Born: April 22, 1960

Died: November 26, 2019

GARY Rhodes, who has died aged 59, achieved fame as one of the wave of chefs who came to notice during the restaurant boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and as a star of television cookery programmes.

With his distinctively spiked hair, trendy (if eccentric) clothing and enthusiastic manner, Rhodes – already a distinguished veteran of first-rate restaurant kitchens at a remarkably early age – proved a popular presenter. His programmes concentrated on new approaches to British classics, and combined travel around the country and items on farming and artisan manufacturers with practical demonstrations.

He went on to pick up several Michelin stars and an OBE, opened a string of restaurants around the world, acted as an ambassador for British food and frontman for a number of commercial tie-ins, published around 20 cookbooks and popped up on Strictly Come Dancing.

He was born on April 22 1960 at Dulwich Hospital, south London, the second son of Jean and Gordon Rhodes. When he was four, the family moved to Cheshire and Gary attended Cheadle Primary School, before the family returned south to Rainham in Kent.

His parents divorced and, after his mother returned to work, Gary took on many of the chores around the house. His interest in cooking was sparked by preparing meals for his brother Christopher and younger sister Cheryl. An early indication of his attention to detail was his insistence on crinkle-cut chips, though it was when he first cooked Marguerite Patten’s lemon sponge with sauce that he first realised the impact that cooking could have.

He attended The Howard School for Boys, where his best friend was Steve Grant, who went into musical theatre and was frontman for the group Tight Fit, which had a No 1 hit with a cover of The Lion Sleeps Tonight in 1982. After school, Rhodes intended to study shipping management, but his stepfather John suggested that his interest in food indicated catering might suit him better. After a summer job at a steakhouse, where he graduated from toilet cleaner to grill chef, he went in 1976 to Thanet Technical College, where he met his future wife Jennie and obtained his City & Guilds.

His first job was as a commis chef at the Amsterdam Hilton in August 1979. But on his first day off, only ten days into the job, he was hit by a van while running across the road to catch a tram. He was very seriously injured and, after an alert doctor diagnosed a blood clot, underwent an eight-hour operation.

During his convalescence back in England, he was advised by specialists that his sense of taste and smell had been impaired, but worked to recover them and by the end of the year had returned to his job in Amsterdam. In 1982 he moved to become sous-chef at the Reform Club and the following year had his first stint as a head chef, at Winston’s in Bloomsbury, before moving to the Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, where he worked under Brian Turner.

After three years, he moved to the Castle Hotel in Taunton, Somerset, as head chef and, at the age of 26, succeeded in retaining its Michelin star. It was during this period that Rhodes began to concentrate on refining and reinterpreting traditional British dishes, moving away from the then-fashionable nouvelle cuisine he had produced while in London.

This trend continued when, in 1990, he moved back to London as head chef of the Greenhouse in Mayfair, where his repertoire – haute cuisine versions of British staples such as Scotch broth, steak and kidney pudding, oxtail, scallops, faggots and bread and butter pudding – brought him his first star earned from scratch (rather than retained) after five years. His concentration on seasonal food and classics coincided with a revival of interest in British food and an enormous explosion in the restaurant scene in London. The early 1990s was also the period in which the fame of star chefs moved beyond the foodie world, and gained a widespread popular audience.

Rhodes had made his first television appearance in the late 1980s on Hot Chefs, after working with the TV cook Glynn Christian at a demonstration in Tottenham Court Road. It led to Rhodes around Britain, which was a hit, and followed by More Rhodes around Britain; in 1994, he was voted Food and Drink Personality of the Year.

In 1997 he opened his own restaurants, City Rhodes and then Rhodes in the Square, and expanded with the brasseries Rhodes and Co, which had branches in Manchester and Edinburgh. He was ubiquitous on television food programmes; Gary’s Perfect Christmas and frequent appearances on Masterchef were followed by two seasons as the first presenter of Masterchef USA in 2000-1; other series included New British Classics, Rhodes across India and Rhodes across China.

Rhodes also had thriving commercial sidelines as a private chef (for everyone from Tom Hanks to Diana, Princess of Wales and Manchester United, of which he was an obsessive fan) and for firms such as Tate & Lyle and Flora. He launched his own range of cookery products, including kitchenware and baking powders.

In 2004 he set up Rhodes Twenty Four in what was previously the NatWest Tower (it got its Michelin star the following year) and Rhodes Calabash in Grenada, his first restaurant outside the UK. He also took on gigs with P&O, running flagship restaurants on their cruise ships Arcadia and Oriana, and opened the restaurants Rhodes D7 in Dublin and Rhodes at the Dome in Plymouth. Rhodes Mezzanine at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London later became Rhodes W1. He was appointed OBE in 2006.

For the past seven years Rhodes had been based in the UAE, to which he had been a frequent visitor for years, and where he opened Rhodes Twenty10 in Dubai and then, in Abu Dhabi, Rhodes 44.

He and his wife Jennie, whom he married in 1989 and with whom he had two sons, Sam and George, frequently returned to the UK to stock up on pork sausages and Cheddar. He died at home in Dubai on November 26.