LAST PICTURE, FOUR DAYS AGO
THE culinary world was left stunned yesterday by the sudden death of Gary Rhodes at the age of 59.
The celebrity chef died with his wife of 30 years Jennie, also 59, by his side at their home in Dubai on Tuesday evening.
Rhodes was taken ill ‘very suddenly’ there during a break in filming for a new ITV show and died ‘a short time afterwards’, according to the production company he was working with.
Dubai police sources said the father of two – who championed British cuisine and appeared on TV shows including MasterChef, Strictly and his own Rhodes Around Britain series – died of natural causes.
Jamie Oliver said on Instagram that Rhodes had ‘passed away after a tragic fall’, but later deleted the post, and wrote a tribute without the claim. The cause of death had not been made public last night. But one theory is it could be related to a blood clot on the brain he suffered in an accident when he was 19.
Rhodes was warned by doctors of the risks of another head injury after he was hit by a van while working at the Hilton in Amsterdam in 1979. He needed eight hours of brain surgery.
The chef said in 2002 that doctors had warned him to be ‘very careful’, which led him to give up playing football. He said: ‘I loved playing football at school...but to me it’s not worth the risk, so I don’t play at all.’
Oliver yesterday hailed Rhodes – who was awarded his first Michelin star when he was 26 – as ‘an incredible ambassador for British cooking’. Bake Off judge Prue Leith said: ‘Gary was the first rock star of cooking.’ Gordon Ramsay said: ‘He was a chef who put British cuisine on the map.’
James Martin hailed him as a ‘gent and genius’, while Ainsley Harriott said he was ‘the first to make cookery the new rock and roll’. Tom Kerridge, formerly Rhodes’ sous chef, tweeted that he ‘almost single-handedly put British food on the world stage’.
It was not clear exactly when Rhodes – who had two adults sons, Samuel and George – was first taken ill. George, 29, was last night thought to have left the UK to fly to Dubai. He lives in the family home in Kent, which his parents bought for £3.1million in 2003 and still jointly own.
In 2008, Rhodes showed off a muscular physique in Men’s Health magazine after undergoing intensive gym sessions. He said: ‘I’ve never taken any illegal substance or smoked a cigarette in my life – this is my drug.’
Rhodes began working in Dubai in 2007 and moved there in 2011. Production company Rock Oyster Media said: ‘Gary was taken ill very suddenly at home during a break in filming and died a short time afterwards.’ Chef Reif Othman, who was filming with Rhodes six days before his death, said he had ‘seemed fine’.
Jaideep Bhatia, PR director of the Grosvenor House Dubai, said Rhodes was working ‘until the day he died’.
His brother Chris Rhodes later tweeted that he had ‘not only lost a brother but a best friend too’. ITV said: ‘We are deeply shocked and saddened by this devastating news.’
‘Made cooking the new rock and roll’
On set: Gary Rhodes with fellow chef Vineet Bhatia during filming