STRICTLY Come Dancing paid tribute to “family member” Gary Rhodes following his shock death.
Zoe Ball led the tributes to the celebrity chef, 59, who took part in the BBC dancing competition in 2008.
The presenter halted spin-off show It Takes Two in order to pay her respects to the former contestant: “Now you may have heard the very sad news that Gary Rhodes passed away today.
“Gary was a member of the Strictly family back in 2008 when he danced with Karen Hardy. This evening, our love and thoughts go out to Gary’s family and friends.”
He was eliminated third when he competed on Strictly, after Phil Daniels and Gillian Taylforth.
The chef died unexpectedly of “natural causes” last night with his wife by his bedside in Dubai.
The dad-of-two – who moved to the UAE in 2007 – was working on the day he died and his death is said to have come as a complete shock.
His cause of death has not been confirmed, but Jamie Oliver originally posted on Instagram that he had “passed away after a tragic fall” – before quickly deleting the post.
According to a statement released by Dubai Police, the famous chef “died of natural causes”.
A production company that was working with the MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen star on a new TV series said he was suddenly taken ill during a break in filming.
Rock Oyster Media and Goldfinch TV said: “Gary was in the middle of filming a wonderful new series with Rock Oyster Media for ITV from his base in Dubai.
“Gary was taken ill very suddenly at home during a break in filming and died a short time afterwards.
“Production was obviously halted as soon as Gary was taken ill and members of the Rock Oyster Team remain in Dubai to support the family as best they can.”
His brother Chris today said he has “lost a best friend” in a heartbreaking tribute to the star.
The chef’s devastated family said: “The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE.
“Gary passed away last evening 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.”