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The Restaurant World Pays Tribute to Gary Rhodes, Who Died Aged 59

Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, and Jamie Oliver led tributes to a chef described as a “true culinary icon”

Chelsea Flower Show - Press & VIP Preview Day Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

News broke this morning that celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, a pioneer of British cooking, died in Dubai yesterday at the age of 59. His family announced a statement saying they were “deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother.”

Rhodes, who The Guardian calls “the spiky-haired scoundrel who became the first superstar chef”, anteceded the fame of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, two chefs who would ultimately become much more famous, by helping to bridge the gap between the restaurant and the domestic kitchen for TV audiences across the country.

Over the course of his career, Rhodes was head chef at six Michelin-starred restaurants and was awarded an OBE in 2006. Later in his careers, as well authoring cookbooks like Rhodes Around Britain, Rhodes presented TV shows including the BBC’s MasterChef. He moved to the Middle East in 2012 and was understood to have most recently been living in Dubai, where he had worked on a number of restaurant projects, such as Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa, and the Dubai British Schools Group, an organisation which developed healthy school meals.

Gordon Ramsay, among those in the industry to lead tributes to the chef, described Rhodes as a chef “who put British cuisine on the map.”

Writer Nigella Lawson admired his talent, which had “nothing to do with the showbiz aspect.”

Jamie Oliver described Rhodes as “a fantastic chef and incredible ambassador for British cooking, he was a massive inspiration to me as a young chef.”

Rhodes’ peer, TV chef Ainsley Harriott, called him a “true culinary icon and a lovely man.”

The Ritz London’s head chef John Williams called him “one of the very best British chefs.”

The author Jonathan Meades wrote of the restaurant Rhodes in the Square: “Rhodes was able to do English cooking so well only because he did it like a Frenchman. He brought French technique and imagination to bear on English staples.”

Paul Heathcote, an alumnus of Raymond Blanc, credited Rhodes with such an influence that “there are young British chefs who would not know how little pride we had in our culinary heritage, food and produce until Gary came on the scene.”

The actor and writer Kadiff Kirwan recounted a heartwarming tale from 2008 when he worked at Rhodes’ Marble Arch restaurant.

Rhodes’ influence is felt far and wide in this industry, with the head chef of one of London’s greatest Thai restaurants paying tribute.

Author, cook, and food historian Simon Majumdar said Rhodes “truly was one of the leaders of that generation of chefs that helped drag Britain’s culinary scene from the dark ages.”

Welsh chef Grady Atkins said Rhodes “stood tall for British food in the 80s when no others had the guts to take on the French.”