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Keith Floyd Dead

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Keith Floyd's last words (after champagne and oysters): 'I've not felt this well for ages'

Simon de Bruxelles http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_...icle6835418.ece

Keith Floyd left life in the style in which he had lived it — with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Despite heart problems and a series of operations for bowel cancer, his last meal was a three-course gourmet feast eaten at the restaurant of a fellow celebrity chef, Mark Hix, at Lyme Regis, Dorset. Lunch was shared with his close friend of 40 years, Celia Martin, and began with a Hix Fix cocktail — a morello cherry soaked in Somerset apple eau de vie topped up with champagne — on the sun terrace.

He followed this up with a glass of white burgundy before moving indoors to the best table in the house, where he enjoyed a plate of oysters and potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.

The pair shared a bottle of Côtes du Rhone red with their main course. Floyd ordered grouse, but the kitchen slipped up and sent him red-legged partridge and bread sauce by mistake. Floyd laughed it off and tucked into the substitute dish with enthusiasm.

Floyd's approach, from the first, has been that food and wine should be enjoyed to the full

"I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine, and he said he would but he mustn't because he'd been to the doctor that morning and the doctor told him he'd got to lay off the booze," said Jonathan Jeffrey, the chef in charge of the restaurant. "He was in a good mood and chatting to other diners. He was out with his best friend having lunch."

The meal at the Hix Oyster and Fish House finished with apple pie and perry jelly, and several cigarettes. Floyd picked up the £120 bill. He asked to see Mr Hix, the proprietor, but when told he was not there he left him an invitation to the launch of his autobiography on October 6.

The couple, who shared homes in Bridport and Avignon in the South of France, were celebrating Mrs Martin's 65th birthday. They went home for a siesta, looking forward to watching Floyd on television in an interview with Keith Allen. Floyd died in his sleep before the programme started.

Mrs Martin, who says that they had a close but platonic relationship, said: "It was my 65th birthday yesterday and we started off by going to see the specialist to do with his cancer. He had some very good news and he was very optimistic of his chances of beating it. We then went to have a pub lunch in Lyme Regis. He said, 'I have not felt this well for ages'. He had a very good last day."

The couple watched University Challenge while waiting for the documentary Keith Meets Keith to begin on Channel 4. Mrs Martin said: "He had already seen the TV programme because they had sent us the DVD. He liked it very much. He thought it was so brilliantly made and so truthful. He said it was an award-winning programme. He lay down on the sofa and I thought he went to sleep. Then suddenly his breathing became erratic."

Mrs Martin added: "He was feeling so much stronger since he had been in Bridport. We were going out every day, either shopping or to the pub or to play boules on the beach. He was not drinking a lot — he had really given up drinking — but he was smoking too much. I'm still in shock. I feel like he is still here and I cannot get to grips with it. There is still his cigarette ash around the place and his clothes are still in the washing basket. I'm expecting him to get out of bed any minute."

Mrs Martin met Floyd in Bristol where they worked behind a bar together. Her late husband David and the chef were very good friends.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a fellow television chef who lives nearby in Lyme Regis, paid tribute to Floyd as his inspiration. He said: "Keith was a force of nature, certainly the first TV cook to really grab my attention. I followed his shows addictively as a student and decided I wanted cooking to be a big part of my life, largely because of him.

"He did something fresh and important, which was to take cooking out of the television studio and introduce his audience to food producers, fishermen, farmers . . . so they could see where the best food was coming from.

"He then cooked his ingredients with the love and passion of a gifted amateur, rather than the fussiness of a trained professional — the way he directed his own cameraman, Clive, during his cooking sequences was a stroke of genius."

The chef Marco Pierre White said: "Keith, in my opinion, was an exceptional human being. He had great qualities. His ability to inspire people to cook just with his words and the way he did things was extraordinary. If you look at TV chefs today they don't have his magic. It's a very, very, very sad day for my industry and secondly for a nation ... He was a beautiful man."

Rick Stein, who made his first television appearance in Floyd on Fish — during which Floyd called him Nick — said: "I first met Keith in the early Eighties. At a time when I was experimenting with Provençal dishes like bouillabaisse and bourride he was a Gauloises-smoking, red wine-drinking hero who had actually owned a restaurant next to the Mediterranean. I never lost that awe of him; he was the first devil-may-care cook on TV who made cooking something that the boys could do too.

"He was marvellous in front of the camera, sometimes arrogant, sometimes wonderfully enthusiastic and at others a mischievous boy laughing at being scolded for his cavalier treatment of some French housewife's personal recipe.

"But one thing was certain: he cooked like a dream and loved food and wine with a passion."

What a way to go! Off to bed having had a magic day and blissfully unaware of what was ahead.

If there is a good way to go then this must be near the top.

He'll be missed as a real and true character.


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A.A Gill has a somewhat different perspective on the great man's passing.

"Tonight Keith Floyd sleeps with the fishes. I can’t in all honesty say that I’ll miss him. I was once sent to interview Keith in the south of Spain, where he’d retired: one of his many retirements, all hurt and self-pityish, to escape from the ravages of unions, socialists, philistines, do-gooders, traffic wardens, political correctness, immigrants, critics and sober bores who had apparently taken over Great Britain, the country he loved except for everything it did and everyone in it.

I found him in one of those sorry expat Costa del Sol pubs at 10.30am, necking pints, leaning on a bar with half a dozen hacking, pasty-faced, nicotine-fingered taxi drivers and nightclub bouncers, flicking through The Sun while complaining about the football and the price of Marmite. Four hours later I left him slumped and insensible in an armchair, his sweet young wife apologising with a well-practised, half-hearted boredom as she tried to get him off the soft furnishings before his bladder gave up.

I expect the obituaries will refer to Floyd as a bon viveur; it was how he referred to himself. Bon viveur is the great Franglais oxymoron: self-appointed bon viveurs are never good and rarely lively. It is a euphemism for boorish, bullying, opinionated, abusive and drunk. He was, though, inspirational on telly. It will come as no surprise that many of the best people on the box are the worst off it. Floyd’s first two series completely changed the way food and cookery were presented on screen.

He was the person who made eating about ingredients rather than techniques and tricks. He is the godfather of Jamie, Hugh, Rick, Nigella and the Hairy Bikers. He got out of kitchens and into streets and markets and dining rooms. He cooked with spirit and gusto on Primus stoves. He abused the cameraman and had a sense of dangerous reality, of enthusiasm, and of course he drank. Copiously, ostentatiously, provocatively. That he hasn’t passed on. Drink has almost entirely vanished from food programmes. Perhaps Hugh will daringly uncork the dandelion and burdock champagne, maybe a schooner of chilled amontillado if we’re making paella, but there is a rising prudery and parsimony about TV dinners now. All the love and the compliments are drizzled over the vegetables rather than the diners. There’s more wine in the stew than the guests. Floyd’s version of bonhomie, a larger-than-life trencherman, is well past its sell-by date, done in by smoking bans, drink-drive laws and Yakult."

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