Marguerite Patten
Hilda Elsie Marguerite Brown

(1915-11-04)4 November 1915
Died4 June 2015(2015-06-04) (aged 99)
Twickenham,[1] Greater London, England, UK
Occupation(s)Home economist, food writer and broadcaster
Notable workEveryday Cook Book in Colour (1961)
SpouseBob Patten (1942–97, his death)
AwardsOBE 1991; CBE 2010; Lifetime Achievement Award from BBC, 1998; Lifetime Achievement Award from Waterford Wedgewood, 1999; Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award 2007

Hilda Elsie Marguerite Patten, CBE (née Brown; 4 November 1915 – 4 June 2015), was a British home economist, food writer and broadcaster. She was one of the earliest celebrity chefs (a term that she disliked at first) who became known during World War II thanks to her programme on BBC Radio, where she shared recipes that could work within the limits imposed by war rationing. After the war, she was responsible for popularising the use of pressure cookers and her 170 published books have sold over 17 million copies.

Early life and career

Born in Bath, Somerset, she was raised in Barnet, Hertfordshire, where she won a scholarship to Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Girls (now Queen Elizabeth's School for Girls).[2] Patten was 12 when she began to cook for her mother and younger brother and sister after her father, who was a printer, died, and her mother had to return to work as a teacher. While she was not the primary cook for the family, she did take an interest in cooking from that age onwards.[3] After leaving school, she worked as an actress in repertory theatre for nine months, and then as a senior home economist for Frigidaire, promoting the benefits of the refrigerator.[4][5]

Second World War

During World War II, she worked for the Ministry of Food suggesting nourishing and inventive recipes using the rationed food that was available. She broadcast her ideas and advice to the nation on a BBC radio programme called the Kitchen Front.[4] When the war ended, she demonstrated kitchen appliances for Harrods, including the pressure cooker which her work popularised in the UK.[4]

Television and Radio

Following from her wartime appearances, she appeared on many BBC radio programmes, included Woman's Hour from 1946 until the 2000s.[6]

The TV programmes on which she appeared regularly included the first UK TV magazine programme Designed for Women (1947 - 1960) and Cookery Club (1956 - 1961). She was one of the earliest TV 'celebrity chefs' – a description with which she disagreed saying "I am NOT! To the day I die I'll be a home economist",[5] presenting her first television cookery programme on the BBC in 1947.[7] However, Patten seemed to have relaxed this stance later in life, describing herself as "the first Television Cook in Britain."[8][9]

She appeared on television some eight years before Fanny Cradock, whom she disliked and called a "bully", but whose ability to cook she appreciated. Patten did cookery demonstrations, once touring the world, and also appearing at the London Palladium on 12 occasions.[5]


Patten wrote many best-selling cookery books. In 1961, at a time when cookery books were mainly illustrated in black and white,[failed verification] her publisher Paul Hamlyn produced a glossy book, Cookery In Colour, that proved influential on later publications.[4] The Everyday Cook Book in Colour had sold in excess of one million copies by 1969.[10] She has since sold 17 million copies of her 170 books.[7][11]

Patten continued to contribute to TV and radio food programmes into her late nineties, following a brief retirement in her seventies.[5] Her approach to cookery instruction included teaching essential knowledge and skills needed in the kitchen. Her advice and books were instrumental in improving the quality of British cookery in the post-war years,[11] when rationing meant that more exotic dishes were impossible to prepare. She has been an influence on other well-known cooks such as Nigel Slater[12][failed verification] and Gary Rhodes, who called her one of his two culinary heroes.[13] Her 1972 part-work 'Perfect Cooking' was made into an art installation, a paper-weave, by British artist Martin Slidel, and exhibited at The Paper Factory, London (UK), in 2006.

'Balanced Menus for Beauty Using the Mixer' art installation by British artist Martin Slidel, a paper-weave of Marguerite Patten's 1972 part-work.
'Balanced Menus for Beauty Using the Mixer' art installation by British artist Martin Slidel, a paper-weave of Marguerite Patten's 1972 part-work.


She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1991 Birthday Honours for "services to the Art of Cookery"[14] and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[15][16] In 2007, she received the Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.[17] She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2000 when she was surprised by Michael Aspel during the Food Show at Birmingham's NEC.[citation needed]

Her books Cookery in Colour and International Cookery in Colour were featured on the channel of YouTuber "The Infinite Review[18]".


Patten's death was announced on 10 June 2015. She died on Thursday 4 June aged 99, "from an illness stoically borne" according to her family.[7] She had suffered a stroke in June 2011 which had robbed her of speech,[19] and towards the end of her life, she could no longer stand, thus preventing her from cooking.[5]


  1. ^ Paul Levy, "Patten [née Brown], (Hilda Elsie) Marguerite (1915–2015)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2019 available online. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  2. ^ Obituary, The Times, 11 June 2015, p. 55
  3. ^ Elgot, Jessica (10 June 2015). "Cookery writer Marguerite Patten dies aged 99". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Hyslop, Leah (10 June 2015). "Eight things Marguerite Patten taught us". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Durrant, Sabine (5 June 2011). "'Let's get this straight': interview with Marguerite Patten". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  6. ^ Catharine M. C. Haines (2001). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. pp. 238–. ISBN 978-1-57607-090-1.
  7. ^ a b c "Marguerite Patten, cookery writer, dies at 99". The Telegraph. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  8. ^ Patten, Marguerite. "Christmas Pudding Recipe from ANCHOR® Butter". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  9. ^ Patten, Marguerite. "How To Make The Perfect Christmas Pudding". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  10. ^ Patten, Marguerite (1969). Everyday Cook Book in Colour. Hamlyn Books.
  11. ^ a b Wilkins, Sasha (11 June 2015). "What Marguerite Patten meant to generations of British home cooks". The Pool. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  12. ^ Slater, Nigel (2003). Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger. Fourth Estate Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84115-289-9.
  13. ^ "Celebrity Chef Gary Rhodes at the Marine Hotel in Salcombe - Flying the British Flag". Devon Life. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  14. ^ "No. 52563". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1991. p. 11.
  15. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 8.
  16. ^ "Food gurus Marguerite Patten and Prue Leith honoured". BBC News. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Previous winners". Woman of the Year. 2014. Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  18. ^ Review, The Infinite. "Cookery in Colour". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  19. ^ Nianias, Helen (10 June 2015). "Marguerite Patten dies: Cookery writer has passed away". The Independent. London. Retrieved 10 June 2015.