Marrying a chef is a recipe for disaster! From never going on holiday to leaving lobsters in the bath, Keith Floyd’s ex-wife reveals all
Picking up the newspaper recently, I was sorry – yet not in the least bit surprised – to hear that another celebrity chef’s marriage has turned sour.
Masterchef judge John Torode, 46, has moved out of his family home in London, leaving his second wife Jessica and their two young children after only four years of marriage.
It’s just the latest in a growing list of celebrity chefs whose marriages have collapsed, including Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein, John Burton Race, Tom Aikens and Antonio Carluccio.
Too many cooks: Keith Floyd and fourth wife Tess
It must be heartbreaking for everyone involved. But I can’t say I’m shocked. The unsociable hours, women throwing themselves at your famous husband, being treated like a kitchen hand in your own home – it’s a recipe for disaster.
I should know. I was married to probably the most flamboyant celebrity chef of them all – Keith Floyd – for 13 years, and faced many challenging times.
I met Keith in 1995 when he was making a TV advert. I was 32 – 18 years his junior – and working as a food stylist. If I’m honest, I didn’t take his career choice or the fact he’d been married three times before into consideration when we hit it off.
Chefs tend to need to have a lot of energy to thrive in the stress of a professional kitchen – and that’s what I found attractive in Keith. We had lots in common and, after a whirlwind romance, married in December that same year.
Split: Torode has parted from his wife Jessica after four years of marriage
Rather naively, I thought I would carry on with my career, Keith would do what he did and we would live like everyone else – have a house, dogs, friends for dinner and go on holiday. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first thing I learned about being a celebrity chef’s wife is that you have to deal with his chronically unsociable hours, because the restaurant trade is anything but nine to five.
There’s no such thing as a weekend. Christmas can be a washout because your other half doesn’t want to eat a festive meal when he’s just served it up to dozens of diners.
As for birthdays, in the whole time I was with Keith we never once celebrated my birthday because we were always travelling around the globe making one of his shows and were too busy even to go out for dinner. And while we may have seen a lot of the world for work, we never had a holiday.
If you’re married to a chef, he won’t
finish work until at least 11pm and, even then, you can forget about him
being home half an hour later. Chefs have to wind down from the
stressful environment of the kitchen, which often means a drink – or
three – with their colleagues.
The original celebrity chef was Fanny Cradock, who first appeared on TV in 1955
Keith and his staff were no different. Drink is a huge issue in the food industry. People use it to cope and relax. When your husband comes in at 2am and is up the next morning at 6am to get to the food market for ingredients, is it any wonder his wife feels resentful
You must also accept that your house will be treated like a restaurant. When Keith moved in after we married, he brought the most monstrous-sized pots, pans, skillets, plates and serving dishes. Nothing fitted in the dishwasher and I often found myself up to my elbows in giant, soapy pans because no chef ever washes up.
Perish the thought! In a professional kitchen, they have an army of people to tidy up after them and they expect the same service at home. Then there were the unwelcome surprises. Once, someone left a bucket of crayfish outside the house as a gift. Keith brought them in, said he’d do something with them and promptly forgot about it. The crayfish crawled out of the bucket – I was finding them all over the house for days.
Another time, I went to run a bath only
to find two large lobsters happily living in the tub. Keith had put them
there to keep them alive and fresh, but all I wanted was a warm soak.
On at least three occasions I came home to find my beloved microwave in
the dustbin. Keith ‘didn’t believe in them’ and said they were an
I’d bring it back into the kitchen and then find it missing again because he’d thrown it back out.
Like many chefs, he had a fiery temper, but I could more than stand up
to him. His bossiness often made me laugh. Even if he was heating up a
tin of soup, he’d shout ‘Service!’ to get me to clean up after him.
Tess says like most chefs, Keith was only interested in creating good food with the most expensive ingredients
A social life is pretty much impossible when you’re married to a celebrity chef. Keith and I were rarely invited to other people’s houses for dinner – who wants to expose their own cooking to one of the most famous chefs in the country Anyway, we never lived in one place for very long, so I gave up trying to plan anything.
As for eating out – don’t even go there. For me, restaurants used to be such a wonderful treat, but with Keith it was a waste of time. He’d spend the evening criticising every dish to the point where I’d want to scream: ‘Shut up and just enjoy the food!’ But for a chef, a restaurant meal is a busman’s holiday.
Grabbing a snack could be difficult, too. Keith and I were once in Ireland and were famished. We popped into a pub and asked for a ham sandwich, but the chef found out he was cooking for Keith Floyd and went to town making salmon and lobster. Keith went mad, but the staff were only trying to impress their food hero.
With the demanding hours, being married to any chef must be hard enough. When it’s a celebrity chef, magnify that by a hundred. You become public property. Women would throw themselves at Keith, even in my presence, and I imagine that if you don’t trust your partner it puts an enormous strain on your relationship.
One time Keith and I were in a restaurant in London enjoying a rather pleasant dinner – a rare treat. We were halfway through our main course when we were rudely interrupted. A fellow diner, a woman in her early 40s, wandered over to our table, pushed me out of my chair, sat in my place and started drinking my wine. I stood there in shock waiting for her to leave, but she ignored me and carried on batting her eyelashes and picking at Keith’s food. Of course, he was infuriated.
‘How dare you push my wife out of the way’ he said, but even then the woman didn’t even think she’d done anything wrong. Instead, she thought he was being rude. That sort of thing happened often. Women would come up and ask him for a kiss. Men would shove me out of the way to say how much they admired him.
It was hard, but I became resigned to it. I’d stand aside, keep my head down and try to stay calm and not take it seriously. Yet another area of conflict was finance. Most couples argue about money, but when you’re married to someone in the precarious food industry, where restaurants go out of business all the time, it causes lots of friction.
Keith was appalling with figures – like most chefs, he was only interested in creating good food with the most expensive ingredients. It’s so frustrating to watch as your husband is offered good advice from managers and accountants, but he ignores them. Stubbornness and a huge ego are two traits you’ll find in many chefs.
Of course, our life together could be thrilling and exciting, too, and we had many laughs. I’ve eaten under starlight in an abandoned fort in India; boarded a ship mid-ocean during the Tall Ships Race in Norway, jumping from a small vessel on to a rope ladder and climbing on board with the rest of our film crew (don’t look down!); and flown to South Africa just for the day!
We had fun, too. People would peer into our supermarket trolley, no doubt hoping we’d be filling up on caviar and lobster when, in fact, it was more likely to be baked beans and Marmite. Keith once noticed a man being nosy and picked up a tin of Alphabetti Spaghetti and put it in the trolley. The disappointment on the man’s face was priceless.
Sadly, our marriage ended in divorce in 2008. I’ve never discussed why it didn’t work out, and probably never will. Let’s just say Keith wasn’t the easiest man to live with. However, we remained on speaking terms until he died in 2009. I have some fond memories of our marriage – life is too short for regrets. But would I marry a celebrity chef again Not a chance.