My proposed article this week, that would now have been filed on matters culinary and read by you today, has been abandoned. The news this week of the death of Keith Floyd has rather overshadowed many of my thoughts and I suspect some of yours.

A star that shone bright in both the ordinary public domaine as well as the faux bohemian culture of the early sixties, clearly deserves more examination than I can offer in such a brief article as this. However the odd meeting between he and I, whilst compounding my sense of loss, serves to illustrate some clues as to his eternal popularity across the spectrum.

Some twelve years ago, whilst toying with the wild notion of creating a Norfolk gastro-pub, I took myself off to Devon to what I believed to be the seminal example of a rural food idyll. Floyd had purchased a small pub which teetered on the side of the river Dart in Tuckenhay, just north of the Naval college at Dartmouth. As he and I were clearly strangers to technology we faxed, rather than e-mailed each other during the weeks preceding my visit. How I wished I had kept them my correspondence was typed, deferential and formal, his were many handwritten, illegible and demanding.

The pub, formerly known as the Maltster’s Arms had now been re-named Floyd’s Inn. I arrived just after our appointed time of “midday onwards” (his quote not mine), and I was met with a large glass of Burgundy and told off for arriving late! This was immediately qualified by an effusive welcome and the understanding that as Norfolk was some way from Devon how the hell had I got there anyway? I immediately felt at home, I was a stranger with no automatic purchase on the occasion, yet was made to feel like a lifelong colleague. This was clearly one of his many effortless skills and a pointer as to why so many took him to their hearts. Although he consumed many more of the Burgundy glasses that were to be poured that day, he took the time to escort me around the lavishly decorated rooms providing bed and breakfast alongside the pub, guided me through the cramp kitchens, showed me the luxuriously appointed toilets and finally insisted on introducing me as a long lost friend to the many startled lunchtime customers at the bar.

The day progressed and customers came and went. Keith invited me to stay the night in order to progress our educative seminar, but as I had to return to Norfolk I declined. An offer I have regretted not accepting on more than one occasion since.

He was very famous and I was thoroughly overwhelmed, yet after two hours of meeting we were finishing the forth bottle of Aloxe-Corton accompanied by cod and chips. And I was very much at home. The conversation that ensued was clearly way beyond the accepted media and culinary skills of our notable TV chefs today. He had never been a brand, he was too early to be marketed and he was wary of being pigeon holed. He had been a flawed journalist and a poor chef by his own admission. His success was beyond his comprehension, as was his ability to maintain either commercial sustainability or the succession of marriages to which he had succumbed – all of which were revealed with his surprising sense of self deprecation that afternoon. His own ability to control his past income was equally flawed with most of the property rights ceded to divorce lawyers along the way.

In a post war television age, populated by make and mend chefs in black and white aprons, Floyd appeared from nowhere some forty odd years ago. Hirsute in those days, rarely in chef’s whites and never a scale or measuring bowl in site, he displayed confidence on the stove and assurance in his culinary descriptions. He also showed us, glass in hand, that cooking can and should be as sensual as the meal it eventually creates.

His own heroine was Elizabeth David who had showed a rationed Britain after the second World War, that French provincial cooking had not been governed by powdered egg and dried milk like our own, but by tomato and shallot salad, fish stew and coq-au-vin. She alone had guided all he had undertaken and he alluded to her overwhelming influence constantly. What he omitted to mention, so common alongside the dubious skills of all great men, was his own place in the culinary hierarchy of the last century. It was Spike Milligan our comedic genius, who referred to his inability to tell jokes but genuine surprise at the laughter he created. “How am I supposed to know when I am good? I just do things normally, other people let me know if they are funny”

I think that day in Devon was much the same, Keith Floyd will never have known the enormous influence he has had on chefs and cooks, domestic and professional, just by doing things normally. Many I am sure will confirm similar thoughts in the years to come.