JENNIFER PATERSON, who achieved unlikely cult status as one half of the Two Fat Ladies cookery duo, died yesterday, aged 71.
Miss Paterson, a chain-smoking eccentric who was famously fond of parties, was diagnosed with lung cancer in mid-July. She fell ill during the filming of the fourth series of the popular BBC2 cookery show she presented with Clarissa Dickson Wright.
The BBC said that Miss Paterson died in hospital. Miss Dickson Wright, who had been due to visit her today with a jar of caviar, said: "Jennifer was a good friend, a great trooper and a constant source of surprise. I shall miss the fun of working with her more than I can say."
Miss Paterson became a celebrity late in life thanks to Two Fat Ladies, in which chefs were filmed touring the country on a motorcycle and sidecar, collecting ingredients and trading jokes about cookery, enter- taining and life in general. In a fitness-obsessed era, she and Miss Dickson Wright were notorious for their rejection of "foodies" and healthy eaters.
Their show was first aired in 1996 and became a hit around the world, watched in Japan, Canada, the United States, Australia and South Africa.
Will Wyatt, chief executive of BBC Broadcast, said yesterday: "Jennifer was a life force on the side of all things that were politically incorrect. She came to television all too late, but she left some wonderful programmes which we will be enjoying for years to come."
Miss Paterson, an enthusiastic cook from the age of four, was expelled from her convent school for being disruptive. After a spell abroad, she returned to England, where she worked for magazines, for the television show Candid Camera and as an assistant stage manager at the Theatre Royal in Windsor. A familiar face on the London party circuit in the Sixties, she once said that she was often broke and sometimes homeless but "never without a glass of champagne and a party invitation".
In 1977 she was employed as a cook by The Spectator, a job she held for 15 years. Among the guests for whom she cooked at the magazine's Thursday lunches were the Prince of Wales, Graham Greene, Alec Guinness and Enoch Powell.
Prince Charles was later a fan of Two Fat Ladies and sent Miss Paterson organic produce from his Highgrove estate last month on learning that she was ill. His spokesman said yesterday he would be "very saddened" to hear of her death.
Two Fat Ladies was dreamt up by a producer, Patricia Llewellyn, who discovered Miss Dickson Wright working in an Edinburgh cookery bookshop and suggested that she team up with Miss Paterson. "I think they thought we'd fight - two opinionated, middle-aged women," said Miss Dickson Wright. "But the moment we started cooking together, what you saw on screen was what you got."
Alan Yentob, the BBC's director of television, said yesterday: "Jennifer was a unique individual, full of fun and mischief. She was passionate about the show and utterly committed to her many fans."
Obituary, Review, page 6
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