TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular restaurateur who was one the first TV celebrity chefs.

John Tovey MBE, the former owner of the celebrated Miller Howe Hotel, Windermere, has passed away age 85.

Mr Tovey, originally of Walney, died on Saturday at his home in South Africa, with his partner at his bedside. He had been suffering from dementia for the past couple of years.

The acclaimed chef built up the world famous Lakes restaurant, fronted TV series such as "Eating Out with Tovey" for the BBC and wrote best selling cook books. Mr Tovey was also involved with the theatre an he worked alongside Donald Sartain at Her Majesty's Theatre, in Barrow.

Mr Tovey was a partner in the popular Bay Horse Hotel and Restaurant at Ulverston for many years and its owners, Robert Lyons and Lesley Wheeler, his great friends have paid tribute to him.

Mr Lyons was the head chef at Miller Howe Hotel for 17 years, Mr Tovey would say Mr Lyons was like a son.

Ms Wheeler said: "He enriched so many of our lives with his generous nature, hospitality and entertainment.

"He was flamboyant. He was one the first TV chefs John was great entertainer, he was the best host , he loved to have people around.

"We are so grateful for the fantastic experiences he gave us. He encouraged us to start up our own business."

Ms Wheeler, who also worked at Miller Howe, said Mr Tovey would take staff on overseas food tours in the winter months and really cared for his team, she said it was a big family.

She said he encouraged his team to go and set up their own business and many now run hotels and restaurants.

Mr Tovey received his MBE in the Queen's New Year Honour's list in December 1996 for services to the tourism industry. He learnt of the honour while holidaying in South Africa.

Ms Wheeler is in the process of organising a memorial service in South Cumbria for Mr Tovey's friends in the UK to attend. More details will be shared soon.

She said they have raised a glass of the best South African wine in their great friend's honour.