29 February 2024

Dave Myers and the food legacy of the Hairy Bikers

29 February 2024

David “Dave” Myers, one half of the Hairy Bikers, has died aged 66, according to according to a statement on social media from his co-star Simon “Si” King.

The two have been cooking together, writing recipes and filming TV shows since their 2004 debut, The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook.

King said he “will miss him every day and the bond and friendship we shared over half a lifetime” as he announced Myers’ death on social media. Myers had been living with an undisclosed type of cancer for the past couple of years.

With over 25 cookbooks to their name, the Hairy Bikers have made a unique imprint on the world of British food – and Lancashire-born Myers had a huge hand in that.

Travelling the world on their motorbikes

Myers and King met while working on the set of a Catherine Cookson TV miniseries – Myers was a make-up artist who specialised in prosthetics, and King was a location manager – and the two bonded over their love of motorcycles and food.

And so the Hairy Bikers was born – a new type of travelogue show, where the duo would ride around on their motorcycles, sampling the local cuisine and cooking their own dishes.

While they did go global – their first-ever series saw Myers and King going from Namibia to Transylvania, and they’ve since covered Mississippi, Tokyo, Mexico and more – they were arguably at their best shining a spotlight on the UK.

As early as 2007, in the special episode The Hairy Bikers Come Home, this has been a trademark of their shows – travelling to places in Britain that you might not normally see on food TV shows, highlighting regional cuisine.

Their most recent show, February’s BBC Two series The Hairy Bikers Go West, took Myers and King west across the UK, from Scotland to Devon – even returning to Myers’ original home of Lancashire. Along the way, they cooked up dishes like chicken Balmoral with truffle mash, lamb chop pakoras and Lancashire butter and potato pie.

Cooking up comfort food

The Hairy Bikers made a name for themselves with simple, flavoursome food, finding popularity with easy-to-make dishes that put comfort at its core.

Their culinary influences were international, picked up from their travels abroad – they’ve dedicated cookbooks to Mediterranean cuisine, curries and more – but when you think of their cooking style, it’s all about British classics and comfort food.

In fact, their 2023 cookbook, The Hairy Bikers’ Ultimate Comfort Food, was about just this. From beef and barley stew to sausage rolls, this was classic fare from Myers and King – with the odd international flavour, like chipotle prawn tacos or Szechuan lamb bao buns.

Making healthy eating simple

In 2012, Myers and King released their first diet-focused cookbook and accompanying TV show, The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food And Lose Weight.

This marked a new era for the duo, with healthy food at the centre. It was extremely personal for the pair, who before overhauling their own eating habits were both on medication for issues linked with lifestyle.

But it wasn’t about restriction – they stayed true to their cooking style, albeit with a few healthy swaps. Recipes included lasagne made with sheets of leek instead of pasta, beans on toast with parma ham instead of bacon, and for the TV series, the duo even swapped out their motorbikes for bicycles to help them get more exercise.

The book sold phenomenally well – and in February 2014, author royalties body Public Lending Rights (PLR) named it the most-borrowed non-fiction title in UK libraries.

It spawned a series of health-related books, even one dedicated purely to vegetarian food. Health and wellbeing books and TV shows have historically tended to target women, so the Hairy Bikers’ success could be credited to broadening out this scope and finding new audiences.

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