Katie Stewart Obituary - A life inspired by the love of food

Celebrated cookery writer Katie Stewart, who has died suddenly aged 78, will be remembered as one of the first TV cooks and as a household name from her books and newspaper columns.

In 2008 Katie received The Guild of Food Writers’ Lifetime Achievement Award and was told by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that she had been the inspiration for his own passion for food and cookery writing.

Katie, who lived in Cuckfield for 44 years, lived for food and her home was a veritable library of books, scrapbooks and documentation of her own recipes and those of her contemporaries.

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Born in 1934 in Sidcup, Essex, to parents who originated from Aberdeen, Katie took herself to Paris as a nanny in her early 20s where she developed a passion for food. She trained in the city before moving to New York, to a job with Nestlé, where she was also stimulated by the cookery styles of the huge immigrant population.

She began documenting recipes and returned to England where she broke into Fleet Street as a cookery writer, then Woman’s Magazine in 1963, where colour photography began to accompany recipes. She moved to Woman’s Journal, staying for 32 years and wrote for The Times for 12 years, becoming a household name and writing the big-selling Times Cookbook. Always in demand, Katie also made three series of cookery programmes for Grampian TV in Aberdeen, entitled Cooking with Katie.

Additionally, she published 10 cookery books and her vast knowledge and experience kept her busy in Cuckfield where she regularly supported and cooked for many organisations and charities. She was elected Mayor of Cuckfield in 2001, later being pivotal in the Cuckfield 900 street party in 2002.

Her son, Andrew Leask, said his mother had been the first generation of celebrity chefs yet hardly realised how far her own fame spread.

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He said: “People were always ringing up and calling and asking her how to cook this or that, and she was always more than happy to tell them or ask them to hang on while she ran upstairs and looked it up.

“She was ever so modest and didn’t realise quite how famous she was.”

Andrew, who also lives in Cuckfield, said he was now considering producing a book of his mother’s favourite recipes.

Donations instead of flowers to The Kids’ Cookery School, Acton, London, which teaches cookery to disadvantaged children.

Donation via P&S Gallagher Funeral Directors in Haywards Heath on 01444 451166.