“Sorry I’m late!” Close to 1pm on an average working day, David’s larger-than-life voice could be heard echoing across Quay West Studios. He’d have spent the morning on a walk, cooking breakfast or shopping for groceries, all the while cooking up new ideas for his latest edit or the filming about to ensue. “Making programmes is like making a cake. At the outset you’re not quite sure what sort of cake you’re going to end up with, but shopping for the ingredients is half the fun. To make good food programmes you need to always be hungry …”
Back in 1985 David redefined television cookery programmes when he took little known Bristol chef Keith Floyd out of a studio kitchen and put him on board a trawler to cook at sea in ‘Floyd on Fish’. In a radical move for the time, he created a whole new genre of TV.
David left school aged 16 with a handful of ‘O’ levels, landing his first job on a building site. But that soon changed when his mother drove by one day on her moped and showed him an advert in the local newspaper for a film assistant. He got the job and when he wasn’t lining up film cans in the right order for TV commercials, David spent time watching the film editors at work, soon deciding that making programmes was what he wanted to do.
After 11 years of ground-breaking and turbulent programmes with Floyd, David went on to make programmes for ITV and Channel 4 and work with Antonio Carluccio. But it’s his ongoing friendship and work with Padstow chef Rick Stein that he’ll be most remembered for, a relationship that spanned 30 years, 15 series and numerous one-off specials for BBC2, BBC 4.
“Call me old-fashioned, call me what you like … !” Never one to fully conform to rules, his programme idea for ‘French Odyssey’ was cooked up with Rick on a hand-drawn, wine and food-splattered paper tablecloth following lunch together in a Bristol bistro. They drew a map of South West France, tracked a journey from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and hand delivered it to the BBC. The rest is television history …
Just before Christmas David had been editing Rick’s new series for BBC2 which follows Rick travelling through France once more, discovering new gastronomic gems off the beaten track.
His contribution to TV cookery programmes is legendary and can’t be underestimated. His style inspired a new generation of TV chefs including Jamie Oliver and James Martin.
We are so very sad to say goodbye to a much loved member of the Denhams family. We will miss him enormously. Our thoughts and love are with his wife Fiona and daughter Lucy.