FRIENDS have paid tribute to a celebrated chef and hotelier who has passed away.

Derek Renouf, 80, from Hawkwell, built and ran the Hotel Renouf in Bradley Way, Rochford, until it changed hands and became the Rochford Hotel three years ago.

Derek, a former head chef at the De Havilland Suite in the Airport Hotel, was famous for his cuisine, winning many culinary awards, and had a vast knowledge of wines.

He was also a keen lover of sport and sponsored a charity cricket day at Rankin’s Cricket Club, Stambridge, for many years.

The matches saw a Renouf invitational XI compete against the full Essex County first XI and attracted the likes of former England batting star Graham Gooch.

Roy Plummer, 67, a ship broker from Rochford, met Derek 40 years ago when he worked at the Airport Hotel, and they stayed friends.

Roy said: “He was a fantastic chef and a great guy, respected throughout Southend.

“I’m a founder member of Trinity Football Club and I first met Derek when we had our awards dinner at the De Havilland.”

Derek moved from the De Havilland to set up his own fivestar restaurant in South Street, Rochford, before gaining permission to build the hotel and Maison Renouf restaurant in Bradley Way.

Brenda Burgess, who runs the The Gift Shop in Rochford, was a friend of the Renouf family and said Derek was known for his hard work.

She said: “He was always a very kind person and a very hardworking man.

“Many times I would go to the hotel on a Saturday evening and he would be there working, then his car would still be there on Sunday morning with him hard at work.

“He had diabetes and before his wife Iris passed away last year, she said to me that as soon as she went he would not be far behind – it’s been about six months and sadly it seems she was right.”

Derek and Iris had two children, Julie and Melvyn.