Life and career
Paterson came from an Army family, of which she later wrote, "My mother had no idea of how to cook and no wish to learn, existing on gorgonzola, coffee, and chocolates after the demise of any form of servant. My father, having gone through two World Wars, was far too frightened to put on a kettle and my brothers, who married young to very good wives... never showed any signs of wanting to whip up something delicious for a treat."
Paterson was expelled from convent school at 15 for being disruptive. Paterson later became a matron at a girls' boarding school near Reading before ending up as a cook for the Ugandan Legation in London and becoming a well-known figure on the London party circuit. She worked on the ITV show Candid Camera and later became a food writer for The Spectator; for 15 years, she provided weekly lunches for personalities, including the Prince of Wales. She later wrote a book of recipes and reminiscences from her time at The Spectator entitled Feast Days, Recipes from The Spectator, in the introduction to which the English writer A. N. Wilson professed, "Jennifer Paterson is the best cook I know."
Paterson was a committed Roman Catholic who never married or had any children. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 1999 and died a month later in London. She asked for caviar for her last meal but died before she could eat it. Following a traditional funeral mass, she was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium and her ashes were interred in the cemetery there.
Paterson was a parishioner of the London Oratory, and in her will, she left them a bequest that is used to fund their choir program.