Cambridge chef Tristan Welch pays tribute following the death of his friend and mentor Gary Rhodes
Cambridge chef Tristan Welch has spoken today of his grief following the death of his “culinary godfather” and friend, celebrity chef Gary Rhodes.
The Parker’s Tavern chef director credits Mr Rhodes with launching his career by giving him his first restaurant job.
And he said he felt “numb” today after hearing of his mentor’s sudden death in Dubai, aged 59.
Tristan said: “He was a culinary godfather to me. I was really shocked when I heard the news. I’m not normally an emotional person but I did feel emotional today. I was deeply saddened and numb when I heard.”
Gary Rhodes is reported to have died yesterday in Dubai where he ran two restaurants - Rhodes W1 and Rhodes Twenty10.
He was one of the first celebrity chefs in the UK and his TV appearances included MasterChef, Hell's Kitchen and his own series Rhodes Around Britain.
In an emotional post on social media, Tristan said: “The things you wished you had said ... but now it’s too late. My first chef, mentor, my inspiration, thank you. I wouldn't be chef I am today without you. Rest in Peace Gary Rhodes.”
Today he told the Cambridge Independent that Mr Rhodes had given him his first ever kitchen job, while still a teenager, after he waited at the Corn Exchange’s stage door for a chance to meet the chef following a cookery demonstration.
Tristan said: “He was a massive star to me, his food just looked so good on TV and his passion was infectious for a young man like myself who was in love with cooking already.
“I waited behind by the back doors of the Corn Exchange on the off chance that I might get to meet him. I remember thinking if I didmeet him I would ask him for a job and it could be my first job in the industry because I had read that was the way to do it.
“And sure enough he was very nice to me and gave me the kitchen number for his restaurant, City Rhodes, in London. He had a Michelin star at the time.
“So I called the restaurant up and they said they didn't have any vacancies and could I call back next month.
“This went on for many months. I think they got to know me quite well in the end! Eventually they said I should come down for the day and do a day’s trial. They offered me a job that day and I moved to London at age 17 to start working for Gary.”
Asked about his favourite memories of his former boss, Tristan said: “What you don't see on the telly was he was a man of complete accuracy and precision and with a really clear vision of how the food should look and how it should taste and how it should be and I admired that, it was fantastic.
“He was also very charismatic and said some very funny things but her was very stern too because with passion comes great focus he was very focussed on what he wanted but he really did enjoy food.”
Always cracking jokes, Tristan remembers one time when his boss’s quick wit made him laugh.
“Back in the day I was cleaning out the big walk in fridge in his restaurant and there was this fresh leek soup that had just been put in the fridge and the whole fridge smelled of leeks. Gary walks in and takes in a deep breath through his nose. And he said ‘That’s rich, beautiful and rich!’
“And he looked at me and said, ‘Just like me, chef,’ and walked out of the fridge as I was scrubbing away. He then put his head back in and said, ‘Only joking’.”
According to a family statement, Gary Rhodes died on Tuesday "with his beloved wife Jennie by his side".
"The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE," the statement read.
"The family would like to thank everyone for their support and ask for privacy during this time."
More by this authorAlex Spencer