Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Now Bloody What?

Keith Floyd, rest his battered soul, has flown the earth. Now bloody what are we supposed to watch on TV?

When you think about almost every other chef-hosted or personality driven food or cooking show that's followed, you're really watching a modification of this original, with far more ego, far less wit, and nearly threadbare content.

Not that Floyd was devoid of ego. Far from it. He just knew his thing better than most.

Several years ago, I got to see exactly what that thing was, as we filmed a sequence together in a narrow hotel kitchen, me an utter freshie just off the boat of my Discovery win, and he the cragged face, odd, anti-hero of cooking shows who's wardrobe seemed to be stuck in a Merchant Ivory film.

I walked in to find him getting a La Mer creme massage (the makeup artist's suggestion, seriously) to relax his lines, and found a delightful yet morose rake who'd done all of this for much longer than he'd ever expected it to last. I suspected in my head at the time, he was probably always on the verge of leaving, yet could never quite bring himself to let it all go.

And then filming began. And I realised at that very moment the difference between passion and the perfunctory, a professional and a talking head, in the land of television hosting. I live forever grateful in witnessing it.

For the half hour that followed, Floyd provided a first class lesson in the art of the unscripted, the thrill of thinking on your feet and the joy of someone who knew exactly how the scene would unfold and played to its strengths and weaknesses on the spot. He stood where he should, admonished the cameraman's crap angles when it was needed, made up for the interaction when it was all going south, and elevated the content but never to the point of disbelief.

He wrapped it up in what seemed like minutes, and when he was done, he was done. Coupled with that air of exasperation that comes from knowing your thing, working with creative freedom and in a show playing entirely to his strengths, Floyd just had IT.

But perhaps more than anything else, Floyd spoke like a cook (and cooked like a cook) - a term he much preferred to chef - in parlance that everyone could jive with, yet delivered it all with an air of earthy sophistication that won him fans the world over. You knew he'd lived it, eaten it, drunk it, done it and overdone it. And would happily do it all over again.

Yes, the gossip around Floyd followed him. His restaurant losses, his bankruptcy, his marriages, his rants, his unforgiving nature, and his drinking that reportedly contributed to many of of his failures.

Yes, he switched it on and switched it off. Once the work ceased, so did Keith Floyd, a couple of stiff ones were ordered, and I met another man - melancholic, disappointed even, aware, all of it lurking darkly around his edges, ready to bust out given half the chance.

But when the cameras rolled he gave it. A mass of Floyd energy - real, insistent, sarcastic, slightly pretentious, and somewhat silly. And a joy to watch.

He recounted a story to us then, about how, after years of living in a French village he once called home, the local bar got satellite TV. Only to discover that a star had been living in their midst for years. They had never known, and he had never told.

Cheers Floyd. Thanks for the far flung trip. You will be missed you old cad.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think of this post!