Tributes flood in for Derek Patterson - Northern Ireland gastropub pioneer who died aged 53
Fellow chefs hail founder of Hillsborough Oyster Festival
Some of Northern Ireland's most renowned chefs have paid warm tribute to Co Down restaurateur Derek Patterson, who died suddenly earlier this week.
The body of Mr Patterson, who headed up The Plough Inn in Hillsborough, was found near his home at St John's Road in the village on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Patterson (53) was best known as the chef and part-owner of the Plough Group of restaurants, which also includes the Vintage Rooms in Hillsborough, the Pheasant in Annahilt and the Tannery in Moira.
He lived on the Ballygowan Road in Hillsborough with his wife Pamela and their four children Max, Natasha, Toby and Amelia.
As a leading figure in the local hospitality industry, he also established Hillsborough's Oyster Festival in 1992.
Great British Menu chef Richard Corrigan, who teamed up with Derek for the 2016 Oyster Festival, led tributes to him yesterday.
"Derek was a wonderful human, amazing cook and great company," he said.
"He is a real loss to our fraternity of cooks.
"He will be seriously missed, rest in peace great man."
Celebrity chef Paul Rankin, who gained the first Michelin star here in 1992, said he was "shocked to the core" by Mr Patterson's passing.
"To me, Derek was always so full of warmth with a big smile and full of craic," he said.
"He had such a big heart and just belonged in hospitality."
Andy Rea from the popular Mourne Seafood Bar and Home restaurants in Belfast city centre remembered him as "a top bloke".
"Derek was a massive personality and someone with a huge passion for business and food," the Belfast Cookery School chef added.
"As soon as he came into a room everyone knew him, he just had that sort of presence.
"The last time I met with Derek he was in the process of creating a new gin and we were sampling it in the Culloden Hotel."
Broadcaster and food writer Paula McIntyre said Derek had been an inspiration and mentor to many young aspiring chefs.
"Derek really pioneered the gastropub industry 20 years ago when no one else was doing it in Northern Ireland," she said.
"I met him at various culinary competitions down the years and always found him to be very supportive of his staff when they were competing.
"Many great careers began in his restaurants and that power of influencing and training young people to set them on the right path can never be underestimated."
Among those Mr Patterson judged in past competitions was leading Irish cook Neven Maguire, who runs the popular MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion on the Cavan/Fermanagh border.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is with great sadness to hear of the passing of Derek.
"He was a wonderful chef, entrepreneur and genuine good person.
"I always remember as a young chef Derek judging me in cookery competitions and his words of encouragement were always very special and a great inspiration throughout my career."
Stephen Jeffers, proprietor of the Forestside Cookery School in Belfast, tweeted yesterday: "I've just heard the terrible news about a good old friend and chef Derek Patterson.
"My prayers, love and thoughts go to his family, close friends and staff."
Naldo Morelli, from the well-known Italian-Ulster ice cream making family, said Derek was "always ahead of the game" and someone who "seemed to be very passionate about food and his business".
Confirming the death on Facebook, The Plough Inn said: "It is with great sadness that we confirm the sudden passing of Derek Patterson.
"Whilst the Patterson family appreciates your kind thoughts and condolences, they would be grateful for some privacy at this difficult time."
Hundreds of friends and past employees have taken to social media to express their shock and sadness at Mr Patterson's passing and to post heartfelt tributes to the man described as "an ambassador for Hillsborough and beyond".
One former staff member posted on The Plough Inn's Facebook page: "Some of my best years were spent working in The Plough for and with Derek, a great man.
"I'm truly devastated and heartbroken for Pamela and the kids."
Another said: "Devastated beyond words, I had the pleasure of working for and with Derek for many years, a great man, great employer and talented chef.
"I had the best times of my life working in The Plough."
A further tribute read: "Worked in The Plough many years ago and a frequent visitor and Derek was always smiling and welcoming.
"Such a loss and thoughts and prayers with Ricky, William, their parents and of course Derek's own wife and children."
Mr Patterson's funeral is expected to take place later this week.