It was 18 years ago that Dave Myers and Si King, aka The Hairy Bikers, first graced our television screens with their quirky television series. Part travelogue part cookery programme, the BBC show mainly featured the bearded pair riding motorbikes to various unusual cooking locations to try the local cuisine.

Since then, their USP has changed dramatically. Gone is the bread lathered with butter and cheeseburgers dripping with fat, replaced by light and low-calorie meals heaped with vegetables and fresh ingredients. In the process, the two northern chefs have shed seven stone between them.

“We were eating a lot and making all the wrong choices,” says King, 55. “It was all fun and games until we realised we were morbidly obese.”

Their recent focus on health is all the more poignant after Myers’ recent revelation that he has been diagnosed with cancer. Speaking on an episode of the Hairy Bikers – Agony Uncles podcast, Myers, 64, said: “I’ve got to have some chemo… so this year is going to be a bit quiet for me… But look, the prognosis is OK, I’m going to be fine.”

Myers’ health scare is the reason King is going solo during our interview, but he is adamant that his partner-in-cooking –who last week joked about his new “baldy biker” look – is doing well.

“He remains really positive,” says King, who met Myers back in 1995. “He is pretty focused on his treatment and he’s being typically Dave, which is tough as an old boot. He has his family around him, and I’m there to support him, so he’s doing OK.”

As for their latest cookbook, Simple Healthy Food, it is still very much focused on low-calorie, nutritious fare, which they are more passionate about than ever.

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“You’ve got to take care of yourself,” says King, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2014. “It’s not about getting ripped abs or whatever, but we’re conscious of the risks of carrying too much timber. We’re never going to be super-skinny, but we’ve kept a better weight and our blood sugar levels and cholesterol have improved. It’s about good health, and that has to be sustainable. You know, sometimes we still think, ‘Sod it, I’ll have a pie and three pints,’ but not every night like we used to.

“Dave and I aren’t rabbits, but we’re much healthier now and the book does what it says on the cover; it’s all about simple, healthy food that doesn’t scrimp on flavour and gives you the nutrients you need. It feels better to be eating like this – that’s what we want people to realise, because back in our day it wasn’t really spoken about.”

It’s true that since The Hairy Bikers’ career began, the food scene has changed dramatically. As a nation, we are eating more varied diets, are aware of our carbon footprint, are trying to eat sustainably, and vegan and vegetarian are no longer dirty words. As an industry insider, what has it been like keeping up with these changing trends? “I always think good food transcends trends,” says King.

“What I love about the scene at the moment is that we’ve discovered a lot of different cultures and we’ve trying their food, but doing it properly, authentically. Mexican food doesn’t mean Tex Mex any more, but real salsas and incredible meats. Then there’s Korean fried chicken – isn’t that shockingly good?

“Dave and I first tasted that in Korea years ago and we were like, ‘Oh, this is the real deal, this isn’t KFC.’ That’s one of the reasons we love our job. We are so lucky to be able to explore these cuisines and cultures. We like to think of ourselves as food anthropologists.”

The Hairy Dieters: Simple Healthy Food by Si King and Dave Myers is published by Seven Dials at £16.99, ebook £8.99

Over their nearly two decades of travelling, The Hairy Bikers have been to Argentina, Namibia, Thailand, Turkey and India, tasting a banquet of local dishes along the way. But King’s favourite?

“We have so many fantastic memories together, but I loved one trip when we started in Buenos Aires and rode down to Patagonia,” he says. “The culture was amazing and so was the food.

“Everyone we meet is always really lovely and friendly,” he adds, “especially when they’re talking about food. That’s the thing with food: it’s such an expression of love and care and commitment. So often you’re cooking for the people you love. It transcends borders and politics, because we all have to eat and we all enjoy eating.”

Of course, it’s not always expertly made bourguignon or authentic Thai food on the menu at home for either Myers or King. Like us, the chefs have days when they can’t be bothered to get home from work and stand in front of a stove.

“It’s all about prep. Cooking should be a joy, so there’s no point getting too stressed. If I’m not in the mood one day, I’ll whip up something simple, like a veggie curry, but then other days I can’t wait to set some proper time aside to make something special for dinner,” says King.

“Dave and I eat a lot of our own stuff, mainly because we go to great lengths to make sure the food is tried-and-tested five times before it goes into any of our books. I’m a firm believer in there being integrity to everything we do, and Dave is on the same page.”

And his advice for getting better in the kitchen? “Time. Like everything, it takes time. Also, a good set of knives – they’re your basics.”

The Hairy Dieters: Simple Healthy Food by Si King and Dave Myers is published by Seven Dials at £16.99, ebook £8.99

Simple healthy recipes for you to try at home


Serve the chicken on the flatbreads or lettuce leaves with the cucumber, dressing and pickled chillies

Serves 4

2 large chicken breasts; Zest and juice of 1 lemon; 2 garlic cloves, crushed;1tsp ground cumin; ½tsp ground coriander; ¼tsp cinnamon; ¼tsp ground allspice; ¼tsp cayenne; ½tsp dried oregano; 1tsp olive oil; Sea salt and black pepper

For the yoghurt dip

200ml plain yoghurt or thick kefir; 1 tsp dried mint; Pinch of sugar; ½ tsp sumac

To serve

4 flatbreads or large lettuce leaves; ½ cucumber sliced; Few pickled chillies (optional)

First cut the chicken breasts in half as if you were butterflying them. To do this, put the chicken breast on the work surface and slice through it from one long side to the other. Cut all the way through so you have two pieces with the same surface area but half the thickness.

Put each piece between two pieces of cling film and pound with a mallet until they are just ½cm thick. Repeat with the other breast.

Put the lemon zest and juice, garlic, spices, oregano and olive oil into a bowl with plenty of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, then add the chicken and rub the mixture into it. Leave to marinate for a few hours if possible, or overnight.

To cook the chicken, heat a dry frying pan or a griddle. When hot, add the chicken breasts and cook on one side until they are well browned and lift off easily with no sticking. Cook the other side for another two to three minutes. Check the chicken is cooked through, then remove from the pan.

For the dressing, mix the yoghurt, mint and sugar together with a pinch of salt, then sprinkle with the sumac. Serve the chicken on the flatbreads or lettuce leaves with the cucumber, dressing and pickled chillies.


Heat the corn tortillas and serve the fish with the tortillas, salsa and pickled jalapeños, if using

Serves 4

1tsp ground cumin; ½tsp ground cinnamon; ½tsp ground allspice; ¼-½tsp chilli powder (chipotle is good); 500g firm, white fish fillet, cut into 2–3cm chunks; Sea salt; Black pepper

For the salsa

Zest and juice of 1 lime; ½tsp salt; ½ red onion, finely diced; 4 tomatoes, finely diced; 1-2 jalapeños, finely diced; 2 tbsp coriander stems and leaves, finely chopped

To serve

8 corn tortillas; Coriander sprigs; Pickled jalapeños (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Make the salsa. Put the lime juice and zest in a bowl with the salt. Add the red onion and leave it to marinate for about half an hour – this will help to soften the flavour and intensify the colour. Add the remaining ingredients, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Leave to stand at room temperature.

For the fish, mix all the spices together with plenty of salt and pepper. Toss the fish in the spices, then arrange the pieces on the baking tray, spacing them out well. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove. Heat the corn tortillas and serve the fish with the tortillas, salsa and pickled jalapeños, if using.


Divide the fruit between bowls and add the small mint leaves as a garnish

Serves 4

4 kiwi fruits, peeled and diced; 150g green grapes, halved; 300g green fleshed melon, peeled and diced; 100g cucumber,
peeled and diced; Handful of mint leaves

For the dressing

Zest and juice of 1 lime; 1tbsp sugar or xylitol; About 25 mint leaves

To serve (all optional)

1-3 tsp rum (per person); Pinch of salt; Pinch of chilli powder

Put all the fruit and the cucumber in a bowl and chill well. When you are almost ready to serve, put the lime juice and zest, sugar or xylitol and mint leaves in a bowl and muddle them together (smash them about a bit) until the mint has broken down and most of the sugar or xylitol has dissolved. Pour over the fruit and mix well. Divide the fruit between bowls and add the small mint leaves as a garnish. Add rum, salt and/or chilli as you like.