Shooting the Cook by David Pritchard

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Shooting the Cook by David Pritchard

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of the man who brought Keith Floyd and Rick Stein to our screens. A well-told and very readable story. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd
ISBN: 978-0007278305

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David Pritchard would have you believe that he was a bumbling TV producer and that he, almost by accident, discovered two men who would go on to become celebrity chefs. The first, Keith Floyd, was a revelation to viewers as he slurped a glass (or two) of wine, said exactly what you thought he shouldn't have said and cooked amazing food in one exotic location after another. After the stultifying programmes made by the likes Fanny Craddock he was a breath of fresh air and like or loathe him there was no way that you could be ambivalent. The second man, Rick Stein, was an entirely different, er, kettle of fish. Quiet, thoughtful and decidedly more erudite – it was difficult to imagine two more diverse personalities, but he brought out the best of both and made programmes which stay in the mind years later.

Television was almost an accidental occupation for Pritchard when he became a vault porter in a regional studio – he thought the job would be something rather better – but it allowed him a foot on the ladder at a time when the industry was expanding rapidly. Floyd was a restaurateur in Bristol and it was his appearance on a radio programme which sparked Pritchard's interest in him. Strangely enough, in the scenes over which the credits run for the first programme of the iconic Floyd on Fish series you'll see a very young-looking Rick Stein sitting down to a meal with silver service and white linen – on a fishing trawler.

Pritchard has a very easy style. I didn't feel as though I read the book so much as drank it in whilst sitting, glass in hand, in a friendly pub. He's a true raconteur with the knack of pacing a story perfectly – never too long on a subject that you get tired of it and always sufficient information so that you feel a part of the story. Locations are always illustrated in a few words – the flat, oily calm of the sea, the storks building huge nests in chimney pots in a small town in Alsace, or the thought of Benidorm as a mini version of Chicago with its tall skyscraper hotels huddling together on the bay.

It's easy too to overlook what he doesn't tell you. You'll quickly realise that Floyd is possibly a genius, but definitely a flawed one and there are stories there which illustrate just how difficult he could be, but you're left with a sense that Pritchard could have said a lot more, but the book is about the rise the celebrity chef and not about the inevitable downfall(s) of a selfish man. Floyd's regular financial difficulties are glossed over and there's barely a mention of his many marital difficulties. There's a sense that people are more important than their passing problems. You'll find more mention of Pritchard's regularly changing wives and girlfriends!

It was always a bone of contention with Floyd that Pritchard spoke little French and didn't really understand food, but with Rick Stein one senses that there is genuine friendship and respect between the men. Far from flamboyant, Stein needed a little coaxing to perform to his best in front of the camera and this is one of the reasons why I can't quite subscribe to the idea of Pritchard as a bumbling producer. I have the feeling that this is the consummate professional, capable of getting the best out of people and keeping a smile on his face.

He writes a good book though.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this type of book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright or One Flew Into The Cuckoo's Egg by Bill Oddie.

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Buy Shooting the Cook by David Pritchard at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Shooting the Cook by David Pritchard at


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