Hilda Elsie Marguerite Patten, CBE (born 4 November 1915, 4 June 2015, aged 99) née Brown, was an English food writer, teacher, economist and, along with Phillip Harben one of the first radio and TV cooks. Born in Bath, Somerset she grew up in Barnet, Hertfordshire.
When she was 13 it fell to her to cook for her mother and younger brother and sister, when her father died and her mother had to return to work as a teacher.
After leaving school and taking a cookery course Marguerite was employed as a home economist at the Eastern Electricity Board.
She then worked as an actress in repertory theatre for 9 months before giving up on that and going to Frigidaire (a fridge manufacturer) as senior home economist in order to promote the enormous benefits of having a refrigerator in the home.
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. When the war ended, she demonstrated kitchen appliances for Harrods.
She was one of the earliest TV ‘celebrity chefs’, presenting her first television cookery programme on the BBC in 1947. In 1961, at a time when cookery books were essentially black and white affairs, her publisher Paul Hamlyn produced a glossy, colourful book that proved highly influential.
By 1969 the ‘Everyday Cook Book in Colour’ had sold in excess of one million copies.
Since then, 17 million copies of her 170 books were sold. She continued to contribute to TV and radio food programmes into her late nineties. Her approach to cookery instruction included teaching the 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, 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 and Jamie Oliver.
She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991 for ‘services to the Art of Cookery’ and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Queens Birthday Honours List.
In 2007, she received the Woman of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award.
There are four of Margurite Pattens books in the archive and numerous references and articles on this very blog. She was a tremendous influence in my early years, along with Granny Robertson herself and remains the ‘Queen of Austerity Cooking’