Move over, Nigella: TV's new chefs are hairy bikers

Like a cross between the Two Fat Ladies (Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson) and Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on their round-the-world motorbike challenge, Dave Myers and Si Young's shows look to be as much a travelogue as a culinary experience.

They won their first moment of fame on British screens in January in a pilot programme, driving through Portugal to search out its best gourmet delicacies.

After a phenomenal public reaction, BBC2 has commissioned 12 shows, which are due to start this autumn. Michael Joseph has agreed a six-figure publishing deal sufficiently sizeable to set tongues wagging. The show, yet to be named, is filming in Transylvania and the series will also visit Namibia, Mexico, Lebanon, Syria, Vietnam and Ireland.

Part of their charm appears to have been the gentle air of civilisation. In the words of one television critic about the pilot, instead of being "two fearsome geezers on great, roaring choppers", they seemed almost sedate, with their Scout-like roadside cooking equipment of stoves and pots and pans.

Even when one confessed to an erotic dream, it took the form of a naked Delia Smith bearing a bowl of garlic mash. They appear as men whose love of motorcycles is matched by a fondness for their food.

Camilla Stoddart, the editorial director at Michael Joseph, which beat several other publishers at an auction to sign them, admitted she had missed the original pilot programme. "It snuck out without anybody noticing, but the public went bananas and inundated the BBC website with wonderful comments," she said.

She is convinced that the mix of travel and cookery, seasoned with the men's native northern wit, is a combination that works. "They're not just about cookery; they're adventurers and very, very funny," she said.

"People are getting more excited about food in this country but the role models they have apart from Jamie Oliver are still quite chef-y. To be a foodie in this country is considered snobby and middle-class.

"But these guys are completely unpretentious about food. They're realistic and down to earth and just love food. They're greedy and the way they cook is just really normal, apart from being by the side of the road. They show how easy it is."

When Myers was seen frying onions in olive oil in Portugal, Young brought northern colour to the table. "They are sweating like a Geordie in a spelling test," he said. Rubbing marinade into a suckling pig was "like putting suntan oil on your lass's back, you know, it's great", he said.

The two men met on the set on a television drama and have both worked in the film business. Young, who comes from Newcastle upon Tyne, where he lives with his partner and three children, is an assistant director whose recent work includes the Harry Potter films.

Myers was born in Barrow-in-Furness and worked as a furnaceman in a steelworks before taking a fine arts degree and joining the BBC. He is a make-up artist who specialises in prosthetic limbs and has worked on series including Lives and Loves of a She-Devil and the spy drama Spooks. He lives on Roa Island in Morecambe Bay, where he is the local sailing club champion.

Now a new career beckons for both men. "They've given this up to be full-time hairy bikers," Ms Stoddart said.

The television series is expected to be broadcast in two tranches, with six episodes before Christmas and the rest afterwards. The first of two commissioned books, The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook, will be published in the spring.

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