In Depth

Gary Rhodes: five things you didn’t know

British chef famous for MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen dies at 59

Celebrity chef and champion of British food Gary Rhodes has died at his Dubai home at the age of 59.

A statement issued by his family said he passed away yesterday with wife Jennie by his side.

Rhodes, who was made an OBE in 2006, presented TV shows including MasterChef, MasterChef USA, Hell’s Kitchen and his own series, Rhodes Around Britain. Here are five things you might not know about him:

George Orwell inspired his career choice

Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2011, Rhodes said that the book Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell was the inspiration behind him becoming a chef.

Asked what book held an everlasting resonance for him, Rhodes said that the 1933 memoir “describes the pressures of busy kitchens brilliantly”. He added that he read it in 1974, when he was 14, and that “it made me decide to become a chef”.

First culinary success was a full roast dinner

According to Hello! magazine, “When most boys his age were out in the street kicking a football around, young Gary Rhodes preferred to spend his days experimenting in the kitchen, preparing family meals while his mum was at work.

“One look at his family’s delighted faces after they tucked into the first major culinary venture - a full roast dinner he produced at the age of 13 - was enough to convince him his future lay in the role of chef.”

Almost lost his sense of smell

After qualifying as a chef at a catering college in Broadstairs, Kent, Rhodes moved to Amsterdam to work as a junior chef at the Hilton hotel.

Just days into the new job, he was hit by a van while leaving the hotel, causing a blood clot that required eight hours of brain surgery. The BBC reports that his “career was threatened when he lost his sense of smell as a result”.

However, Rhodes made a complete recovery, returning to England to work at the Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge where he worked under the famous British chef Brian Turner.

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Loved ironing 

Rhodes was a fanatical ironer, and even ironed his already-pressed dry cleaning. The obsession perhaps played into his love of clothes, with Rhodes once claiming that he owned around 60 suits.

His passion for freshly ironed clothes did come at a cost, though. Rhodes told the Daily Mail that the most treasured item he had ever lost was a “bespoke Giorgio Armani suit that cost £2,000 in 2006”. He burnt a hole in the suit while pressing it in a rush, adding: “My favourite suit was lost for ever.”

Cut his signature spiky hair for television

Rhodes was famous for his distinctive spiky hairstyle, but it was far taller prior to his career on MasterChef.

According to culinary website cooksinfo.com, Rhodes had longer spikes between the ages of 26 and 41, but cut it shorter “at the encouragement of the producer of the MasterChef series”.

The trim saw Rhodes’ skyscraper-high, gelled locks replaced with a shorter cropped hairstyle.

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