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  Keith Floyd (1943–2009), by Inge Yspeert, 1990s Keith Floyd (1943–2009), by Inge Yspeert, 1990s
Floyd, Keith (1943–2009), restaurateur, food writer, and broadcaster, was born at Folly Farm, Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on 28 December 1943, the younger child and only son of Sydney Albert Floyd (1915–1985), a meter repairman for the electricity board, and his wife, Winifred Phyllis Lorraine, née Margetts (1918–2002). He was brought up in a council house in the town of Wiveliscombe, Somerset, where his mother taught him to cook. His parents managed to send him to the nearby fee-paying Wellington School, until the money ran out when he was sixteen. He did farm work in the holidays, but his first proper job, starting in 1961, was as a junior reporter on the Bristol Evening Post, where the editor took a fancy to his stylish suits and bow-ties, and introduced him to smart restaurant food. In 1963, influenced, he claimed, by the film Zulu, he spent three years in the 3rd Royal Tank regiment, commissioned as a second lieutenant. He then did restaurant work from barman to washer-up in London and France and soon opened the first of his four Bristol eateries, Floyd's Bistro.

As he readily admitted, Floyd had no real head for business, and though by 1971 he had added film catering as well as traiteur and dial-a-dinner services, his profits were small, and one venture collapsed altogether. The style of his food during the 1970s derived from the good seasonal cooking he had learned from his mother in Somerset. On 23 February 1968 he married Jesmond Sarah Ruttledge (b. 1943/4), a BBC make-up artist, and daughter of Desmond St John Ruttledge, warehouse manager. They had one son, Patrick St John (b. 1968), before the marriage ended in the early 1970s. Floyd sold up to pay for the divorce; with what remained he bought a yacht, Flirty, and sailed around the Mediterranean for two years, also importing wine to England and exporting antiques to France. He opened and closed an unsuccessful restaurant in the south of France, at L'Isle sur la Sorgue, returning to England in 1979.

Having sold the brand rights to his name, Floyd opened a place again in Chandos Road, Bristol, the sign there reading simply ‘Restaurant’. He wrote his first book, Floyd's Food (1981), with an introduction by the actor Leonard Rossiter, one of the several television-connected people who frequented this restaurant, and became a radio cook on Radio West, a Bristol-based independent commercial station. On 4 January 1982 he married Julie Mary Hatcher (b. 1953), restaurateur, and daughter of Denis Edwin Hatcher, furniture manufacturer. They had one daughter, Poppy (b. 1983).

At the Chandos Road bistro in 1983 David Pritchard, a customer who was a television producer, approached Floyd to make a programme on how to cook ‘a meal for six people for under £1 a head’ (Daily Telegraph, 16 Sept 2009). Pritchard renewed his offer the next day, and though the brief was soon discarded, began an association that lasted ten years, and resulted in one of the most popular British television cookery programmes. Following the one-off Floyd on Fish (1984), Floyd made seventeen series between 1985 and 2001, and published thirty-three books, though Stirred but Not Shaken: the Autobiography, published the month following his death, was ghost-written by James Steen.

By the mid-1980s Floyd had become as celebrated as he had predicted when he told Pritchard, ‘One day TV cooks will be as famous as racing car drivers and rock stars’ (Daily Telegraph, 16 Sept 2009). Most of his footage was shot on location, and used two simple manoeuvres. The first was the presenter telling the cameraman, Clive North (and, later, others) where to point his lens; the other was that Floyd always had a glass of wine in his hand, and drank and refilled it often. Floyd was a good, technically competent cook, affable, funny, and charmingly chaotic, both on and off camera; but it was Pritchard as director who was responsible for his television appeal. They worked together until 1993, but fell out and did not meet again until just before Floyd's death.

For ten years (until 1997) Floyd owned a house near Kinsale, co. Cork, where he kept a menagerie of cats, dogs, rare-breed chickens, geese, swans, goldfish, bees, a pony, Jacob sheep, and a dozen Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. In 1989 he bought the Maltsters Arms at Tuckenhay in Devon, and renamed it Floyd's Inn, referring ironically to his frequent absences. The pub was repossessed in 1996, and Floyd was shortly afterwards declared bankrupt. On 21 October 1991 he married, as his third wife, Shaunagh Amanda Mullett (b. 1966), a receptionist (and daughter of Anthony David Mullett, estate agent) to whom he had proposed four hours after they met. They divorced in 1994, and on 1 December 1995 he married Teresa Mary (Tessie) Smith (b. 1962/3), a food stylist, and daughter of Robert Arthur Smith, engineer; they lived in Avignon and Marbella, but divorced in 2008, following which he moved back to Montfrin, Provence, where he lived with Celia Martin. In April 2008 he travelled to south-east Asia to pursue business ventures, which included Floyd's Brasserie in Phuket, Thailand. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer early in 2009, but died at the Dorset County Hospital, Williams Avenue, Dorchester, on 14 September of heart disease, and—ever the committed drinker and smoker—cirrhosis and emphysema, after a good lunch; on the same night Keith Allen's profile of him, Keith on Keith, aired on Channel 4. He was survived by Celia Martin and by his two children.

Paul Levy

Sources  

The Times (16 Sept 2009); (24 Sept 2009); (1 Oct 2009) · Daily Telegraph (16 Sept 2009) · The Guardian (16 Sept 2009) · The Independent (16 Sept 2009) · New York Times (18 Sept 2009) · The Observer (13 Dec 2009) · K. Floyd, Stirred but not shaken: the autobiography (2009) · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.

Archives  

 

FILM

 

BFI NFTVA, ‘Keith meets Keith’, K. Allen (director), Channel 4, 14 Sept 2009 · BFI NFTVA, light entertainment footage

 

SOUND

 

BL NSA, light entertainment recordings


Likenesses  

photographs, 1988–2005, Getty Images, London · photographs, 1988–2009, Rex Features, London · I. Yspeert, photograph, 1990–99, Corbis [see illus.] · photographs, 1990–2005, PA Images, London · photographs, 1991–2000, Photoshot, London · obituary photographs · photographs, Camera Press, London