Tribute to Derek Cooper

Derek Cooper, who died on 19 April 2014 aged 88, was one of the greatest and most important writers and broadcasters on food of the late 20th century. He was also a founding member of the Guild of Food Writers: our first Chair and later our President. Even though he left our organisation when ill health made him unable to continue working, we have always regarded him, in a manner akin to reverence, as one of our most eminent colleagues.

Derek is best known for his long association with Radio 4’s The Food Programme, which he presented from its beginnings until 2001. An implacable critic of the debasement of the national diet by corporate interests, he assailed their representatives – in the most charming way possible – whenever they agreed to speak to him. These attainments have been amply reported in the obituaries in most national newspapers in the UK.

In the Guild, those of us who were fortunate enough to know Derek regarded him with a deep and unswerving affection. It is rare to find someone about whom no one ever seems to have anything negative to say. He was one of those people. We hope to collect some memories of this wholly admirable man and publish them in due course.

Derek’s inimitable baritone speaking voice was stilled, at least publicly, a long time ago. Those of us who knew it, whether from the radio or in conversation, will never forget it. And will never forget the warmth, humour and intelligence with which that great voice was used.

The Guild is thinking of Derek’s children: Nick and Penny. And of his grandchildren Alice and Iona. And also of his late wife Janet, whom many of us knew and at whose table we dined – the meal cooked by her, not by Derek.

The old cliché says: we will not see his like again. Derek hated cliché as much as he hated an adulterated beefburger or a lying politician. Sorry, Derek. This time the cliché is true.