Gary Rhodes:

Gary Rhodes: Britain's best-loved chef

by Great British Chefs 27 November 2019

As we learn of Gary Rhodes’ passing in Dubai aged just 59, we take a look at the beloved chef’s illustrious career.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

News broke this morning that Gary Rhodes OBE died in Dubai on the evening of Tuesday 26 November, with his beloved wife Jennie by his side. It’s hard to emphasise just how influential and important Gary was in the world of hospitality; depending on your age, you’ll either know him for being one of Britain’s first celebrity chefs, running some of the best restaurants in the UK during the 1990s or have grown up watching him cook his way through Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes. However you first came to know him, he truly was a household name, thanks to his friendly, amiable character, skills in the kitchen and – of course – his signature spiky hair.

Gary enrolled at catering college in Kent, which marked the beginning of his career in food. After working across Europe, his first taste of British Michelin-starred cookery was at the legendary Capital Hotel, working under revered chef Brian Turner. His first head chef job came when he was twenty-six years old at the Castle Hotel in Somerset, where he retained its Michelin star and started gaining national attention.

In the 1990s he turned the Greenhouse in Mayfair (now a two-starred restaurant) into a Michelin-starred beacon for British dining, reinventing classic, traditional dishes in a fine dining setting. Over the course of his seven years there he became part of Britain’s culinary revolution, helping to shed the country’s reputation for poor cuisine and turning London’s food scene into what it is today. His own restaurants followed; City Rhodes, Rhodes in the Square, Rhodes Twenty Four, Rhodes W1 and a series of more casual restaurants across the country called Rhodes & Co, among others.

Gary was an instant hit on television, first appearing on our screens in his twenties and then going on to present MasterChef in both the UK and USA, as well as plenty of culinary travel programmes and inspiring an entire generation of children to get cooking with his Roald Dahl-themed cookery show. He also competed on Great British Menu and appeared in pretty much all of the 1990s’ hit TV shows thanks to his lovable, engaging character.

Despite his label as a celebrity chef and TV personality, Gary’s talent as a chef was never in question, and he mentored some of today’s brightest chefs (Adam Gray, Gary Foulkes, Paul Welburn, Simon Hulstone and Scott Goss, just to name a few). In 2011 he moved to Dubai to open several restaurants across the UAE, including a new iteration of Rhodes W1. This is where he truly flourished as a restaurateur, settling in the country and creating restaurants which stood out amongst plenty of stiff competition.

Gary’s sudden and tragic death has already sent shockwaves through the industry, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. As one of the original great British chefs, he rejected the more aggressive, macho portrayal of chef life that others such as Marco Pierre White had embraced around the same time, making cooking fun, engaging and appealing to younger generations (his work in education and working with children is testament to that). Whether you remember a meal at one of his restaurants or his spiky-haired TV appearances, it’s clear that he was one of the greats. He will be sorely missed.