Famed food writer, 94-year-old Marguerite Patten OBE, was honoured as a special Brighton & Hove citizen at a tribute lunch hosted by City College Brighton & Hove as part of the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival last month.

Following a book signing of her latest – and she declares her last – recipe book ‘Best British Dishes’, 60 dignitaries and guests were served a delicious lunch by catering students at the college’s Gallery Restaurant, using some of Marguerite’s classic dishes, including twice-baked cheese soufflé and crown roast of lamb.

Clive Beddall OBE, chair of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards, proposed a toast and said: “Marguerite is the Vera Lynne of the food industry and Britain’s foremost lady cook. She had a profound effect on many of our childhoods – in fact my mother used to say ‘Mrs Patten says you must eat up all your cabbage or you won’t grow up to be tall’ – and she was right!”

Said Cllr Garry Peltzer Dunn, Deputy Mayor: “Marguerite turned common sense cooking into an art form and her efforts have done more to help the nation cook well than a whole army of celebrity chefs. Her achievements are extraordinary and we are proud to have her living in our city.”

Marguerite gave some sound advice to the catering students serving lunch and she also spoke to diners, saying: “I don’t approve of the word celebrity because it’s not who we are but what we do that counts. I’m a home economist, trained to help people in their own homes and I helped people to make the most of what was available during the rations of wartime Britain – for example the egg-less fruitcake and the cheese pie.

“However, ‘we’ll eat again’ was our mantra then and I wouldn’t go back to the limited food we had then for the world – though I do think that seasonality is extremely important and fresh, local produce is so much better than eating out of season or flying food all around the world.”

She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Food during the Second World War and became a household name for her inventive recipes using ration food, touring the country giving cookery demonstrations in factory canteens and hospitals. During her career, she has been a prolific food writer and has published more than 170 books, and sold 17 million copies worldwide.

Marguerite Patten recently became involved in the School Food Trust helping create after-school cookery clubs for parents and pupils. Her pioneering approach to healthy eating has prompted campaigning chef Jamie Oliver to seek her advice on his campaign for healthier school lunches.

The final big public event for the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival is this weekend – The Great Big Brighton & Hove Picnic on Hove Lawns, from midday to 4pm on Saturday 26th September. Local people are being urged to come down and celebrate the best of British traditions by joining a huge picnic on the seafront.

You can just turn up and buy your picnic from the delicious hot and cold food on offer at the ‘Sussex… & the Rest of the World Market’ – or bring along your tartan rug and hamper and enjoy your own in what promises to be a fun community event. There will also be a picnic sharing table, for people who feel like sharing their favourite picnic dish and bring along enough for others too; and children can bring along a cake and enter a cake making and decoration competition with a chance to win a teddy bear.

The festival is also be promoting the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2009/10, celebrating the county’s wonderful producers, with public voting at www.sussexfoodawards.com; and supporting the Sussex Breakfast scheme, encouraging local restaurants and hotels to serve local produce.

Find out about more about the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival events at www.brightonfoodfestival.co.uk