Published: 09:00, 27 November 2019
| Updated: 18:30, 27 November 2019
Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes has died suddenly while filming a new TV show.
The MasterChef star, who grew up in Gillingham and attended the Howard School, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59 in Dubai.
KMTV report as high-profile figures pay tribute to Gary Rhodes
A statement from his family said: "The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE.
"Gary passed away yesterday evening (Tuesday), at the age of 59, with his beloved wife Jennie by his side.
"The family would like to thank everyone for their support and ask for privacy during this time."
He was filming a new show for ITV but was taken ill very suddenly at his home during a break and died shortly after, a statement from production company Goldfinch and Rock Oyster Media said.
Police in Dubai said Mr Rhodes died of natural causes.
Friend and fellow chef Gordon Ramsay described him as "a chef who put British cuisine on the map".
Kent chef Richard Phillips, who studied at the same college as Mr Rhodes in Thanet, said: "Such sad news. True gentleman and inspiration to the industry."
Mr Phillips, who runs Thackerays in Tunbridge Wells and the Pearsons Arms in Whitstable, said he was thinking of his family.
Tom Kerridge said Mr Rhodes put British food on the world stage and was one of the country's greatest chefs.
The Hand and Flowers chef, who worked alongside Mr Rhodes, said: "I’m deeply shocked and hugely saddened to hear the tragic news about Gary Rhodes. He is one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage.
"Taking simple ingredients, embracing classic dishes and making something world class.
"Many chefs have been through his kitchen, myself included. I consider it to be an honour to have stood alongside him at the pass. My thoughts go out to family and close friends for their huge loss.
Culinary colleagues Ainsley Harriot and Daniel Clifford have also remembered their friend.
Mr Clifford said Mr Rhodes "opened the door for so many young English cooks".
Mr Harriot described his friend as "a true culinary icon and a lovely man".
Rock Oyster Media managing director David Nottage said Mr Rhodes was part of "a great gang of chefs that turned TV cooks into rock stars".
"He encouraged millions of people around the world to get into their kitchens and start cooking.
"He had a wicked sense of humour but his standards and work ethic were second to none.
"A driven, fastidious and incredibly hard working individual, he was unerringly focused on producing food of the highest possible quality.
"It is a great privilege to have known him and worked with him over many years. He will be greatly missed by us all."
Caroline Teeling, Mr Rhodes's agent for more than 10 years, said he was "so much more than just a client".
"Gary was the most wonderful, talented, generous man as well as a true friend.
"Words cannot express the shock and heartbreak we are all feeling at this time."
Graham Razey, chief executive of EKC Group, which now runs the former Thanet Technical College in Broadstairs where Mr Rhodes studied, said: "We’re all deeply saddened by the loss of Gary, who did so much to inspire generations of young chefs who’ve trained at Broadstairs College.
"He was one of our most distinguished alumni and showed our students that there was no limit to their potential achievements with a technical and vocational skillset.
"Gary visited us many times after he achieved his qualifications here, and we had named a room in his honour in our catering area.
"His passion for seeing the next generation of chefs develop was exceptional, and his passing will be keenly felt throughout the world of professional cookery. There’s no doubt that our whole college community will miss him greatly."
Mr Rhodes moved to Dubai for work in 2010, setting up steakhouse Rhodes Twenty10.
In previous years he starred on Strictly Come Dancing, Hell's Kitchen and earned a record five Michelin Stars.
Mr Rhodes also attended Twydall Junior School, where he later returned in 2008 to launch a cooking campaign.
A school spokesman said: "Everybody couldn't wait for him to come, I think the parents were very excited because he was a TV chef.
"The children were totally enamoured with him.
"It was great, such a big press event.
"It was a really great fun day.
"He was completely dressed up, he had his hair all spiky and was wearing his checked trousers."
Howard School executive headteacher Cathy Reid said: "The Howard School offers its commiserations to the family and friends of Gary Rhodes, a former pupil at The Howard School.
"The school is very proud of his achievements throughout his career and the person he became."
Fellow chef and owner of Rocksalt in Folkestone Mark Sargeant took to Instagram to pay tribute.
He said: "To say I'm devastated to hear Gary Rhodes has passed away is an understatement.
"He was only having a picture taken with one of my ex sous chefs in Dubai last week for a new show so this is shocking news.
"A true legend of proper British cuisine who started us all on the path to great cooking in this country. I am mortified.
"Love going out to all his friends and family."
People have been sharing their memories about Mr Rhodes in posts online.
"To say I am stunned would be an understatement and my condolences go out to his wife and children" - Paul Scally
Claire Hayes said: "His sister was a few years above me at Rochester Grammar School.
"We had a brand new technology suite named after him and the day he opened it we were all hanging out the window trying to watch it.
"He also had to eat school dinner with us."
Gillingham football club chairman Paul Scally, who was at a wake having buried his father when he heard news of the chef's death, said: "To say I am stunned would be an understatement and my condolences go out to his wife and children at this very sad time.
"Incredibly I was planning to meet up with Gary next week when I fly to Dubai on business after our game next Sunday, he was very interested in what we are doing at GFC and we had discussed setting up a catering academy in Medway.
"Those that met him on his trips to the club will remember him as a warm, humble and friendly man.
"RIP Gary Rhodes, a true legend."
More by this authorEd McConnell