Katie Stewart tribute to disadvantaged children

Katie Stewart
Katie Stewart

The family of celebrity cookery writer Katie Stewart has nominated a charity that teaches disadvantaged children to cook for donations in her name to be made.

The Kids’ Cookery School, based in Acton, London, has worked with more than 32,000 children, young people and families, many with severe physical and learning disabilities, behavioural problems or who have been excluded from mainstream education.

Katie’s son, Andrew Leask, who lives in Cuckfield where his mother also lived for 44 years of her life, said: “Mum would have really liked that because of her London connections and because of all the years we lived next door to Tentercroft in Broad Street, which was a county council home for children with Downs Syndrome.”

Andrew said the family had consulted The Guild of Food Writers, which honoured Katie with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, for suggestions for a worthy cause for people to make donations to.

The Kids’ Cookery School was one of three charities that were mooted and was chosen as it was not Lottery funded or a beneficiary of any other large grant organisations.

Andrew added: “Children are taught hardly any cooking at school these days and they should be. It should be a life skill that everyone has.”

It was when Katie received her Lifetime Achievement Award that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of the new generation of celebrity cookery writers, told Katie that it was she who had inspired his own passion for food and cookery writing.

Katie, who died suddenly, aged 78, on January 13, was born in Sidcup in 1934 to parents who had originated in Aberdeen. The family returned to Scotland when Katie was five but then came south again, after the war, and lived in St Paul’s Cray, in north Kent, where their daughter went to Blackheath High School.

At the age of 18 Katie went to Westminster Hotel School and later to Paris as a nanny. She travelled with the family she worked for and discovered food in a big way, developing a lifelong interest and later studying further at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris.

She then travelled to the United States and to New York where she worked for Nestlé and was stimulated by the cookery styles of the huge immigrant population.

Back in the UK, she began writing down recipes and managed to break 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.

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.

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

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 is now considering producing a book of his mother’s favourite recipes.

Katie’s funeral is at Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield, tomorrow (Friday) at 12.30pm.

Donations instead of flowers to The Kids’ Cookery School, Acton, London,

info@thekidscookeryschool.co.uk, tel 020 8992 8882.

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