Food gurus Marguerite Patten and Prue Leith honoured

Image caption,
Prue Leith and Marguerite Patten inspired generations of chefs

Two women who helped teach generations of Britons to cook and paved the way for a glut of celebrity chefs have been honoured in the Queen's Birthday List.

Marguerite Patten and Prue Leith - who have become CBEs - may not quite have equalled the international fame of today's foody celebrities, but their influence on them is immense.

The former has been feeding Britain for more than 60 years and is widely considered to be the first celebrity chef.

The latter began her career in the 1960s and remains one of Britain's best known chefs.

Ms Leith, 70, who was honoured for services to the catering industry, said she was "very pleased" and looked forward to wearing the award at dinner parties.

Wartime thrift

She said: "I got an OBE many years ago now, and I always wanted to go to one of those parties which say 'decorations will be worn'.

"I was invited to one last week. If it had been a week later I could have worn this one instead."

The restaurateur, writer, broadcaster and novelist is perhaps best known recently as a judge on BBC Two's Great British Menu.

Image caption,
Marguerite Patten has been called England's cookery queen

Born in South Africa, she began cooking after ditching university to go to France to learn the language.

In 1960 she started a business supplying quality business lunches, which grew into the multi-million pound company Leith's Good Food Ltd.

Nine years later she opened Leith's, her famous Michelin-starred restaurant, before setting up a cookery school and writing novels.

She has been a cookery editor and food columnist for several national newspapers, and until recently headed the School Food Trust, a healthy food campaign.

She is also involved in The Hoxton Apprentice, a London restaurant training disadvantaged youngsters to be cooks and waiters.

The popularity of cooks and chefs such as Delia Smith CBE, Jamie Oliver MBE, or Gordon Ramsay OBE, can be traced back to one woman - the queen of wartime thrift.


Long before Delia taught us how to boil an egg, she was explaining how to cope with post-war rationing.

The Nigella Lawson or Sophie Dahl of her day, she fronted her first TV cookery show on the BBC in 1947, which proved vital in improving the nation's food.

Born Marguerite Brown, in Bath, she first learned to cook for her family, aged 13, after her father died and her mother had to return to work.

She worked as a home economist at the Eastern Electricity Board, as an actress in repertory theatre, and a promoter of the refrigerator for the Frigidaire.

During World War II, her ideas were broadcast to the nation on the BBC radio programme Kitchen Front.

At 94, she still contributes to TV and radio food programmes, and has sold more than 17 million copes of her 170 books.

Her gong, for services to the food industry, could hardly be more deserving.

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