chef.’
The tribute came moments after Rhodes’ death was announced by the family. An earlier post had included a claim that he had died after a ‘tragic fall.’
Nigella Lawson tweeted: ‘I’m so sad to hear of Gary Rhodes’ death. His poor family. He was such a talent, nothing to do with the showbiz aspect. Remember his food from the Castle Hotel and the Greenhouse so fondly and admiringly.’
Tom Kerridge, formerly Rhodes’ sous chef, tweeted: ‘I’m deeply shocked and hugely saddened to hear the tragic news about Gary Rhodes.
‘He is one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage. Taking simple ingredients, embracing classic dishes & making something world class.
‘Many chefs have been through his kitchen, myself included. I consider it to be an honour to have stood alongside him at the pass. My thoughts go out to family and close friends for their huge loss.’
Simon Hulstone tweeted: ‘Very sad to get a message this morning from Dubai informing me of the brilliant Chef and mentor Gary Rhodes passing last night.
‘What a shining star for British gastronomy. Rest well Chef.’
Gordon Ramsay said: ‘We lost a fantastic chef today in Gary Rhodes. He was a chef who put British Cuisine on the map.
‘Sending all the love and prayers to your wife and kids. You’ll be missed Gx’
TV chef James Martin posted: ‘Hugely influential in my life and the life of the British food scene. Gent and genius…RIP Gary, I can’t believe you’re gone.’
Ainsley Harriott credited Rhodes with making ‘cookery the new rock ‘n roll’.
He said: ‘Such sad news about Gary, who has left us far too soon.
‘He was a real inspiration to a generation of chefs who learned their trade in professional kitchens and, like him, went on to share their passion and skill through television, books and live appearances.
‘He was the first to make cookery the new rock ‘n roll and will always remain a true icon for all of us.
‘Our thoughts are with Jennie and the boys. We’ll miss you, mate.’
Prue Leith said: ‘Gary was the first rock star of cooking, making it cool for boys to cook. Spiky haircut, tight trousers, full of energy. And a great chef.’
Chef Jason Atherton posted a picture of himself and Rhodes on Instagram, adding: ‘I simply cannot express how gutted I am.
Rhodes pictured with his two sons Samuel and George in an image posted on George’s Instagram on Father’s Day
Rhodes with his wife Jennie and two sons Samuel and George in 2003. He had been married to Jennie for 30 years
‘What a very sad day, I simply cannot believe that one of our greatest chefs left us too soon.
‘Gary was one of the very first that paved the way as a true chef, genius not only in the kitchen but out of it. He showed us how you could not only be successful in the kitchen but also write amazing books do amazing Tv shows and was one of the true greats.
‘We only cooked together just the other month celebrating our love of Dubai together and had planned to do another at Rhodes in February.
‘Love to Jennie and the family rest in peace chef and show them up there how great you are.’
Karen Hardy Studios tweeted a message on behalf of the dancer, who partnered Rhodes on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008.
Jamie Oliver has this morning led tributes to Rhodes, posting on Instagram: ‘My heart felt sympathies to his wife , kids, friends and family, sending love and thoughts’ Gordon Ramsay also posted a tribute today
Chef Simon Hulstone also paid tribute to Rhodes after his death was confirmed this morning
The tweet said: ‘With Karen being away in China, she has limited access to social media and has asked us to post on her behalf. I am truly speechless and lost for words but my heart and thoughts go out to his beautiful family at this time. RIP xxx.’
Chef Brian Turner, who worked with Rhodes early in his career, tweeted: ‘Such sad news of the passing away of one of England’s great chefs, Gary Rhodes.
‘A man I was privileged to know from his very early days, watching his success & noting the number of young people he inspired in our wonderful industry. A true friend. RIP chef.’
Nathan Outlaw, who trained under Rhodes, said: ‘The news of Gary’s passing is just awful. I really don’t know what to say other than what an inspirational person he was to me in my early career.
Rhodes was presented with an OBE for services to the hospitality industry in November 2006
‘I walked past his picture on the wall at Broadstairs College where I did my training for two years. He had previously attended the college and was a hero and role model to the young chefs there.
‘Watching him on TV really spurred me on to pursue a career cooking.
Rhodes, known for his distinctive spiking hair style, was a household name in the early 2000s
‘I worked with him for only a short time; I was too young and inexperienced, but it was long enough to have a lasting effect on me and my career ambitions.
‘He was always kind and supportive. It’s just a huge loss both to me personally and to the industry.’
Simon Rimmer posted on Instagram: ‘Tragic news that Gary Rhodes has died. Champion of British food and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever had at the start of my career. Thoughts and love to Jennie and the boys.’
Daniel Clifford posted: ‘Rest in peace a true British classic Gary Rhodes you open the door for so many young English cooks.’
Rhodes, known for his distinctive spiking hair style, was a household name in the early 2000s, and fronted shows such as Masterchef and Hells Kitchen. In 2006 he competed in the BBC’s Great British Menu.
Born in south London in 1960, his family moved to Gillingham, Kent. He went to catering college in Thanet which is where he met his wife Jennie.
In the 1970s he had to have major brain surgery when he was hit by a transit van on a night out.
He was known for his love of British cuisine and earned a record five Michelin Stars throughout his career. He was the author of more than 18 cookery books.
In 2008 he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing but was the third celebrity to be voted off. He moved to Dubai in 2011.
The south London boy who found culinary stardom: How Gary Rhodes learned to cook by preparing meals for his family when his father walked out on them when he was just six
Gary Rhodes (pictured on the left) with brother Kit and mother Jean on holiday
With his trademark enthusiasm and gravity-defying haircut, Gary Rhodes was among the bevy of Michelin-starred chefs to become household names following the soaring success of the television cookery show format in the 1990s.
But he credited the beginnings of his culinary genius to experiences in his young life, after his father walked out on the family when he was just six.
The chef was born in south London in 1960 before the family moved to the Medway town of Gillingham in Kent.
He later told how the family was left shell shocked after his father, a caretaker, ran away with a next door neighbour and disappeared from their lives.
Their new situation led to Gary become the family cook, and gave him the sense of hard-work and responsibility which never left him.
In an interview in 2008, he told the Daily Mail: ‘My father walking out on me and my brother and two sisters made us grow up so quickly. When I look back, I realise I had quite a responsible head on young shoulders. It made me much stronger, because I had to be – so good did come out of bad.’
‘When he left, my mother had four children, and the youngest – my sister Cheryl – was only a baby. We lived in a council flat and money was tight. When mum had to go back to work as a secretary, I became the family cook.
‘By the time Cheryl was six or seven, I was picking her up from school, taking her home and planning what I was going to cook for her that evening. While other teenage boys were off playing football, I was busy keeping house.’
At 15, he got a place doing catering at Thanet technical college, where he met Jennie, who he would later marry and who has been with him throughout his life. She was by his side when he died last night.
His first real job in catering came when he was 19, becoming a commis chef at the Amsterdam Hilton.
Rhodes made a brief appearance in a Keith Floyd show in 1988 before appearing in Hot Chefs in 1992, his big break into TV cooking shows
The couple returned to the UK following a horrific van accident in Holland, after which Jennie was told Gary could be brain-damaged and might never talk again. The incident also affected his sense of smell.
Gary Rhodes taught himself to cook after his father walked out on his family and he took cooking responsibilities on to help his mother
He needed six months off work, but recovered and returned to Britain to get his ‘big break’ in the industry, becoming head chef at the Castle Hotel in Taunton aged 26.
The move allowed the couple to buy their first home, although Gary later admitted he had to work long hours to retain the hotel’s Michelin star.
He later said: ‘I can’t bear it when young chefs quit because they can’t stand the hours, or they say the money isn’t enough. It was how I started out – you reap the rewards years later.’
And reap the rewards he did – in 1990 he moved to London and became head chef at the Greenhouse Restaurant in Mayfair.
He made a name for himself by reviving British classics, including fish cakes, oxtails and bread and butter pudding. Under Gary’s stewardship, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 1996.
By this time, Rhodes was appearing on TV, first appearing on Hot Chefs, alongside other members of the first wave of celebrity chefs – Antony Worrall Thompson and Ken Hom.
This led him on to the series Rhodes Around Britain in 1994 and Gary Rhodes’s Perfect Christmas in 1998.
At a time when Britpop dominated the music scene, Rhodes was credited with injecting the ‘laddishness’ into the kitchen.
His effervescent and affable on-screen persona made him a hit with would-be chefs, though his serious culinary credentials were earned long before he was beamed into the front rooms, and kitchens, of millions of Britons through regular appearances on the likes of BBC series Ready Steady Cook.
Rhodes, one of the first breed of celebrity chefs, with Princess Diana at the gala night to celebrate the film Apollo 13 in 1995
Rhodes at the opening of his London restaurant Rhodes W1 in 2007. He had first hit the big time as head chef at the Castle Hotel in Taunton aged 26
Reflecting on his career in an interview earlier this year, Rhodes said: ‘When I first started on TV I think I was the very first professional chef to have his first full BBC series.
‘Today, I suppose I have a little bit of pride watching chefs on TV – the reason for that, many of them worked for me.’
Rhodes founded the first restaurant of his own in 1997, when City Rhodes opened. The chain later expanded to open three other Rhodes and Co eateries around the UK.
He starred on Masterchef, for which he found most fame, first in 1993 but in more episodes in 2001, and Masterchef USA.
In 2006, he was honoured with an OBE for services to the hospitality industry, something he described as ‘just unbelievable’ and even had ‘the edge’ over a Michelin star.
Rhodes (pictured in 2011 at the Taste of Christmas food festival at London’s ExCel centre) championed British recipes which had become unfashionable
He said at the time: ‘It makes me feel very proud that British cooking has been recognised.
‘Thirty years ago when I started training at college I remember serving the Duke of Edinburgh.
Rhodes on Strictly with partner Karen Hardy
‘I was only ever allowed to serve vegetables. I remember looking around and seeing the Queen at the top table, and lo and behold there’s now some kind of connection.’
In 2007, Rhodes began his work in Dubai, opening Rhodes Mezzanine at The Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai. It went on to win ‘Restaurant of the Year’.
In 2008, he competed in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnering with pro Karen Hardy, but was voted off just three weeks in.
He said of his time on the show: ‘I’ve cooked live in front of thousands of people; I have spoken in public and appeared on television without so much as a butterfly in my stomach
‘And each Saturday, I would arrive early in preparation for the live Strictly show feeling really positive.
‘But as the day wore on, the nerves would set in and, at that moment when you know you are about to face a live audience, a panel of judges and ten million viewers, they would announce: ‘Gary and Karen’, and I would think, ‘Oh, my God’.
‘The nerves just pulled me apart. I didn’t realise I could ever be as nervous as that.’
He moved over to the UAE to concentrate on Mezzanine and three other venues he later opened there.
How Gary Rhodes was original member of celebrity chef set including Michael Roux Jr and Aldo Zilli who turned British cooking ‘into the new rock’n’roll’
by Richard Spillett
Gary Rhodes was one of the first wave of celebrity chefs in the 1990s who sought to make British cooking glamorous, celebrated and exciting after years of being seen as dowdy and dull.
He made his first, brief, appearance on TV on the show of one of his forerunners, Keith Floyd, in 1988, when he was filmed cooking oxtails at his Castle Hotel in Torquay.
But his real break on the small screen came through the BBC show Hot Chefs, alongside fellow chefs Antony Worrall Thompson and Ken Hom and presenter Ross King.
That led to his breakthrough 1994 series, Rhodes Around Britain, in which he travelled the country seeking out traditional dishes which had fallen by the wayside, such as hotpot, oxtail and chutneys.
The show, followed by a bestselling cookbook, has been the model for endless series by others since, as Britain’s taste for new chefs and new foods increased.
A 2005 photo shows a line-up of that first wave of TV chefs, with Rhodes alongside Michel Roux Jnr, Aldo Zilli, Antonio Carluccio and Giorgio Locatelli.
Fellow chef Ainsley Harriott today credited Rhodes with making ‘cookery the new rock ‘n roll’.
Gary Rhodes (centre), pictured with Michel Roux Jnr (left), Christian Delteil (fourth from left), Rainer Becker (seventh from the right), Aldo Zilli (fifth from the right), Antonio Carluccio (third from right) and Giorgio Locatelli (furthest right) pictured at the 2005 Taste Of London event in Regent’s Park
Carluccio, Roux Jnr, Lacotelli, Zilli and Gary Rhodes were part of a new movement in the 1990s to glamourise cooking
Antonio Carluccio (left), dubbed the Godfather of Italian gastronomy, was known for his restaurant chain Carluccio’s and a double act with chef Gennaro Contaldo in the BBC TV show Two Greedy Italians. He died in November two years ago, while planning a new series travelling along Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The two Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr (right), now 59, is the Chef Patron of Le Gavroche in Mayfair, London. He was a judge on the BBC show MasterChef: The Professionals, and appeared on the Great British Food Revival. He lives in London with his wife, Giselle; they have a daughter, Emily
Like Rhodes, Aldo Zilli (left) came from humble beginnings. He once worked in a primary school canteen in Yorkshire before going on to open restaurants and appear on TV. Now a regular on weekend cooking shows, he has written 10 books and is consigliere advising the San Carlo group restaurants in London, Birmingham and Manchester, Kuwait, Beirut and Bangkok. Similarly, Giorgio Locatelli (right) came from Italy to England in the 1980s and worked in the kitchens at at The Savoy. After a spell in Paris, he opened Olivio in central London in 1995 and from there was hired for TV, featuring in the series Pure Italian, Tony and Giorgio and Sicily Unpacked.
Rainer Becker (left) is a German chef behind some of the world’s most stylish and acclaimed Japanese restaurants. He launched the Zuma concept in 2002, the Japanese method in which dishes are brought to the table throughout the meal. He has since expanded to 11 venues internationally, including Oblix in The Shard. French chef, Christian Delteil (right), came to London in 1975 to work at Le Gavroche, Mayfair after impressing chef Albert Roux. He worked his way up through London’s kitchens and was later managing director of the Bank Restaurant Group, which had venues in Aldwych, Birmingham and Westminster