Morbid obesity and sore knees helped morph the television chef duo the Hairy Bikers into the Hairy Dieters, writes Marie Claire Digby
Morbid obesity and sore knees helped morph the Hairy Bikers into the Hairy Dieters. The affable duo talk food and friendship with Marie Claire Digby
‘ Hello darling, how are you?”
Having won me over within minutes of meeting them, Si King and Dave Myers, aka the Hairy Bikers or Hairy Dieters ( depending on which TV show or book they’re promoting), are now being utterly charming to the hordes of fans who approach them as they are having their photograph taken in Merrion Square.
“They pay our wages. You’ve got to be respectful of that,” says King, the blond biker, while dark- haired Myers agrees. “It’s a good feeling, though.”
The pair first met in 1995 when both were working on the set of a TV dramatisation of a Catherine Cookson novel in Newcastle, King as a second assistant director and Myers in the make- up and prosthetics department, and bonded over a shared love of motorbikes and good food.
Although they became friends quickly – “He invited me for Sunday lunch and sold me a bike as well as giving me roast lamb,” Myers says – their professional partnership and career change evolved gradually.
While Myers was working on a feature film in Canada, and King was an assistant director and location manager on the Harry Potter movies, in their down time they hatched a plan for a pilot TV show.
Motorcycles, Food and the Search for Nirvana, as they called it, never made it into production, but The Hairy Bikers, a much catchier title that they say popped up as the subject line on an email and just stuck, was commissioned by BBC2, and they were on their way.
“They gave us a one- hour programme, and we went to Portugal,” Myers explains. The format – part travelogue, part cooking show, with the two lads riding their bikes – proved popular with viewers, and they have been on screen constantly since, most recently in last autumn’s The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure.
They are in Dublin to publicise their lat-
We thought, They’ll send us off to explore diets around the world – we could go to a health farm, we could do it posh. But no, they said it had to be with real people, so they sent us to a ladies’ aerobics class in Preston
est book, The Hairy Dieters Make It Easy, and are looking appropriately trim, having each lost three stones in a three- month period in 2012, in the process spawning a lucrative weight loss offshoot to their cooking and travel shows and books.
“They’re kind of indivisible,” King says of how the biker and diet projects work together. “We’re two middle- aged men with a weight problem, so we kind of have to take the rough with the smooth.”
What prompted them to take the diet route? “We were morbidly obese,” Myers says candidly. “I’d hit 18 ½ stone (‘ and I was nearly 20’, King interjects) and we were starting to get old before our time. I’m 10 years older than Kingy, but we’d both begun to shuffle, the knees were sore ...”
A diet show and book was suggested “and we thought, yeah, that’ll be great,” Myers says. “They’ll send us off to explore diets around the world – we could go to a health farm, we could do it posh. But no, they said it had to be with real people, so they sent us to a ladies’ aerobics class in Preston.”
Since facing up to their spreading middles – Myers had a 49in waist and King says his girth was 52in – they have sold more than 2 ½ million diet books. Their first, How to Love Food and Lose Weight, ousted 50 Shades of Grey from the top of the bestsellers charts in the summer of 2012.
King has a particular reason to be thankful for that first foray into weight loss. In early 2014 he suffered a brain aneurism and underwent emergency surgery. “It’s a good job you did the diet, otherwise you’d be dead by now,” Myers says starkly, but King agrees. “I definitely would, without a shadow of a doubt.”
He made a full recovery “with no deficits”, and puts his survival down to being fit- ter and lighter than he had been, and better able to cope with the illness. In the years since their diet book debut in 2012, the pair have put on weight, lost it, and for the most part kept it off. And now they’re promising to “make it easy”. How does that work? “You’ve got to hit it really hard when you need to lose quite a lot of weight, but then after that, it’s about maintaining it, and about it being sustainable,” King says. “For the diet books, the whole ethos is that the food is full of flavour, really satisfying and interesting. Food that you really want to eat, that happens to be less calorific. We simply wouldn’t compromise on that.” “We wanted to write a book that would help us in our quest, a book that we would want to buy,” Myers adds. Their aim is to provide inspiration through recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients and are quick and easy to make – and work, every time. “For each book in the diet series, as with every other book, we go through a huge process of testing the recipes, making sure they work. We know people are investing time and money and are cooking for people that they love out of a book that we’ve been privileged enough to produce, so it has got to be right,” King says.
Together The Hairys, as they are known in the industry, have written more than 20 cookbooks – “that’s more than 2,000 recipes” says Myers, who is a former Celebrity Mastermind winner and was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.
They write the books together, in person. “We get together and just shout, don’t we?” King says. They have also covered thousands of miles on their motorbikes, and spend more time together than many married couples. Their cameraderie is always evident on screen, but are they still friends off screen, too?
“Yeah, of course,” King says. “We’re very transparent – what you see is what you get. Quite apart from the double act that everybody sees on the telly, which is dead honest, it’s the crack that we would normally have. We’re really good mates and brothers, really.”
So no room for artistic differences? “No, it’s busy enough as it is and we are great friends. Why make it any harder? We instinctively know if we need to give each other a bit of space and time. It’s just how the relationship has developed over the years. You get the signals and you go, ‘ Oh yeah, got you man, no problem’.” The Hairy Dieters Make It Easy, by Si King and Dave Myers, is published by Seven Dials, £ 16.99
“We’re really good mates and brothers really.” Si King and Dave Myers in Dublin.